You’ve experienced major changes in all three trimesters of your pregnancy. But it’s not quite over.
Welcome to the fourth trimester – the three months following the birth of your new baby. Life will continue to change as you heal from childbirth, develop a new family routine, and embrace your role as a new mom.
You’ve read books and gathered advice from family and friends to help you navigate life with a newborn – but here are a few things they don’t tell you about the fourth trimester.
1. You need some time to recover.
Childbirth is one of the most amazing feats of the human body. It’s miraculous and empowering, but also exhausting and painful. Whether you had a C-section or vaginal birth, your body needs time to recover. Rest as much as possible, don’t overexert yourself, fuel your body with a balanced diet to support healing, and drink lots of water. Most women are well on their way to recovery after about 6-8 weeks after delivery but be sure to check in with your healthcare provider regularly. And remember, your mental health matters, too. Seek help if your “baby blues” last more than a couple weeks.
2. You and your baby are both adjusting to your new lives.
You spent the last nine months carrying your little one – protecting them and providing a warm, cozy space for them to grow. It’s the only life they’ve ever known. No matter how comfortable you make their new nursery, it’s still an unfamiliar place, and it’s going to take some time for them to adjust to life outside the womb.
You need some time to adjust, too. Over the course of your pregnancy, your baby sent little reminders of their presence – your growing belly, tiny flutter kicks during the day, and sudden urges to visit the restroom during the night. Now, your little one still sends reminders, but they look and sound very different – fussing, crying, dirty diapers, and mountains of baby clothes in the laundry. Although your newborn is a welcome addition to your family, it will take some time to develop your new routine.
3. Your body will be different – do your best to love it anyway.
Your postpartum body may not feel like your own anymore. You supported new life and shared your body with your little one for the better part of a year – allowing them a safe space to grow and develop. And if you’re breastfeeding, you’re still using your body to help your little one thrive, providing the nutrients they need to grow strong outside your womb.
But remember, your body is still yours – and what it’s been through is miraculous. Some days will be harder than others, and you may find yourself yearning for your pre-pregnancy body from time to time. On those days especially, wear your stretch marks and scars proudly, acknowledging the sacrifices you’ve made to bring your baby into the world. You’re incredibly strong, and your body reflects that.
4. You may not enjoy every single moment of motherhood.
You’re tired, overwhelmed, and you feel like you haven’t had a moment to yourself in weeks. It’s certainly not the magical motherhood you envisioned throughout your pregnancy.
It’s real life. And you don’t have to feel guilty if you don’t enjoy every single minute of it. You’re deep in the trenches of motherhood – waking up in the middle of the night, changing countless diapers, and putting your little one in their fourth outfit for the day because they spit up again.
But remember, for every exhausting moment of motherhood, there are thousands more to appreciate and savor – their sweet face snuggled against your chest, their tiny coos as they wake up from a peaceful slumber, and their little personality unfolding in front of you day-by-day. Hang in there.
5. You’re not alone.
It’s already been established that you’re strong, mama. But just because you’re strong doesn’t mean you should have to go through motherhood alone. Communicate your needs with your significant other and reach out to family and friends for support. Join a local mom group in your community to find others that share similar experiences, keep a lactation consultant on speed dial to troubleshoot any breastfeeding issues, and don’t underestimate the power of online resources for new moms.
It takes a village to raise a child – make sure you find yours.
The fourth trimester brings many challenges, but you’ll surprise yourself with how much you’ll learn and overcome in just three months.
Here’s one last thing they don’t tell you about the fourth trimester: you’re doing a great job. Take that one to heart.