The Fourth Trimester: It’s Real, It’s Sad, But It Shouldn’t Be Real Sad
Medically speaking, pregnancy is approximately 9 months long and broken down into “trimesters” that last approximately 3 months each. If you ask most new moms, they’ll agree that there’s a whole fourth section that happens postpartum that should be taken into consideration when dealing with us. You see, if we had a “normal” pregnancy, we just grew a baby inside of us for 9 months, and now all of a sudden they’re out here in the world. It’s a confusing time for the baby, just as much as it is for the new momma. Our babies are getting used to this crazy world that we just pushed them into, and we’re getting used to those babies being in that crazy world with us.
When my little girl cries, I always say “oh it must be hard being 5 weeks old” and I smile as she pouts while I try to comfort her because I think she’s just the cutest thing on the planet. The more I think about that, I realize that it probably is really hard being a baby who can’t do anything independently. Although having a personal assistant who takes care of my every need seems like a dream, it would get frustrating having to actually rely on another being to meet my basic needs.
Before I was a mom, I didn’t take this “fourth trimester” seriously. I thought that I would work until my due date, pop this baby out, bounce right back to work in a few weeks, and my life wouldn’t change so drastically. I’m not sure who put those ideas in my head that this experience wouldn’t change me, but who ever it was, they were dead wrong.
It’s taking a lot of work from me, and I’m sure I’m speaking for a majority of moms, too. That fourth trimester, those first 3 months when you’re adjusting to caring for a whole other human, are quite the experience. Not only do you have to learn how to care for someone else, you need to re-train yourself to take care of yourself. This is something that I took a few days and let myself struggle with before I kicked myself back in gear with my color coded calendars, chore charts, and meal planning. Now, I’m aware that most people aren’t like me. I understand that obsessive organization is not everyone’s cup of tea. However, it is my cup of tea that keeps me from giving in to the demons of the fourth trimester, also known as, postpartum depression.
I will admit that I thought I was going downhill for a few days. Something that the medical professionals should really prepare you more for are those raging emotions that you will feel as a new mom. You’ll look in the mirror, and feel guilty for having the thought, but have it anyway: What the hell did I just do to my body? You’ll squeeze that little pouch of your belly that you never had before and do some naked crunches in the bathroom. You’ll pull at those stretch marks that now look like flames on your lower belly and you’ll debate putting that Vitamin E on them. You’ll know that the reason your body has changed so much is because it just spent 9 whole months preparing another body for the world. Your partner may tell you that you look great. Strangers may tell you that you’re glowing. Friends may say that you’ve never looked better. You’ll roll your eyes at all of these because you’ll see yourself differently. Some women’s bodies bounce right back to their pre-pregnancy look. Some women work on themselves for years to get back to the image they want to see. Some women never get their bodies back. Some women need to learn to love their bodies for what they are now. Whichever body you are, you need to know that the baby you just made will never look at your body with anything but pure love.
Another thing that they don’t prepare you for is how much you’re going to resent your partner (if you have a partner around) if they don’t get up in the middle of the night with the baby. You’ll know that if they have work, they need their sleep. You’ll know that if you’re breastfeeding, there isn’t much they can do to help that. You’ll give that partner of yours dirty looks as you’re feeding the baby at 3 a.m. while they sleep peacefully. Your relationship will change. You’ll get angry. You’ll get upset. However, you’ll also feel more passionate than ever which could mean you’re passionately in love, or in hate, depending on the hour of the day.
The postpartum depression hits you like a freight train of emotions that you don’t understand and probably have never felt before. Things that never upset before, do. Things that always upset you before, don’t. Your body is going through some major hormonal changes as it’s trying to balance itself again. It takes work, momma, it takes work to get yourself back to normal. If it takes you what seems to be longer than other mommas, that’s ok, too.
The most important thing to remember is that you’re doing your best. It’s ok to not be ok as a new mom. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to feel all of the emotions that you’re feeling. At the end of the day, this fourth trimester is all about you and that baby, maybe even more than it was in any other trimester. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, reach out to loved ones. Reach out to your doctor. Reach out to the internet. Reach out to any support system that you feel you can rely on. Just know that you’ll be ok.