Ahh, the dreaded 4th trimester. You made it through labor, the baby is here and everyone is gushing. Pretty happy times right?
dark lonely nights
the belly that just won't go away!
Honestly, I love the newborn stage, but I know many women struggle through this short yet difficult time. It's hard transitioning into a completely new role with little to no energy or brain power. You're desperate for sleep throughout the night and even more desperate for patience in those daytime hours.
I've had an easy 4th trimester so far. I'd like to thank my postpartum care team (sisters, mom, dad, Dan and the boys and all those church ladies bringing me meals) for that! I spent an entire week in bed after the delivery. That gave me lots of time to rest and heal while also bonding with little Ruthie Mae.
These things surprised me at first, but now I know better. After three healthy births and babies, this is my short list of things I've learned about the 4th trimester:
1. Bonding matters. All of those natural granola mama books are right. Bonding with your new baby is seriously important! I know it sounds silly - how could you NOT bond with your baby? But there are lots of things that can get in the way (I won't go into all of that....). Like many relationships, you need time and proximity to deepen the connection between you and your bundle. You need privacy and closeness to figure out that sometimes awkward breastfeeding dance. It takes time to grow together and learn your baby's language. I'm thankful to have had the time and space to connect with Ruthie. It's something I was worried about with two rowdy boys running around the house!
2. Breastfeeding is natural, but it doesn't always feel that way. Just because something is "natural", it doesn't mean it's simple or easy. Yes, our bodies make food for our babies naturally and that is an amazing thing! But feeding the baby with your body is sometimes awkward. Ruthie Mae is my third baby, so you'd think I would have this breastfeeding thing down pat. NOPE. Each baby is different. Heck, your body is different after each baby (am I right mamas?). It is hard work figuring out this new give/take relationship and it doesn't always go smoothly. So far, I've had very different experiences with all three of my children and Ruthie has been the most challenging. We've got it all figured out now but it hasn't been easy and that's okay.
3. You will still look pregnant. I remember how shocked I was to see myself in a mirror 3 days after giving birth to Elijah. Every morning, my mom would say in the sweetest voice "oh, honey, you're belly is getting smaller". I wanted to yell back "What??? I look like I'm still 5 months pregnant!!! ARG!". This time around, I've embraced the post baby belly and bought myself a belly wrap. It's actually helped my belly shrink a lot faster this time around. It also helped me feel better in that first postpartum week where every muscle feels sore and used up. I'll start running again but not until Ruthie Mae is 8 weeks old. What's important now is that I eat and rest so I can sustain this little person!
(this was taken just hours after Ruthie was born)
4. Invest in what helps. There are so many baby gadgets out there and many of them are 10 times the size of your actual baby (vibrating/singing monster swings, anyone?). We don't use a lot of the recommended gear, but I will say some things are worth it. If you've got other kids who can't be trusted near the little one, get the gear that will make you feel safe to grab a shower during the day.
I am most interested in the carriers. I like to wear my babies constantly for the first few months. Partly because I love having them close, but it also keeps them safe from excited older brothers :) My new favorite way to wear a baby is with my NuRoo (thanks mom!!). It's a shirt wrap that is very similar to a Moby, but way more simple and easy to use.
5. Sleep when baby sleeps. This is nothing new to me as I've heard it time and again. BUT, this is the first time I've actually headed such advice and letmetellyou-it WORKS! If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy, am I right? So, when it's 7pm and baby just ate and is asleep, Go. To. Bed. If your friend comes for a visit, pass off the baby and grab a nap. It's amazing what 20 minutes can do! Getting a total of 6-8 hours of sleep a day helps me to get through the day. And that's all a new mama can hope for right? Just survive....
I cannot believe we are already in week 3 of this postpartum stage. The Holidays are coming and I plan on embracing my new squishy form with each bite of Thanksgiving pie. Submitting to this postpartum stage is the best thing I've done for myself and for Ruthie. There's plenty of time to get back to my hobbies and lose the baby weight, but for now, I'm going to enjoy the slowness of life that comes with having a newborn.