We call the first three months of a baby’s life the fourth trimester because they often act like they want to be back in the womb, but it’s also the fourth trimester for the mom. Her body is experiencing many of the same physiological realities of pregnancy (the hormone relaxin, stretched out abdominals, back pain) AND also trying to recover from childbirth. For moms the fourth trimester is a massive physical challenge, on top of also being a sleep deprived, hormone-fueled emotional roller coaster.
So, with Peter turning three months old this weekend, I’ve officially exited the fourth trimester- the most challenging and demanding perinatal period. Pop the champagne! I’m thrilled to say I feel recovered from pregnancy and labor/delivery. Here’s how the last three months have been:
Physically, I was lucky to be starting the fourth trimester with little to no residual birth trauma (physically or mentally). While it was a very long labor (27 hours) that included some things I was hoping to avoid (namely pitocin and an epidural), I had an exceptionally wonderful, challenge-free birth. After having taught women for years how to push our their babies, I was curious to see how it would go for me….and the coordinated pushing technique worked perfectly. Peter arrived after about 20 minutes of focused and calm pushing. In those twenty minutes I certainly wasn’t thinking about exercise, but I am 100% confident that the exercise I did when pregnant was a large part of the birth happening the way it did. I felt sure of how to push- which muscles to use and which to relax.
The exercise I did when pregnant also helped in those first weeks of the first trimester. I remember being in the hospital and starting kegels and transverse ab holds. It was so important for me to avoid back pain if possible (every new mom’s biggest problem), and I felt that knowing what muscles to work in those first weeks (inner abs) and which to stretch (lower back and chest) saved me a lot of pain and recovery time.
I’m also relieved to say that emotionally the fourth trimester has been much easier than the three that preceded it! I was very nervous and aware of the possibility of postpartum depression. However, an interesting thing happened— pretty soon after Peter’s birth I felt like I returned back to myself. In some ways I don’ t think I realized how difficult pregnancy had been on me mentally (even knowing I was experiencing some antenatal depression) until suddenly I felt…better. It was funny to feel more like myself in those sleepless crazy newborn days, but I did. There were (and still are) some hard days (and, let’s be honest, really hard nights) but I feel like I’ve surfaced emotionally.
When I was pregnant I heard the phrase “it’s worth it” so many times. I couldn’t begin to understand how the months of sickness and nausea and feeling so awful could ever feel justified. I’d read notes from past clients and wondered if I’d get to that place- where people forget how hard their pregnancies were, much less how hard those first few weeks with baby were. A few weeks back when I was in the thick of the newborn stage a client and fellow mom with a baby a little older than Pete said, “It doesn’t just get better, it gets wonderful.” I’ve thought of her words often, and I am happy to say they have been my experience. Peter is healthy and funny and an absolute joy. So, as I exit the fourth trimester, I’m happy to say things are, well, wonderful, and it was definitely, absolutely worth it.
What was your 4th trimester experience like? Did you know when it was over or do you still feel like you are in it?
photo by Stacey Bode Photography