Giving birth to a new baby may very well be the most exciting thing you will ever do in your life. Nothing quite compares to the emotions experienced as a new baby enters the world. For nine months you carried your baby around in your body, forming a bond that is unlike any other. The baby becomes the star of the show and the center of everyone’s attention.
Its Not Just About the Baby
But it’s not just about the baby. Though the baby is a very prominent part of the birth story, so are you. As the mom, your body has gone through and will continue to undergo many physical changes.
The problem is, your needs will likely get placed on the back burner in order to take care of your new little one. And any mom will tell you that her baby comes first. That’s part of being a mom. But in order to understand (and better cope with) what you are feeling during the postpartum stage, you need to understand the fourth trimester.
What is the Fourth Trimester?
It wasn’t until I had my sixth baby before I ever heard the term fourth trimester. What? Another trimester? By the time I gave birth, I had heard about all I wanted regarding trimesters. But it this new term warranted further investigation.
Once I understood the fourth trimester, everything my baby and I were feeling seemed much more understandable. The fourth trimester simply encompasses the first three months after giving birth.
Sounds like a simple time measurement when put in those terms, but digging deeper will help you to understand exactly what that means for you and your baby.
Nine Months of Pregnancy is a Long Time
For 280 days, your body has literally been creating another person.
You have been nourishing your baby and sustaining his life. In other words, if you weren’t alive, your baby wouldn’t be either. He depended on you for his very life.
In order to grow your baby inside of you, your body had to undergo millions of physiological changes – your blood volume increases, your organs are rearranged, your sleep cycle changes, your appetite changes – all for the better part of a year. You have had a little person taking up residence inside of you for a long time.
In An Instant, It All Changes
And then within minutes, upon the birth of your baby, your body quickly goes from pregnant to postpartum and lactating.
Your body is so amazing that it knows exactly which hormones to switch on and off at the right time. But with those hormones changing, you will likely feel a shift in your body chemistry. One example of this is that many women will shake right after giving birth. Your body is racing to level out your hormones.
Over the course of the next three months – the fourth trimester – your body will continue to level itself out in an effort to normalize your hormones.
Your body is doing exactly what it’s supposed to.
Understanding the Fourth Trimester May Be The Key to Understanding Your Feelings
If you have a good understanding of the fourth trimester, it will help you to understand that most of the ups and downs experienced after birth are normal.
You can expect to feel mood swings, as well as occasional depression and even anxiety. But in the case that your depression becomes severe and you feel like harming yourself or your baby, please seek help immediately. Otherwise, note that it is very normal to have fluctuations in your emotions.
You might feel happy one minute and sad the next. But over the course of the fourth trimester, you should begin to start feeling more stable emotionally. It’s not uncommon to cry for things that might not otherwise bother you. Its also worthy to note that your patience level might be challenged as well. Try to be extra cautious with your loved ones. Remind yourself to be patient.
Everyone is different, so don’t put yourself on a time frame. Just know that it is normal to experience many different emotions during this time.
The fourth trimester is a period of healing and your body taking time to get back to its normal state.
It Takes Time to Heal
We live in a culture that doesn’t like to take time for anything. People can hardly even wait for their food to cook, hence the overabundance of fast food restaurants.
Not surprisingly, taking time to heal from delivering a baby is not a popular idea. In fact, I myself, after delivering my sixth child, came home and got right back to work in my home-based business, much to the chagrin of my grandma who recounted staying in the hospital for ten days after having her babies! TEN days? I could hardly fathom TEN hours sitting still and not doing anything.
I was surprised to find in my research that in many cultures the women take a period of nine to ten days of doing absolutely nothing. (So my grandma was right!) They don’t get up from the couch or bed except to use the bathroom, and everyone in the household waits on all of their needs.
This is done in order to allow the mom to heal and bond with the baby.
I might consider this if I ever have another baby! It sounds kinda nice!
When you give birth, there is actually an open wound inside of your uterus that needs to heal. Your doctor will give you specific instructions to watch how much bleeding you have and directly correlate your bleeding with how much activity you are doing. If your bleeding gets heavier, you are instructed to slow down.
But what if you took time just to heal in the first place instead of pushing your body to the limits?
If you give your body the time it needs to heal, you can actually produce milk quicker and more efficiently. Generally speaking, its much better for your body to give it the proper rest it needs.
I’d like to encourage you to take the time you need to heal during the fourth trimester.
Take the Time to Bond
Your baby won’t be little forever. The newborn phase vanishes quickly. It’s OK to take the time to bond with your baby and be a little more lazy than normal. Give yourself permission to enjoy the fourth trimester. Let your body rest and in doing so, bond with your baby!
Understanding the fourth trimester may be the key to helping you realize the things you are feeling are normal. It may be helpful just to know that your body is doing exactly what it needs to do.
You can’t expect to feel back to normal immediately. Just relax, give yourself time, and enjoy your new baby!