By Kaley Decker.
Have you heard of the Fourth Trimester? It’s the 3 month period after you’ve welcomed your baby into the world where he or she is adjusting to life outside of the womb. As you can imagine, it’s a huge adjustment for the baby. But it’s also a huge adjustment for you, mama. I wish I had known more about the 4th trimester my first time around. Here are some tips on how to feel better during this important time of change and transition for both you and baby.
I was overjoyed with love and adoration for my new, sweet bundle; and at the same time, I was overwhelmed with anxiety and worry that I wasn’t doing anything good enough or “the right way”. And I didn’t know it at the time, but I was actually suffering from postpartum anxiety and the looming deadline of going back to work. It was an equally amazing and tough time. As I look back, I wish I would have given myself a little more compassion and grace. I wish I would have let go of all the expectations I had of myself and my baby during this phase. I know my baby was safe and loved. I may not have done the perfect swaddle every time, but I know I was giving it my all. Whatever expectations you have of yourself or motherhood, let go of them. Give you and your baby the time and space of the fourth trimester to get to know each other, to bond, and to grow together. There is a special connection that cannot be matched. Relish in that. Nothing else really matters.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help (or to take it when it’s offered)
It sounds so simple, but sometimes when you’re in the thick of new motherhood, living in the three hour nursing increments and covered in spit up, you might not have the energy to reach out for help. Or, you may not even know what you need. To boot, some people have a hard time asking for help to begin with. The saying “it takes a village” exists for a reason. You’ve got to ask for help or take it when it’s offered. I’ve always had a difficult time asking for help. I didn’t want to burden anyone. I didn’t want people to think I couldn’t handle it all by myself. And many times, I didn’t even know what I needed to ask for. But we have to recognize that we can’t always do it all, we aren’t expected to, and it’s ok to lean on those around us at times. But before they can help, you have to ask. Ask your husband. Ask grandma. Ask your friend. Ask a babysitter. Ask a neighbor. If you don’t ask, you’ll find that you won’t get. Simple as that. It takes a lot of practice, but it will surprise you when you realize how many people genuinely want to help you—you just need to let them know what you need. And if someone offers to help, and you really need help, but you feel bad saying so, fight the urge to say you’re fine and take them up on it.
3. Make time for yourself
This one is probably the most difficult when I think back on the first few months of motherhood. I wanted to be around my baby every second of every day. I wanted to stare at her so I wouldn’t miss a moment. I wanted to watch her breathing. Making time for yourself as a new mother looks different than it did before kids. And it looks different than it does when you’re a mother of a 6 month old or a toddler. Things change and evolve. So during those first few months, start small. If it feels right….And I’m not going to tell you to sleep when they sleep. I found that impossible. Listen to podcasts, read a book, do some focused breathing.
4. Invest in a few things that make you feel good
After giving birth, your body (along with everything else) is going through some major change. In a way, you feel stronger than you’ve ever felt because you just gave birth to a child. But you also feel kind of blah. You’re tired, you’re still carrying some extra weight around, and you don’t really know what your new mom style should be. I felt super frumpy on maternity leave. I cobbled together some comfy lounge clothes that were way too big and way too comfy. I wish I would have invested in a few things for myself that made me feel good: some cute nursing clothes, yummy smelling skin care, and a pretty journal. Clearly I survived maternity leave without these things, but I will be more intentional about how I treat myself postpartum this next time around so that I feel special too.
5. Create social media boundaries
Ah, social media. I have a love/hate relationship with it. It can make you feel a little more connected to the outside world when you’re stuck inside with your new baby, but it can also make you feel bad about yourself. At least it does for me. I saw other moms who seemed to be doing it better than me. I got caught in comparison traps that simply weren’t good for my already low confidence as a new mom. Before you have your baby, set an intention for your social media use. Set time limits. And don’t be afraid to unfollow people who make you feel bad about yourself.
Photos by Blissful Photography by Stefanie Williams
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