The fourth trimester

Woman lying on bed with baby snuggled into her.

The ‘fourth trimester’ is defined as the first three months after childbirth. It’s a unique period of life – starting with being physically and mentally exhausted from childbirth, then coming to grips with life with a newborn and finally learning this whole parenting gig…

I emerged from my fourth trimester on Christmas Eve.  It felt both simultaneously like a day to celebrate and just an average 24 hour period.  I can’t quite believe I’ve got an almost four month old now.  Those first three months really just whizzed by.  Some days felt longer than others, especially in the beginning.  Just like childbirth, I don’t think any amount of reading/watching/listening/ can prepare you for life with a newborn. It’s like your constantly running on adrenaline, yet utterly exhausted.  You’ve got this tiny, little life to care for, baby thinks it’s still in the womb and you’re dealing with postpartum hormones, pains and bleeding.  You’re learning new skills like breastfeeding, burping, swaddling and consoling a crying baby as well as adapting to a much leaner sleep schedule.  Even though those newborn days only passed me a few months back, they feel like a lifetime ago.

Like any new parent, I feel like I winged those early weeks – with a lot of guidance from my mum and mother-in-law, and of course with the unrelenting support of Adam. I can remember a few evenings early on, when Paul cried for hours on end, day after day, and I couldn’t seem to calm him down. At the time I felt helpless and a little hopeless – how could I mother if I couldn’t even settle my own child?  Like all things with babies though, that phase passed and every week my confidence grew.

My love for Paul seems to get stronger, the older he gets. I wasn’t one of those new mums whose heart exploded the minute she saw her baby. The love bomb hit Adam straight away, and although I was utterly in awe of my little human when I saw first saw him, I think the exhaustion of a 20 hour labour had the better of me. My love started like a tiny seed and every few days it seemed to put down new roots and spring new shoots.  I can remember weeping maybe three or four days after Paul’s birth at the sight of him and Adam curled up together – that was my family, my boys.  And then later, feeling my heart expand as Paul started to recognise me, smile at me and develop new skills.

Right throughout the pregnancy Adam and I tried to imagine what life would be like with a baby.  It was hard to fathom life with a third person in our house.  Would my clean-freak nature cope with dirty nappies, being spewed on (sometimes several times a day) and leaking nipples? I think back now and feel silly for being worried about those things. Of course they happen, but you just deal with it. I can’t sing Adam’s praises high enough either.  Although I’m Paul’s main caregiver at the moment, it truly is a team effort.  We don’t squabble over nappy changes, or keep score when it comes to dealing with a fussing baby.  Somehow we’ve just fallen into this steady, supportive rhythm, parenting together.

I’ve also really relished having a network of ‘mum friends’ in these first few months.  It’s been so nice to be able to have a coffee at 8:00 am on a Tuesday with someone, to have an eager participant in conversations about nappy brands, sleeping patterns or books that’ll entertain both yourself and bub.  I feel incredibly lucky to know so many women who’ve given birth in the last year, some first-time mums like myself, others with baby number two or three.  All offer unique insights and a different kind of backing when it comes to making that adjustment to life as a mum.  On the flipside, I’m also really glad I’ve still got ‘not-mum’ friends.  While I adore Paul, sometimes it’s nice to talk about world events, travel and what’s happening in their life.  While I’m a mum, I’m also still me and I don’t want to lose or forget that.

At three and a half months, Paul loves ‘standing up’ (with the support of an adult!), snuggly sleeps with both myself and Adam and tasting all of his toys.  There’s always a huge smile first thing of a morning, happy noises during bath time with daddy, and standing in the dappled light under a tree is guaranteed to solicit looks of wonder. After introducing a night-time routine at about eight weeks of age, Paul’s become an excellent overnight sleeper, but often still catnaps through the day. In the last few weeks he’s become a dribbler (we suspect teething may have started) and has started grizzling for attention at times.  Overall however, we seem to have a very happy, alert, little man.

So here’s to surviving the first three months of life as a parent.  I’m looking forward to the many more to come.

Have a wonderful week. x



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