What is the fourth trimester anyway? No, it’s not an extra three months of pregnancy (praise be). The fourth trimester is defined as the 12-week period after the birth of your baby, and is definitely more taxing on your body and mind than pregnancy itself. It’s a time when you are adjusting to being a first-time (or second-, or third-time) mom and your baby is adjusting to the fact that they are an actual person. There isn’t much talk about how difficult this trimester is on new moms, probably because the new baby is way more interesting to people than the woman sitting on ice packs and walking sideways.
There Will Be Oh So Many Tears
Tears from the baby, tears from mom, probably even tears from dad. Remember those hormones that made you cry at every dog commercial during pregnancy? Those are now being flushed out of your body at an alarming rate, making you somehow even more emotional than you were during pregnancy. Even if you aren’t really a touchy-feely person, prepare yourself for some big emotions as your body tries to regulate itself. 70-80% of moms experience these postpartum blues, including you non-sensitive types. Not to mention, sleep deprivation will make anyone want to cry.
There’s A Weird Combination Of No Sleep And Lots Of Sleep
When I say lots of sleep, I mean your newborn. Newborns average around 16 to 17 hours of sleep a day. So why do you hear that new parents are sleep deprived when the baby is only awake for 8 hours max a day? Probably because your baby uses torture tactics like waking up every hour to eat, and you’ll be too paranoid to sleep anyway. Most have day/night confusion as well, which basically means they’re ready to party at midnight. Fortunately, with lots of light during the minimal amount of time they’re awake during the day, this issue should resolve itself over time. While your baby is snoozing away endlessly during the day, watch all the Netflix (unless you’re napping) and don’t feel guilty about it. Your baby has no clue and the mental escape is needed.
There Is No Sense Of Routine And No Rules
There are zero rules or routine in the 4th trimester, which may make your head spin if you’re a control freak. It’s sort of like the airport, where you can get a sh*tty glass of red wine at 9am for $25 and not be judged. Similarly, in the 4th trimester (partially due to the ’round-the-clock sleeping/not sleeping), do whatever you want and don’t you dare clean. Snacks that require cutting? Forget about it. Even reheating all those homemade freezer meals you ambitiously made while 39 weeks pregnant may feel like a stretch. Let yourself be lazy AF.
Recovery Takes A Long Time
Your day or two hospital stay is not a good indicator of how long you’ll actually be recovering from the birth for. You’ll probably be hobbling out the hospital doors at one mile per hour with an adult diaper on (friendly reminder to wear the baggiest sweatpants you own). You’ll likely be bleeding for a month or two, and taking some form of painkillers around the clock for weeks. For some reason, another thing that people don’t talk about enough is the fact that you’ll experience contractions after giving birth. Yep, you heard that right. Your uterus is trying to shrink itself from two pounds to two ounces, and does so by pretending like you’re in labor again for a couple of days after birth. Usually they’re not nearly as bad as regular contractions, but they may take you by surprise.
The bottom line is that it’s important to take care of yourself during the 4th trimester as well. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary.
Breastfeeding May Be Natural, But It Definitely Isn’t Always Easy
Did you ever go to a breastfeeding class offered by your hospital while pregnant? If so, you may have seen a video of a day-old newborn baby naturally finding its mom’s breast and learning how to feed on its own. The reality will look more like two nurses and your partner squishing your boob just right while simultaneously opening your baby’s mouth and slamming it into you. Yet even with all that effort, your nipples still bleed.
A mom’s milk supply takes a couple days to come in as well, so new moms get to worry if their baby is starving every time they cry until the next check-up. When it does come in, you may produce so much that you give yourself mastitis, or you may not produce enough. Sometimes it gets better (usually by the end of the 4th trimester), and sometimes it doesn’t (formula is totally cool too). If you are agonizing over the decision, remember that you have no clue which of your coworkers were formula fed vs. breastfed and it would be really weird if you did.
Feeling Isolated and Totally Overwhelmed is Normal
Some moms hate the newborn stage, or at best are totally overwhelmed for weeks and feel guilty AF for it. So if you know someone in the 4th trimester, can we make a pact to ask about how mom is doing first? And maybe bring a meal or clean the house while you’re at it? That would be great.
If you are in the thick of it, remember it’s a stage that will pass. You will eventually form a bond that is absolutely unlike anything you’ve experienced, like a weird “I’d kill for you” type of bond. On the other hand, if you love the newborn stage, don’t feel any shame in taking in those newborn snuggles and not sharing your babe with anyone else.
Don’t feel any obligation to anyone or anything besides you and your baby during this time. Fortunately, your body and mind have a funny way of blocking it all out so you probably won’t remember much of the hazing anyway. It does get better, and seemingly out of nowhere they’ll turn into this funny, smart toddler that you couldn’t picture life without.
Like most pregnant women, I was peppered with questions for nine long months. Would I breastfeed? How did I feel about natural birth? Would I consider co-sleeping? Would I do the “cry it out” method of sleep training? Was I planning to start giving her solid food at four months, or would I wait until six?
My answer to all of the above was “I don’t know,” and looking back, I think not putting too much planning into what that first year would look like was a good move for me from a mental health perspective. I didn’t know how I would feel, and I didn’t want to plan for something only to have it not work out and feel like I’d messed something up.
So I went into breastfeeding with the mentality that if it was natural for both of us, we’d do it. If it wasn’t, I was open to formula. I was lucky: My daughter Emma latched on easily, and my milk came in within a few days. Breastfeeding was a breeze!
… Except it wasn’t. I won’t get into too many details, but it was painful. Every time Emma latched on, I would wince in pain. You’re supposed to feed the baby every two to three hours in those early weeks, which meant I was in a constant state of dread. I started pumping so I didn’t have to feed her as much, and I cried a lot.
It all worked out: My daughter is now a year old, and we’re still at it. But I wish I’d had a little more guidance around breastfeeding in those early days, so here’s a guide to help make your breastfeeding journey just a tad easier than mine was.
Have The Phone Number Of A Lactation Consultant Before Your Baby Is Born
If you plan to make breastfeeding a game-time decision like I did, have the number of a lactation consultant should you need it. I did a virtual visit that was covered by my insurance (and these were in pre-COVID times!) and it made a world of difference.
In just 45 minutes, the lactation consultant informed me that Emma had a shallow latch, which was what was causing all the pain, and gave me advice for teaching her how to open her mouth wider. She showed me how to position her so my shoulders and back didn’t ache, and gave me advice on how long to feed her each time to ensure she was getting enough milk. I cannot recommend this more.
Stock Up On Gear
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I literally fantasize about what I would do now if someone were to say SHIT about me breastfeeding 😍 Maybe I make a scene? Maybe I unleash a biblical hellfire verbal assault? There’s no many options! Would I stand up, never disrupting my little angel’s meal, and approach them? I only need one arm to nurse and if I have my sling on? Shittttt both arms are free to square up. You’re telling me you wouldn’t back down if a mom went from lovingly feeding her baby in her arms to tightening her sling so she could bitch slap you TWICE without ever unlatching?! Ain’t no way. So I patiently await the day I witness a nursing mother getting slack. I will do that weird anime floating pose shit and fly on over with the light of a thousand suns. HADOU-CUNT ☄️
Although it has a ridiculous name, the My Brest Friend pillow acted as the perfect little shelf for Emma when she was tiny and helped get her in the right position. I was even able to prop my laptop on there and get a little work done in those early days when she tended to fall asleep while breastfeeding!
While this was by far the most helpful product for me, Ashley Georgakopoulos, IBCLC, and Lactation Director, Motif Medical recommends a few others as well.
“Cotton, reusable breast pads are always on my list,” she says. “These are great to include as gifts for baby showers, as moms sometimes leak colostrum before the birth, and will almost always leak afterward. The second must-have for any lactating mom would be a good nipple balm. Something that melts nicely into the skin to protect the skin barrier from frequent pumping and nursing sessions, but also with an antifungal property to protect from inflammation and thrush.”
And while you’ll probably have an electric pump covered by your insurance, Georgakopoulos recommends a hand pump as well. “Hand pumps are a smart investment. They can help relieve clogs, and fit into the diaper bag or purse in case an unexpected expression is needed.”
I personally loved the Haakaa hand pump, which is great for catching extra milk.
Breastfeeding Might Be Uncomfortable, But It Shouldn’t Be Mind-Numbingly Painful.
While wincing in pain every time your baby latches on doesn’t mean you won’t figure it out eventually, it isn’t normal. “Pain, as in wincing and visible damage happening-type pain, is not something that just goes away or improves without help,” says Georgakopoulos. “Lactation professionals, preferably an IBCLC credential, will be crucial in navigating that, along with helping achieve optimal comfort with positioning. Rocks in the shoe happen. What’s not normal is leaving the rock in the shoe.”
Your Baby Will Need To Breastfeed A Lot. I Mean, A lot.
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Feeding the baby every two or three hours doesn’t sound too bad, and it isn’t—but the reality is that they often need to eat even more than that at the very beginning. My daughter would go through growth spurts where all she wanted to do was nurse, and I had to just go with the flow.
“When we hear or read things like, ‘infants feed every 2-3 hours,’ we tend to want to schedule things out to that, not realizing that it’s an average, and certainly doesn’t account for cluster feedings that normally occur,” Georgakopoulos says.
The most important thing to keep in mind on your breastfeeding journey? It will all be okay. I’ll never forget the most helpful thing my lactation consultant said when I met with her, and it had nothing to do with breastfeeding positioning or latching advice: “A year from now, you’ll be celebrating her first birthday and this will all just be a distant memory.”
She was right. And as hard as breastfeeding was at the beginning, I’m so glad I stuck with it—because it ended up being just fine.
Images: Dave Clubb / Unsplash; betchesmoms, nottheworstmom / Instagram
Having a kid is weird. Suddenly, your world shifts from how many bottomless mimosas you can drink or how many hours you can scroll Instagram for, to when the last time you showered was, how many diapers are left, and if you’re up for putting on mascara today.
I never, ever thought I’d need a bunch of help or advice once I had a kid. I figured that if idiots could do it, so could I. That’s half true, and it took me a bit of time to lean in and accept help and advice. In an effort to impart a few things I’ve painfully learned these first two months of being a mom, here’s a list of things I wish I’d known before I brought home baby.
1. No Baby Sleeps “Through” The Night
You best go ahead and dispel any myths about a baby sleeping more than six hours at a time. Now go ahead and cut that six hours in half. Now cry if you need to. The reality is that for the first few weeks, your baby will need to eat every two to four hours, sleeping altogether for 14-17 hours per day, but not at one time, according to Sleep.org. That means you’ll be running on very little sleep. It also means that having a partner or someone to help and complain to/with is really important. The biggest thing to remember is that it’s temporary and yes, someday you will sleep for 10+ hours at a clip again. But that time probs isn’t until your kid is in, like, third grade. Lean in, mom.
2. Breastfeeding And Pumping Will Run Your Life
Should you decide to breastfeed and know little to nothing about it/made that choice based on the fact that it’s natural and free, buckle the f*ck up. As someone who went in with the mentality of “how hard could this be?”, prepare yourself for the mindf*ck that is breastfeeding and pumping. Your child may latch beautifully and you may be able to feed with little to no effort. But if you experience searing pain in your nips like I did (and yes, baby was latched correctly), you may only be able to let him or her feed directly from you as often as you can stand it, pumping the other times.
Every time I feed my son from the bottle, it takes about 30 minutes. Every time I pump, it takes about 20 minutes. So, unless I pump at the same time I feed him (which is possible but a little difficult), you’re looking at about an hour of this feeding routine. You may think, “well, I’ll just pump once or twice a day.” Wrong, bitch. Once your milk comes in, you’ll need to either feed or pump every two to four hours or risk a clogged duct or, much worse, mastitis. Clogged ducts feel like knots you’d get in your back, except they’re in your boobs and hurt like a motherf*cker. Mastitis is what happens when you don’t pump, get a clogged duct, and that sh*t gets infected. So, even if your mom or nanny or husband take the baby for the night to feed him from the bottle so you can sleep, you will STILL need to wake up on a schedule to drain the titties.
3. Formula Is OK; Breastmilk Is OK
Do yourself a favor and educate yourself about both formula and breastmilk. There is no shame—NO SHAME—in whichever you choose and, having talked to doctors and NICU personnel about both, you can rest assured that as long as your heart is in the right place, however you choose to feed your child is OK. Don’t feel pressured or shamed into one way or the other. I was a formula baby. I’ve had friends who couldn’t get a kid to latch. I’ve seen people exclusively pump. I’ve seen women go 50/50 formula and breastmilk. Talk to your doctor (lactation consultants are not doctors, by the way) and discuss all of the options.
4. You’ll Cry, A Lot
Having a baby means your emotions are going to be a perfect storm. Picture it like this: It’d be like if you’re PMSing, your favorite jeans don’t fit, your mom won’t answer your texts, and the ASPCA commercial with the sad puppies just came on. Given, about 80% of new moms get “baby blues” which are basically just horrible mood swings, according to WebMD. Baby blues mean you’ll cry, plus you’ll feel exhausted, unable to eat or even comb your hair because of your stress, and just generally really overwhelmed. Those feelings usually subside by around the time baby is two weeks old.
If it goes on for longer, or you have more extreme feelings of despair including being unable to sleep, eat, or focus; being unable to bond with your baby; or feel incredibly alone; you may have postpartum depression. Regardless, know that your emotions running rampant is NORMAL and OK. The best thing you can do is talk to your mom, your friends, your partner, and your doctor.
5. You Will Want Help
I didn’t think I wanted anyone hovering around after I had my son. I wanted it to be just me and my husband, soaking up our baby’s awesomeness. By the time I was ready to head to the hospital, I was so, so glad that my mom had volunteered to stay with us for a few weeks after the baby arrived. Not only did she take care of some basic things like cooking and cleaning, she was also able to gently impart wisdom including, but not limited to: changing diapers 101, why is the baby crying 201, and why am I crying 301.
People will want to visit to help, bring food, and visit the baby. If you’re comfortable, let people come. I can honestly say that having family and friends bring food, wine, hold the baby so I could shower and scroll through Instagram alone for a few hours, and provide conversation that didn’t center around “why does his sh*t smell that way” gave me a much-needed breath of fresh air in the first few weeks of being a mom.
6. Your Body Will Feel Like A War Zone
Whether you go in for a C-section, push that baby out in record time, or sit in agonizing labor for 40 hours, when you come home from the hospital, your body will feel destroyed. Having had a C-section, I can confirm being really f*cking sore, my boobs hurting A LOT from the newness of breastfeeding and pumping, and having a hard time with stairs because of the surgery. The more you mentally prepare for the exhaustion and pain, the better you’ll be. Plus, if it isn’t as bad as you imagined, you’ll be in a better position than if you’re totally blindsided.
7. Your Pets Will Be Jealous
When we brought my son home, my dog was really excited about him. There was heavy sniffing, heavy licking, and a lot of anxious/excited whining. Fast forward a few weeks, and there’s a lot of sulking. Even though we do our best to incorporate him into baby playtime and take walks every day with both baby and doggo, it’s still hard for our fur baby—the only child for five years—to adjust to sharing. Keep that in mind when you bring your kid home, and keep an eye out for lashing out like growling or displays of dominance. There are tons of tips and tricks like bringing home blankets, cutting back a bit on pet time before the baby comes, and just general ways to prepare from places like Web MD. Know that your pet still loves you, he just may sh*t in your shoe out of spite now.
8. Sleep When The Baby Sleeps
This has been the hardest one for me personally to get behind. Because, as we mentioned, your baby will not sleep more than 5 hours at a time until they’re probably at least five months old (you may have a freak 6 hour stretch in there, but it’s EXTREMELY rare), you need to learn to sleep when the baby is asleep. Every time the baby needs to get up or you need to pump, you’re going to lose about an hour. So, if baby is up at 2am, by the time you get your sh*t together, feed them, change them, and get them settled back to sleep, it’s likely going to be close to 3am. Then, you can start the timer on when they’ll be up again and, spoiler alert, it’s probably going to be around 6am.
That being said, if you’re lucky enough to have maternity leave, use it to sleep. Don’t make any grand plans (raises hand slowly) about rewatching Game of Thrones, reading all of the literary classics you ignored in high school, or getting really into fine wine. Sleep and survival are the name of the game for the first few months.
All this being said, there’s going to be a ton of information thrown at you the first few days after your little one arrives. Don’t worry about absorbing it all, doing everything right, or being afraid to make a mistake. Babies are pretty resilient, and so are you. You’re doing amazing, sweetie.
Images: The Honest Company / Unsplash; Giphy (4)
“Oh, he definitely could have fit through that tiny vagina, he’s so small.” Words I feel like I have strangely heard before. However, this time it’s coming from the most low-key hilarious doctors a girl could have as they rip my son out of my bleeding stomach during my planned C-section. Drugged up and awaiting my baby’s arrival, I’ve listened to the two of them talk about sushi, beer, my tidy, hairless lady parts, and the Mets—all entertaining, but not as wonderful as the sound of my son’s first cries. There’s nothing in the world like it. I know he’s going to be worth every bit of the hell my body is going to experience in the days, weeks, months, and years to come, and he is.
As pregnant women, we tend to think the relief from an alien invasion of our body is over the second that baby is out of us. It’s the end of running home from the grocery store to puke in the driveway, sneaking hotdogs and Italian combo grinders on the DL, and praying every time you get on the scale that this is the last pound you’re going to gain.
Suddenly, all that is over and you can drink a Bud heavy and have sex like you just got out of prison without worrying you are going to injure the baby, and yasss you can see and touch your toes. Time to start modeling. We think our body is our own again. Think again. It may be our own, but it will never be the same.
There are so many changes in store post-delivering a baby that women don’t talk about or realize until it happens to them and they’re on WebMD and an internet chat at 4am where fake doctors respond to desperate mothers’ questions 9 months later with the reassuring answer “Sounds like you should contact your doctor”. No sh*t.
That’s clearly not going to help you, so here are a few things to expect post-giving birth that you don’t need to call your doctor about or check a stagnant postpartum forum for.
1. Boob Issues
You’re going to have boob issues; just know that. People always talk about the joys and pains of nursing and their nipple problems, especially when you don’t want or need to hear those details. But they rarely talk about the pain of not nursing right out the gate.
The second I got pregnant I knew I wasn’t going to nurse because I was fantasizing about having a glass of wine as soon as the baby crowned. And I also knew I was too selfish to be bothered with pumping anything aside from my fist while watching Jersey Shore with that wine that I waited nine months for.
While I totally advocate for and support breastfeeding, it was never in my motherhood plans. However, if someone had told me that the pain of my breast milk coming in and not being released would be the only reason for me to take the Percocet prescribed to me—that I refused to take even for my C-section pain—I would have probably nursed everyone in the neighborhood’s kids along with mine.
It was some of the worst pain I have ever felt in my life. For about 10 days, there was no relief in sight. My doctor suggested that I induce a day’s worth of diarrhea by drinking magnesium citrate, which would dehydrate me and dry up my milk. While dropping a quick five pounds in a day sounded tempting, instead, I suffered the pain, iced my chest, wrapped them up in tape, drugged myself, and waited it out. Lesson learned: the pain from not nursing is your body’s primitive way of saying get your sh*t together, this kid needs your milk.
2. Blood And Discharge
Blood, blood and more blood. Oh, the good old lochia—the vaginal discharge after giving birth—containing blood, mucus, and uterine tissue, aka, the delivery of the second twin you didn’t know was sharing your uterus with your newborn. I seriously could have named and christened mine and got more money and gifts. What my body passed in the weeks after my baby was traumatizing.
My desire and hope to feel sexy again was shattered not only by this, but also by the adult diaper that I needed to wear for 4 weeks postpartum. However, the silver lining I found in that nonstop hemorrhaging was that the king sized pads I came home from the hospital with came in handy down the road when my period became a regular massacre every month post-baby (and still is 9 years later). And when I ran out of them, I hit up my sister after her baby’s birth. It was like finding gold in her bathroom closet. These elephant pads also are useful for long car trips and situations where you might not be able to pee for a long time, can’t hold it, or might pee your pants if you cough—which yes, are post-baby consolation prizes as well.
3. Your Body Parts Will Grow
No one tells you that when your body parts grow during pregnancy, there’s a good chance that some of them never go back to pre-baby size. Thankfully, I can’t speak about this in relation to the havoc wreaked on vaginas during childbirth, but I am pretty sure stitching mine back together isn’t on my bucket list with the other things involving my vagina.
Hopefully, your stomach will be something that does eventually go back to size, but that doesn’t mean your swollen feet will. My petite size 5’s went up to a 5.5/6, which I don’t really mind because now I can find shoes at Marshall’s, an impossible feat for anyone under a size 7. However, if you’re already a size 9 and are moving on up to a 10, blame the baby. I was lucky to now not only love my son for everything he is, but because he gave me a good shoe size, and more importantly, an ass that celebrities pay for.
During my pregnancy, I was concerned that I started to grow out back rather than the front, which happens for some due to all the sitting on your ass on the couch eating ice cream watching Bravo, but I learned post-delivery that this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I took that gain and added some squats, then bam, there was the butt that luckily became trendy the year my son was born thanks to the Kardashians.
4. Your Hair May Not
While some body parts may get bigger and possibly better, like your boobs and your butt, expect that some do not. One of these is your hair. You may have to say goodbye to the long luscious locks that prenatals gave you as your hormones go haywire. You’ll start collecting your old friends out of the shower drain, talking to them, and analyzing them as you decide to play the game of lining up only washing your hair when you have actual plans and which days of the week you could compromise losing 85 more strands for a good blowout.
All in all, remember that hormones don’t just affect your hair, they run your life. So most importantly, be aware of that and that everything you are experiencing post-baby is a result of what your body just endured sharing it with your little
monster ball of sunshine for nine months. God made women responsible for giving birth because he knows we can handle it and don’t call out over a head cold like men.
So when your C-section scar has a stomach of its own (in addition to your stomach’s stomach), and your hemorrhoids prevent you from doing the really good type of sex, look at your baby and remember that they’re worth all of it. The best you can do is drink the bottle of wine that it takes to go to sleep some nights and cherish every moment with them because they grow so fast and chances are you would do it all over again just to share this crazy life with them.
Images: Ignacio Campo / Unsplash; Giphy (4)