It’s hard to recall the first time I heard about the fourth trimester. It’s very possible I blocked it out, or even forgot, because sometimes the mind does tricky things to help protect us. Seriously though, as rewarding and wonderful and joyful as it can be to bring home a new baby, it’s still a very physical, very tiring, very stressful time. You know, kinda like the rest of pregnancy. Plus, your baby is still developing too (shout out to the soft spot among about a zillion other things). Arguably, the fourth trimester is the worst trimester you’ll experience because it combines some intense physical challenges with the stress and anxiety of adjusting to parenthood and caring for another human being.
Of course, I'll admit I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that it’s a lot more wonderful to hold your baby in your arms, and see them in tiny pajamas and lay next to them during a nap nap and smell their head and just actually see them, in real life, than it is to waiting to do those things. Still, the positives don't outweigh the challenges and, well, the challenges aren't small. They’re not even medium-sized. They are extra-extra large and they often feel like insurmountable.
My son is a toddler so I’m no longer in the fourth trimester, which means the fog has lifted and I understand that yes, it’s all manageable and "this too shall pass" and while it can be difficult, it's also worth it. However, at the time it didn’t exactly feel that way. Here are a few examples:
Because You Don't Know What You're Doing
During the first three trimesters, you were mainly responsible for general self-care and some extra health-related stuff; things we’ve all managed to some degree the entirety of our loves. However, once the baby arrives? Everything is new and everything is weird and everything is hard and it's all because you will not know what to do.
Because You Will Cry All The Time
To be fair, I cried a fair amount of times when pregnant. However, it was nothing compared to the volume of tears that I cried after my son arrived.
Because Your Baby Will Cry All The Time
It’s just what babies do, this is not a secret. However, for some reason, it’s easy to overlook the fact that it’s a totally normal part of parenting a newborn, and for it to feel like the world is crumbling down every single time.
Because In Addition To Parenting, You’re Also Healing
Figuring out parenting would be tough enough on it’s own, but new moms are also healing from the delivery of their child. No matter how a baby is born, it takes some recovery time for the mom, which can complicated the whole “getting the swing of parenting” thing.
You Will Sleep Far Less Than Any Other Time In Your Life, While Also Trying To Heal
Oh hey, perhaps you’ve heard that newborns interrupt your sleep? And that getting very little sleep can make it hard to relax and recover from the major trauma/miracle your body just went through? I’m sorry to say it’s true. It’s very, very true.
Because Just When You Thought You’d Regain Control of Your Body, Breastfeeding Comes Up (Maybe)
I was warned about breastfeeding and how difficult it can be for so many women, yet I remained hopeful (OK, naive). Turns out, I struggled just as much as many of the women around me had. Despite the challenges of the previous three trimesters, this one took the cake for me.
Because At Least During Your Pregnancy Your Bodily Fluids Were The Only Bodily Fluids You Dealt With
Although, I suppose one positive aspect is that you pretty much get immune to baby poop by around the third day anyway, so it’s kind of a wash (literally).
Because, At Some Point, You Will Have To Drag Yourself Into Public With Your Baby
Whether it’s for that first doctor’s check-up, or because you desperately need to see the light of day from somewhere other than your living room window, at some point you will find yourself packing and re-packing the diaper bag, then strapping and re-strapping your baby into the car seat.
You will never be the same again.
Because People Will Not Care As Much About How You’re Doing, But You'll Still Need Them To
It was much more common for me to hear “how are you feeling?” during the first three trimesters than it was during the fourth. However, it was just as uncomfortable, albeit in different ways.
Because You’ll Still Questioning All Your Choices
Pacifiers? Swaddles? The Football hold? How am I supposed to know what in the hell I'm supposed to do? I’ve only been doing this for a month, you guys.
Because You Will Be So In Love But So Stressed Out And Sometimes Afraid of Your Baby, That You Won’t Know What To Do With Yourself. Did I Mention That You’re Also Tired And Healing?
If only we could just rest all day and make polite requests of our partner, and obsess over our baby’s tiniest movements. You know, like we could during the rest of pregnancy. However, the fourth trimester is when it all becomes a reality and a new mom realizes that a mother needs to function like an adult, and it doesn’t matter if we’re afraid, or in pain, or confused. The baby needs us.
At least there's snuggles. That's the one thing that makes it all worth it.