The fourth trimester — the first three months after your baby arrives — is supposed to be a time to recover from childbirth, bond with your baby, and learn how to be a new mom. Usually, though, it ends up being about trying to be perfect, failing to live up to people's unrealistic expectations, and not knowing how to ask for help because you don't want people to know you're not a professional. So there ending up being a ton of things I needed when I was in the fourth trimester that I was totally afraid to ask for.
Our culture seems to fetishize new moms, expecting us to love every moment of new motherhood and to do it all perfectly and effortlessly. Most of us expect the newborn phase to be amazing, and it totally is, but it is also unbelievably exhausting, frustrating, boring, confusing, painful, and involves way too much poop. So much poop.
There were so many things I needed — sleep, help, empathy, and a damn shower — that I was afraid to ask for, as if admitting that I needed help or a break meant that I wasn't a good mom. Between pregnancy hormones, recovering from childbirth, and sleep deprivation, I really didn't feel like myself, so help wasn't just what I wanted; it's what I needed. I also didn't know how to ask for what I needed to succeed in my role as a new mom. There are so many things I wished I had asked for, because they would have made all the difference.
There's a reason sleep deprivation is used as torture technique, you guys. It's the worst, and you lose your mind slowly and surely. I know firsthand how not getting enough sleep can impact your physical health, ability to function, and mental health. But, even though I desperately needed sleep, I found it difficult to ask my partner or mom to watch the baby so I could catch a needed nap.
In my family, no one ever talks about mental illness. I was so afraid to bring up medications with my midwife, because I thought taking antidepressants was a sign of failure. Turns out, my antidepressant brought sunshine into my otherwise dark world. I was finally able to enjoy my fourth trimester. I wish I hadn't been afraid to ask for antidepressants, and I am so grateful that my midwife brought them up.
Time Alone With My Baby
When you have a new baby, everyone wants to come over and hold them. During the fourth trimester, though, I totally didn't want or need company. Well, at least not most of the time. When people would come over and immediately ask to hold my baby, or worse, expect to hold the baby while I cooked or cleaned, it made me feel like they didn't care about me. How do you tell people to leave you alone to snuggle your baby and binge-watch Netflix without sounding like a, you know, b*tch?
Postpartum showers are the best, but it was so hard for me to ask someone to hold my baby so I could have one. It's so strange how your mind lies when you have postpartum depression. I thought that if I set down the baby to shower people would think I didn't love her. I know it isn't necessary to hold your baby every second of every day, but I didn't believe it in the moment.
I needed to know that my husband still wanted to be intimate with me, and that I was still attractive and desirable, even when I didn't feel like sex. It's so hard to ask for affection, though, and especially when you are afraid to be turned down.
A Break Once In A While
All parents need a break once in a while. Especially parents who are recovering from childbirth. I wish I had asked for a break more often, but I was afraid that people would judge me for not being able to "do it all."
I didn't eat much at all after my second child was born. Postpartum depression took away my appetite, and I was too exhausted to make myself a snack. I was honestly afraid to ask my husband to cook for me, because I thought he would give me a hard time about not having dinner on the table for him.
My Co-workers To Leave Me Alone
I was on freaking maternity leave. I didn't need my co-workers to call me daily with questions or requests for help. Still, I was afraid to tell them to buzz off, because I worried that it would impact my career. It was so messed up.
Most people suck at giving an ounce of empathy to others, especially mothers who aren't living up to preconceived notions of new parenthood. Seriously. It's hard to ask for help if you expect the person to tell you how they did everything on their own with no help during their fourth trimesters. Life is not a contest. Literally the only things you should say to a new mom is, "How can I help?"
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