his post was originally published on www.pickipenguin.com.
It’s been 6 months, but I can still remember how nervous I was when my water broke. Nervous, but excited. It was a Sunday morning, 1:00 am, and we were getting ready to go to bed. That excitement grew as we drove to the hospital, and we couldn’t wait to meet our baby boy.
Two days later he was in our arms, and life got hard – harder than we thought having a baby could be. We were so naive. We had no idea how much work was going to be required in the early days – and how much sleep we would lose. Nonetheless, it was our job to raise this perfect, precious, bundle-of-joy and we were happy to.
But as we prepared to welcome Emmanuel to this world, people told us about the fourth trimester. We heard time and again that the fourth trimester would be a time of adapting and adjusting for our baby, but somehow, it didn’t quite dawn on us how much adapting and adjusting WE would be doing.
Those first three months were – to put it gently – brutal. It seems like everything piles on top of each other to make the fourth trimester so much more difficult. I was only sleeping about 30 minutes to an hour in a 24-hour period, and I cried every day when my husband left for work. The postpartum blues made me miss him so much. And, although I was warned, my breastfeeding journey was a mess in the beginning. Emmanuel wouldn’t latch, and I exclusively pumped for awhile. You can read about it HERE. But we persevered, and now Emmanuel is 6 months old and sitting up on his own – and I have no idea where the time went. The following strategies helped me immensely when I struggled through that fourth trimester, and I thank God that I had these resources at my disposal.
Babywearing is hands-down one of the best things I did for me and my baby in the fourth trimester. Not only did it help us bond, but it helped me keep my sanity, too. Since he was still adjusting to life outside the womb, it helped to be strapped right near my chest so he could still feel safe and warm.
I also love it because it allows me to be hands-free, so essentially I’m multi-tasking every time I wear Emmanuel. Currently, we use a Lillebaby Airflow Complete, and we are extremely pleased with it. It’s perfect for the hot, Texas weather, and is great because you can use it in 6 different positions. As he gets older, Emmanuel enjoys the carrier more, but I’m certain he is going to be amazed once I’m able to wear him facing out and he can see everything.
Utilizing a support system
Having a baby completely humbled me. I took just about all the help I could get. Having and utilizing a support system made it easier for me to love on Emmanuel.
My mom moved in with us for 6 weeks, so I didn’t have to cook or clean during that time. My dad came by to mow our yard and take care of everything outside so Luis could spend more time with us. My in-laws were so great and helped with anything we needed. They made sure we were set with diapers, but also brought food and took us to appointments. Family and friends provided meals and extended support from afar. College friends were wonderful when it came to listening to me vent, and giving me the encouragement and advice I needed to continue.
The fourth trimester was rough, but I was able to manage because of loving and supportive friends and family.
Before Emmanuel was born, I stumbled across a local La Leche League Facebook group. I immediately requested to join, and the women in that community have been so helpful, especially during the fourth trimester when many new breastfeeding mamas have no idea what’s going on!
It helped so much to have some knowledgeable, experienced moms to turn to when I struggled to breastfeed. I can recall writing a lengthy complaint during my first month, and so many women took to the comments to encourage and support me. It was amazing! And it made me really feel like I could do it.
Being in that group helped me branch out to find more moms in other groups, and now I find myself in groups like Co-Sleeping & Attachment Parenting, Biologically Normal Infant Sleep, and Baby-Led Weaning. These women (and some men) know exactly what I’m going through, and I frequently go to them when I have questions about parenting.
These days you can find Facebook Groups for just about anything. And the online mom community is so amazing and supportive! I received so much help from them in the beginning.
“This too shall pass.”
Luis and I often had to remind each other of this.
During sleep-deprived days, this too shall pass.
When he struggled to latch, this too shall pass.
When he wouldn’t stop crying, this too shall pass.
After many, many tears, this too shall pass.
Looking ahead allowed me to see that I was in a really tough spot, but that I wouldn’t be for long. I imagined him growing, developing, and communicating. This little mental game I played helped me push through the tough fourth trimester.
I knew I had to stop and cherish his first three months outside the womb, and I did, but it was also so good for my heart and my mind to know that it wouldn’t always be that tough.
Just like looking to the future got me through the fourth trimester, so did looking to the past. Whenever we were having an especially rough day, it helped to see how far we had already come. It helped to know that we had already accomplished so much together.
A few weeks into the fourth trimester, we were getting the hang of breastfeeding. Emmanuel was sleeping longer stretches. I learned exactly how he liked to be rocked to fall asleep for naps. I was sleeping more than an hour every day. My postpartum blues had subsided. He was adjusting to his new environment, and I was learning who he was, and especially how to help him adjust. Day after day, things improved.
And although it may sound like I’m just complaining about how hard it was, there’s so much beauty in the struggle and difficulty of the first few months of caring for your baby. When I look back and realize how much work and sacrifice I put into it, and how far we have come, it makes me feel like I can do anything, and I know it helped us to bond. I hope that when we tell Emmanuel stories of his birth and his first months outside the womb, he will know how much mommy and daddy loved him.
Recognizing developmental leaps
I had never heard of the Wonder Weeks prior to having Emmanuel. Now that I know, I am so grateful to have learned about it during the fourth trimester.
The Wonder Weeks is a book written by Hetty van de Rijt and Frans Plooij. With over 40 years of research, they wrote a book on 10 developmental leaps babies make in the first 18 months or so after their due dates. In addition to the book, there is an app called The Wonder Weeks that I purchased to help me keep track of when Emmanuel was going through a leap.
You guys. Knowing about developmental leaps during the fourth trimester was extremely important for my mental health. At times, Emmanuel was so fussy, but I was able to roll with it because I knew he had a clean diaper, he didn’t seem to be in pain, and he wasn’t hungry or sleepy. He was just vocalizing that he was making a developmental leap forward, and that I should try some techniques to help him. The app was so helpful in listing when to expect a leap, what signs I should look for, and what I could do to help my baby during this time. At this point, I’m so familiar with it that I can pretty much tell when he is beginning a leap.
By the grace of God
Luis and I used to joke about how easy parenting would be. Well, I guess the joke was on us. We’ve made many sacrifices, all in the name of love. And honestly, we only got through the fourth trimester by the grace of God. He provided all the resources, and He made sure I could function in such a sleep-deprived state.