The fourth trimester; that period of time (of approx. 12 weeks) after you’ve given birth to your baby and are thrown into the wonderful world of parenting and you have absoultely no idea what you are doing.
Although we planned to have our baby I am adamant that nothing will ever prepare you for one coming into your life.
Unless that is, you have on average 2 hours sleep per night and attempt to do a full time job where you have pee, poo and vomit on you on a regular basis. You practice speed eating, eating with one handed, and have a shower occassionally. Then add in doing about 5 loads of laundry per week and the half drank cups of tea. Then you are getting there.
I do jest a little, but in all honesty these past 12 weeks have been some of the most intense 12 weeks of my life. I have spent these weeks constantly questionning myself whether I am doing it right. ‘It’ being a parent that is.
I have come to the conculsion that the answer is no. I am probably not doing it right, and I do not have it altogether, but who does? Aren’t we all just figuring it out as we go along?
In saying that, I cannot believe that our little one is now 3 months old. I have been reflecting recently on these past 3 months and so I thought I’d share some of what the first 3 months of being a parent has been like.
The worry, and anxiety
Prior to having a baby I had a fairly placid disposition. I was laid back and quite disorganised. I did have my faffy moments and get stressed, but on the whole I was pretty chilled.
After our baby arrived, a whole host of emotions that came to the surface. I never thought I’d feel how I did at all. I thought I’d be a chilled mum and take it all in my stride. I have to some extent, but there were still feelings that frequently occured that I wasn’t expecting.
First there was the worry. Was she too warm or too cold? Did we dress her correctly for going out? Should we take her out this early (3 days old and off to the supermarket). Had we read to her enough? Was she still breathing? Was she putting on enough weight? The list was endless.
Then there was the anxiety. Just going out caused me anxiety – I was anxious that she would scream her head off in the middle of town and I wouldn’t know how to pacify her, and that passers by would think I was a bad mum. I was anxious that she wasn’t in her car seat correctly or that we wouldn’t have enough milk with us for the time we were out.
In the end she did have a total meltdown at just 4 weeks old. We were in the middle of town and had forgot to bring the teat for her bottle. It resulted in me having to run to Boots to buy a new bottle with a screaming baby.
After that I realised that I could handle anything.
Whether you ask for it or not (often you don’t), you will get opinions from others. Opinions on how you are feeding your baby, what they are dressed in and whether you are holding them right.
You’ll get opinions from family members, friends and even random old ladies in the street.
Some of these opinions and advice stressed me out, like being told if I was using a dummy for my baby I was underfeeding her if she was needing it constantly.
All of this added to my worry as to whether I was doing it right.
In the end, we thanked people for their advice, took on board what we thought would be useful and disregarded anything else.
The feeding issues
I recently wrote about my breastfeeding journey, which undoubtly has been the most difficult aspect of being a new parent. The amount of emotion tided up in it was huge and it caused me a great deal of worry, anxiety and guilt.
13 weeks into exclusively expressing and it feels much more managable, though it is still not easy.
Trying to do too much
The early days of being a parent were so overwhelming. Suddenly you are handed this tiny little life and you are responisble for it. It was intense.
I had no idea what my baby wanted or if what we were doing was the right thing. However, if I was to go back to that time again I would do things a little differently.
I would probably do very little if I am honest. I would have sat on the sofa and enjoyed all the cuddles whilst people around me did all the little things I needed.
I bounced back from pregnancy very quickly and was back in my pre-preganncy jeans within 2 weeks. Everyone commented on how well I looked, and I guess that made me feel that I had to be some sort of super mum and outwardly appear like I had it altogether.
During the early days for example, I was busy baking muffins on day 5 and we travelled 120 miles on a round trip to see friends and family on very little sleep.
It all did get a bit too much three weeks in and that is when the baby blues really kicked in.
Baby blues are normal after giving birth and kick in within the first week. There were days when I would just randomly cry about the tinest thing and everything would seem a bit much.
However there was a time when I was wondering if it was more than baby blues. I even went as far as looking up signs of post natal depression.
There were a few days when I looked at my baby and just felt nothing. No emotion and no love at all. This made me sad, but I realised that it was because of the tiredness and the issues with trying to feed her.
Luckily with amazing support from friends, and family I pulled through this stage.
The constant lack of sleep and having to manage a tiny life is tough, and I realised that it is ok not to be ok, but to seek support early on.
Missing my bump
One thing I constantly heard when was pregnant, was that afterwards I would miss my bump.
I laughed at people when they said that.
No thanks I said. I’ll enjoy fitting into other clothes and feeling more comfortable sleeping.
I was wrong however.
Around day 10, I suddenly missed my bump. I missed feeling a baby inside me. The little kicks and movements I had become used to over the past 9 months. I felt so empty. I would hold my tummy like I used to when pregnant and feel so overwhelming sad. Even though I had a cute little baby to look at, it was a difficult adjustment period.
Impact on relationships
Having a baby is one of the most life changing experiences you could go through. The impact on your relationships is huge. In the early days, the content of conversations with my husband was mainly around our daughter. How many nappies had he changed and had they been dirty or wet? How much milk had she taken on during a feed? It was all about our baby.
Then there was the impact on other relationships with friends and family. Over the past 12 weeks, I don’t feel I have been able to fully concentrate on what has gone on in other peoples lives fully. There have been endless text messages I haven’t got round to replying to, and even phone calls I had to cut short as I needed to feed or change a nappy.
They have got better though, and we soon realised that it was important to take time out for us as individuals or as a couple.
So we tried to factor in things like meeting a friend for coffee or going to a gym class, baby free.
We haven’t quite managed a baby free date night yet, but that will be on a cards soon.
Having a baby is possibly one of the biggest challenges we have faced. Now we are through the fourth trimester, I feel things are much more settled than they were and that we are doing things to the best of our abilities.
There still will be challenges to come in the future, such as sleep regressions, teething and toddler tandrums, but I hope we can continue to be strong enough within these times and try to be the best parents we can to our little girl.