The fourth trimester. Do you know what it is? I know I certainly didn't before I had Oli. I don't think I even learnt about it when I was doing my midwifery study. Pretty sad huh? The fourth trimester is the first 12 weeks as your baby transitions to life outside of the womb. The weeks that can really make or break you as you transition into motherhood. In our society it's all about getting back into things, back into your jeans, back into the gym, back up and at it 4 days after giving birth. Why?! Why are we in such a hurry? In many cultures they have a long period of confinement, new mothers don't leave the house or even shower for weeks. They are treated like goddesses and their mothers care for them completely. Something about going back to basics and slowing life down after I gave birth was so incredibly appealing to me. After all we only get the one chance.
When I was pregnant with Ruby I read this great article about the fourth trimester. It really struck a chord with me because after I had Oli rest, relaxation and bonding were virtually impossible. As a first time mum I had no idea what I was in for - the physical strain or the emotional upheaval. Theres so much focus on the baby shower and hospital bag but little on preparing for the fourth trimester. Hell I didn't even know what it was!
As the age old saying goes; knowledge it power. When I first met with my midwife I was certain hospital would be the place I would have my second baby with perhaps my third being a homebirth. After I worked through some things in my mind and with Ian we decided that having our baby at home was our ideal plan. From that point on I absorbed myself in all things homebirth. I read books, I watched documentaries, I joined facebook groups and surrounded myself in stories, images and conversations about natural, normal birth. I craved information and I found it through all of these avenues. I became more and more knowledgeable and in turn became empowered and birthed my baby relatively easily in the beautiful surroundings of my own home. All this information about homebirth naturally led me to learning about what I would need once my baby had arrived, I'm not talking about a pram, or a cot. I mean the important stuff like rest, recovery, support, love.
By making the choice to have my baby at home I was in control of all aspects of my birth and recovery. While this is amazing, it's also quite a responsibility! Of course I had my midwife but at the end of the day it was up to me to be prepared for my postpartum healing.
In order to prepare myself for when my baby arrived I made a list. I wrote down things I needed both practical things like sheets, towels, mattress protector and then things for me including herbs, pads, etc. It was so therapeutic during those last few weeks of pregnancy ticking off the list and collecting all my things. I have been reflecting on what I did last time and this time round. My experiences were like chalk and cheese, my births were both beautiful in their own unique ways but how I treated myself after each is profoundly different. I recognised the time after Ruby's birth as sacred and all of these things made a huge difference.
I spent 5 hours in hospital after I had Oli then was on my feet constantly. I didn't rest at ALL, I spent my days back and forth from the hospital and sitting on uncomfortable chairs for hours on end. When he finally came home Ian went back to work and I had no friggen idea what I was doing. I didn't bond with him for some time because of everything that had happened.
One of the reasons I wanted a homebirth so badly was so that I could have my baby and go straight to bed - and thats exactly what I did. After I gave birth, I birthed my placenta and breastfed Ruby in the pool. Not long after I hopped out and onto the couch where I fed some more and had a cup of tea. Then I headed to the bathroom and got into my new soft comfy pjs - another necessity! Add it to the list! then straight into bed. THIS WAS ABSOLUTE HEAVEN. I cannot emphasise just how amazing it was. Having my precious baby in the comfort of my own home then hopping into bed to drift off to sleep was pure bliss.
From that night onward I didn't go far from my bed. I stayed there as much as possible during the day. I breastfed, slept, drank herbal teas, ate yummy food prepared by Ian or my Mum. I took photos of Ruby - so many photos! I just relaxed and soaked in the absolute joy that is new baby bliss! In the mornings Ian would pop out and get us coffee and I would hop in the shower and change into a fresh pair of pjs then back to bed. I didn't get dressed at all. After a few days I pottered around the house, sat outside, watched tv. After 7 days I felt like I needed to get out. I went over to my beautiful friends to catch up and what better place to go but a midwives house? With other midwives? It was the best! Cups of tea and lunch, I was on 7th heaven. I spent the next week or so at home again, just in bed or on the couch relaxing. I look back on this time and it was so amazing. It feels like just yesterday and I will treasure those memories forever! The hardest part I found in that first week was not being able to pick Oli up, being in bed or just relaxing on the couch was perfect so we could still cuddle.
After Ruby's birth our house was just...I don't know how to describe it really. A buzz, glowing? sacred? It just felt so good like something amazing had happened and we were all just relaxed and happy. I'm sure other homebirth mums would feel the same. Family & friends popped in and out, there was so much joy. The bubble of baby bliss! After two weeks I went out and did some shopping - big mistake. It was far too soon. I felt like Ian had done loads and I had to step up and take Oli out and 'do' something for the household. Little did I realise I was doing ALOT! I was healing and caring for a tiny baby. Silly me, it was a big mistake. It ended in tears and pain and I'll know for next time - real life can WAIT.
Stitches, my god. After I had Oli I had a sutured peri, I can tell you something for nothing...THERE IS NOTHING MORE PAINFUL THAN CONSTANTLY SITTING ON A SUTURED PERINEUM!
During my pregnancy I stumbled across the oh so beautiful Blissful Herbs. These are a GODSEND, forget the stuffed toys and singlets at baby showers EVERY new mum needs a postnatal pack from Blissful Herbs. Coincidently I didn't have sutures this time round, but I still had a sore peri. I got some postnatal herbs and made up a huge jug which I kept in the fridge (jokingly called fanny tea by my friend and I!) Each time I went to the toilet I had a squeezie bottle - also from blissful herbs and poured the warm liquid at the same time I weed - no stinging! This stuff is absolutely amazing. I had a pain free peri within a few short days.
I also made up some 'padsicles' These are pads that are sprinkled with water then frozen to apply to a tender peri for 15 mins at a time. I made up some plain water ones and then some with aloe vera, lavender oil and witch hazel - so soothing! I still have a heap left, after using my magic fanny tea (HA!) I didn't have much pain or need them. I can use them if anyone hurts themselves for an icepack I guess! HAHA Ian bumps his head 'here babe, apply this padsicle!'
Totally unprepared when it came to food. Oli arrived so early I didn't even have a chance to think of food let alone prepare it! The thought actually didn't even come into my head.
I spent an afternoon in the kitchen preparing meals during late pregnancy. It certainly wasn't hard! I just cooked a few of our favourite meals and loaded them up with veggies. This was so so helpful in the first few weeks - even now still 9 weeks on! Nutrition is SO important and I cannot recommend this enough! Home cooked meals are just so comforting. One of my lovely friends dropped off many meals over those first few weeks and I'll be forever grateful because they were delicious. I would certainly rather home cooked meals than any baby clothes, toys, etc. Homecooked meals and nappies and wipes - the ONLY gifts a new family need!
I always wanted to keep my placenta and have it encapsulated but unfortunately it wasn't an option with Oli's as it was sent off for testing.
Placenta encapsulation was one of my top priorities this time round. There are so many benefits including stabilising mood and hormones, boosting milk production, increased energy levels. Just before my capsules arrived I started to feel my mood shift. As soon as I started taking them I felt brilliant again. Magic, I felt amazing taking them. The past week or so I've needed a boost so I've started taking them again. I got about 300 and have been taking 1 a day with many many many left!
Expectations. I remember thinking, have I just made the biggest mistake of my life? This is the hardest thing ever! We went through a pretty tough time with Oli being sick but just the every day mum struggles were just that - a huge struggle. Going to mums group and meeting a few second and third time mums made it worse. They seemed so at ease. My baby wouldn't sleep! I couldn't put him down! He cried when he wasn't with me! What was I doing wrong?!
DROP THEM. I expected nothing of myself. Well obviously I did have expectations but not in the same way. I was so much kinder to myself this time round. I guess it comes with the experience of having done it before but I'm enjoying motherhood so much more because I really don't care what anyone else is doing. Whatever my friends are doing with their babies, I don't feel worried that I should be doing the same. I'm just trusting my instincts that I'm doing the best for Ruby.
I love being pregnant and giving birth is an out of this world experience. It feels so natural to keep the ball rolling through to the fourth trimester. All of the nurturing, the cuddles, the s l o w pace of life. I was mildly concerned when I was pregnant that I wouldn't get the time to rest however even with a two year old we managed it. We had many slow walks, trips to the park where I would sit under a tree in the shade feeding, long drives in the afternoons when they would both be asleep and Ian & I could chat away. It's all about being kind to yourself, having a new baby is the most beautiful gift. Becoming a mother for the second, third, fourth, fifth time just increases your need for that special bonding between mama and bub over the first few weeks. So buy lots of soft new pyjamas, stock up on the herbs and tea, make your padiscles, cook and freeze your meals, organise your placenta pills and then wait. Until that perfect day when you give birth and you can slip into your nest for a few weeks, snuggle with your new baby and soak in the joy that is becoming a mama. You are incredible, you have just done the most amazing transformational thing and you need to rest and reflect. Life can wait.