The ‘fourth trimester’

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My Ergo Baby carrier often gets me through the evening.

So there are three trimesters in pregnancy. Or is there? I believe there is actually 4!

The first three months after having a baby are a big adjustment for me and my whole family. And a big adjustment for my baby too. They are used to being in their secure womb world and I need to give my precious bundle plenty of grace and affection as they get used to life on the outside. Right now I am 7  weeks postpartum and I’ve been feeling it. I’m definitely in the ‘fourth trimester.’ It’s amazing how quickly I forget what it feels like after I have a baby. Time goes all too quickly and it’s amazing how us mummy’s can forget the details of what it was like for us exactly. My mum says she forgets what the pain of labour feels like too a few years after having a baby. She remembered that is was painful, but the memories of the intensity and what everything felt like exactly  became foggy. Maybe this is God’s way of preparing a mothers heart to receive another baby.

In the first week after giving birth I am on a massive high.

I am in awe of the faithfulness of my creator and the miracle of the life He has so graciously entrusted me with. I feel relieved that I am done with labour and I tuck myself and my babe in bed together and rest and feed and feed and feed. It’s so exciting introducing our new baby to their big brothers and sisters, it really melts my heart!

Though my heart still melts every time I cuddle and smell my sweet baby, the initial excitement wears off a little when I miss hours of sleep and can’t seem to catch it back up.

I often get emotional too in the first few weeks. I find myself crying over strange things like not being able to find an item of clothing I’m looking for. I anxiously watch over my baby making sure they are okay constantly and I also feel a bit strange and worry that something bad is going to happen to one of my children. Sometimes I have frightening or upsetting dreams as I struggle to fall into a deep sleep. The details of my baby’s birth run over and over in my mind. Those crazy postpartum hormones can make me feel a little loopy for a few weeks. I make sure I spend a lot of time laying down and getting as much rest as I can. I drink lots of chamomile tea and nourish my body with lots of warm, hearty meals.

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My precious Willow, not long after delivery.

 I manage my household by asking my dear husband to take a few weeks off of work and he completely takes over the care of our older children and household tasks.

This time he was able to take 3 weeks off from the time I was 40 weeks. I went one week and a day overdue so it was nice having him at home helping me with the household needs when I was overdue as well. He will completely take over the children’s baths and bedtime routine, he cleans and hangs up laundry. What a guy! Luke is my main help – we work together as a team. We eat the stash of meals that I put away before our baby is born. I feel so much better knowing my family and I are eating nourishing home cooked meals while  I’m unable to cook instead of take-away. During the last 3 months of pregnancy I plan double or triple batches of meals that I am planing on cooking that week and freeze the extra food. It was so soothing having Luke heat up and bring me hot chicken soup for my lunches after I came home from hospital. I was so thankful that I had taken the time to make the soup from scratch and get it put away as it was the perfect recovery food to eat after birth. The mothers from our church also brought us meals almost every night for a week and it was such a massive blessing to us. We felt very well looked after and it was beautiful.

Home schooling in the ‘fourth trimester’ is kept to a bare minimum.

This is the first time I’ve been ‘officially’ home schooling after having a baby. Though it’s still not completely ‘official’ because you don’t have to register your child as a home schooler until they are six years old and my son whom I’m home schooling only just turned five in March. But we decided that we would start him this year with some school work at his level. (Our oldest son is attending school this year but we hope to bring him home again in the future).

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Arrow ‘mowing’ after some heavy rainfall.

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Savannah and Willow

After the birth we took ‘school holidays’ for a few weeks and let him have a lot of unstructured play time. Which is what I believe a child his age should be doing mostly anyway. We borrowed heaps of books from the library and he flicks through them quite often. Between 2-6 weeks after our baby’s birth we began home schooling him again though we started slowly. I began by just doing a discipleship lesson with him and the little ones in the late morning while baby was having a sleep. They do a themed colouring in and I read the Bible lesson from the ‘Gospel Light, Big Book Of Bible Stories’. Learning about Jesus I believe is his most important lesson – so it made sense for us to begin here. And in the afternoon  he does a ‘Reading Eggs’ lesson on the computer. Gradually we have added in a few pages from his workbook too. School work takes place in small bursts around the baby’s and toddlers needs. Home schooling is beautiful as our children are learning about real life and are living life and learning as we go about our daily life with them right by our sides.

One of the hardest things to deal with in the first few weeks after my baby is born is my husband going back to work.

I often feel anxious being left alone with the children when Luke does late shifts at work in those early months. I get overwhelmed easily but I’ve done this enough times now to know that it does get better. As the weeks going by I slowly get a bit more sleep and my baby seems happier in the evening. And before I know it my baby is joining us around the meal table!

Something that helped me while home alone with the children was to figure out what was stressing me the most and causing the overwhelmed feelings. When I really thought about it the main thing that stressed me was trying to cook or prepare the evening meal while trying to juggle a house full of littles. The other main stress was trying to bath everyone.

I prayed to God for wisdom in these areas so we could have a calmer evening while daddy was away and the answer was to make the most of the mornings before Luke went to work. I started cooking the evening meal (something simple and healthy) in the morning when Luke was around to hold the baby if needed. And we bath or shower everyone in the morning or after lunch if it is a ‘bath day.’ (Three days a week) So I won’t have to try and get this done on my own in the evening.

Every so often I have ‘one of those days’ where everything seems to be going wrong and it’s just one thing after another. The baby is crying and something is burning, the toddler found a permanent texta, the preschooler is stuck in the toilet and the boys have been playing too rough and someone is hurt and crying. All while I’m attempting to tidy the house for an inspection the next morning.(Why do real estate agents to this to us??)  On those days I cry out to Jesus to get me through – and he gives me comfort and wisdom on how to handle the situation. Sometimes I need to get away for a minute and shut the door of my bedroom and catch my breath. Even cry for a minute. But mostly I find, it’s not always like this and we have a happy evening together. I read them lots of books while breastfeeding my bub on the couch and sometimes I sit outside and rock on the swinging chair while watching my precious children discover things in the backyard and they bring them over to show me.

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Just perfect, my baby girl!

Something I couldn’t end this post without mentioning is…my postpartum body!

Trying to make peace with my body after having a baby has been difficult for me. I always gain around 25kg with each pregnancy and this 5th time around was no exception. Despite my attempts to eat well and not gain too much weight while pregnant this time, no matter how hard I tried, I really stacked on a lot of weight in the third trimester. I go from a size 8-10 to a size 14-16 every pregnancy! I have managed to lose the weight between my pregnancies but it does take time and sometimes it’s way too slow for my liking. Sometimes I even gain a bit of weight while still breastfeeding. I think this is all normal for me. What I try and do to make me feel better about my postpartum body is:

  1. Tell myself constantly that this body just carried a baby for 9 months and it is very normal for it to look this jiggly.
  2. Eat healthy meals as much as I can and focus on nourishing my body and building up my milk supply. Comfort eating because ‘I’m fat anyway’ will most definitely make matters worse.
  3. Go for walks a few times a week; the fresh air and sunshine completely changes my mood
  4. Buy some clothes in my new current size that fit now. Not ‘goal weight’ sized clothing but clothes that fit my postpartum body the way it looks right now to help me feel pretty and comfortable.
  5. Removing clothing from my wardrobe and drawers that don’t fit me and packing them away. Only have clothes in my current size out and available for me to wear.
  6. Shape wear can be your best friend. I’ve bought a pair to make my tummy look a little flatter.
  7. Expect to still look a little pregnant for many months after giving birth. And a word of warning; never ask a woman if she is pregnant again if she has given birth within the past year…this has happened to me. A lady asked me if I was pregnant, 5 months after having my fourth baby because my postpartum belly was sticking out a little (or a lot)! Talk about embarrassing and discouraging! Seriously people, leave the postpartum lady alone.

Babies are very time consuming and I need to give myself grace.

Babies in their gorgeous cuteness take up a lot of time day and night to look after. In the early months I spend hours upon hours each day just sitting in a chair breastfeeding. Not to mention changing, and burping and settling them to sleep. We must remember when we have little babies to give ourselves grace. You may not get much at all done except caring for the immediate needs of your baby and your older children. This is okay and it is normal. The weeds can wait, the floors can wait, the shelves might get dusty and any other project we have in mind may have to be put on hold. But we are nurturing a little person and this is far more important than any of these things. Don’t push yourself during the ‘fourth trimester.’ Don’t set up random expectations on yourself. Just relax, stop and smell that sweet smell of your newborn’s head. There will be time for all that other stuff later.

When Luke got home from work one night I said, “oh I’m so sorry I didn’t do the dishes!” He just told me that he had no expectations of me doing the dishes and I shouldn’t either and that all he really cared about is that I made it through and that me and the children are doing okay. Did I mention that he is a great guy?!

Also; when it comes to resting, my life got so much easier and I became less tired when I learned to breastfeed while laying down! It has been a real lifesaver. Especially in the first 6 weeks.

I have found that I am so much happier and am less likely to feel overwhelmed or depressed if I rest more and enjoy my baby and write things like ‘go for a walk’ on my to do list.

I have worked out that it takes me between 9-12 months before I am fully feeling back to myself and have adjusted to the new ‘normal’ of life with our baby.

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Out for our 9th wedding anniversary date with Willow, 4 weeks old.

Whatever is working for you just go with it. Enjoy that precious baby while you go through the ups and downs of the ‘fourth trimester.’

Blessings,

Peta

 

 

 

 

 

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