Congratulations! You just made a human being and now you are entering the 4th trimester, a period left out no doubt by many pregnancy books. So what is it?
This is the time from the moment your new baby is born, until they are about 3 months old. It’s a term coined by doctors and referred to as a sort of continuing trimester, just outside of the womb. Sure, the term “trimester” by definition refers to 3, but in this case, the definition is fudged a bit.
During this period of change your newborn and yourself are adjusting. And while it can be quite an adjustment for your baby, it is an equally challenging adjustment for you as the mom, whether this is your first or fifth child.
How to Nurture Yourself
Everything you have learned up until this point has focused on how to care for your new baby, how to tend to their needs and keep them happy and healthy. But what about you?
When you hear the emergency prep talk on an airplane it doesn’t say to put the mask on the baby first. It says to put the mask on yourself first.
Motherhood is no different. You have to put the mask on yourself first if you are to be in any position to tend successfully to your new baby. And this 4th trimester is a critical time for self-care. By following these simple steps for your personal nurturing, you can circumvent lengthy recovery times and help improve your mental state during a time when things like postpartum depression are most common.
What are some ways you can nurture yourself as you nurture your new baby?
1. Self care time
Your body has been through a lot. Your baby needs YOU to take care of yourself properly so you can care for him or her. This may involve taking a few minutes at the start of your day to center yourself through meditation, journaling, reading or just sitting in silence with no distractions. Take time for you!
There are other things you can do as self care that may seem superficial at first glance, but can have a really big impact in lifting your spirits as you adjust to your new changing body. Sometimes it can feel a little indiginifying when you look in the mirror and see the messy state you're in. You don't have to look like you may feel though. Take a little extra pride in brushing your hair or doing your makeup if it means it will help you feel more put together for the day. There's no shame in not being up to your best, but there's also no shame if you how you look is something you care about. You do you!
Things as simple as getting a facial to ease your hormonal breakouts. For a cheaper option, the masks that you peel off when done, rather than wash off, are even better if by chance your new baby demands to be fed some time in between you putting the mask on and the mask drying. You can hold/feed your baby with one arm and peel it off with the other.
Or hair extensions that can help you combat hair loss you might have suffered during pregnancy, or thwart the immediate loss of hormones (and subsequently, loss of shining, healthy hair). These don’t even have to be permanent either. Hair extensions can be clipped in so that you can change the colour, the length, and everything else day by day.
Maybe a pedicure is more your style?
And yes, book yourself in for that massage! Go do it. Right now.
2. Ask for help!
After you give birth, your hormones change as drastically as they did when you were pregnant. Every new mother is encouraged to get help, ask questions, and so on while they are pregnant. But immediately after giving birth, you shouldn’t feel as though you don’t have these rights anymore. You won’t necessarily be able to overcome the drastic and sudden hormonal changes by sheer force of will. Ask for help when you need it, whether that is help from a lactation specialist, a doctor for the post partum, or just a friend for some extra hands cleaning the house.
3. Recovery garments
As you are recovering from the severe impact of childbirth, postpartum recovery garments like these can go a long way toward your comfort. These garments provide comfortable compression on your back, your thighs, and your abs. Not only will you look better and feel more confident as you slowly head back into the world, but the garments will shorten your recovery time after birth, reduce bruising and swelling, and help alleviate soreness.
Whether you had a C-section or gave birth naturally, you can find garments that zip up on the side, so they don’t put pressure near the site. Others have a split crotch design making it convenient to make bathroom trips. By design they will fit snugly to your body so there isn’t a risk of them riding up or down, and they are often in nude colours so they blend in seamlessly under your clothes. You can even wear them with your nursing bra.
Remember, mommy matters too! So take some time to focus on personal nurturing during your 4th trimester. Work in these small self-care steps while you recover and start the long journey into parenthood. It will go a long way toward improving your mental health, helping with your physical recovery, and easing the transition into motherhood.
4. Give Yourself Time
One of the kindest things you can do for yourself in your recovery time is to ease off on the expectations and negative self-talk that says you need to look a certain way, or be a certain way, by a certain time. Let go of these expectations and allow the flow of motherhood some space to simply be. Continously beating yourself up because you thought things 'should' be like this or that will only drag you down further. This is your journey, not someone else's on Instagram or Youtube. Extend yourself that same gentleness and loving compassion as you do to others (and your babe). You're doing the best you can, mama. That is enough.