10 Things Nobody Tells You About the Fourth Trimester

If you’ve hung around these parts for a while now, you know that I wrote up blog posts for my first, second, and third trimesters while I was pregnant with Sunday. But are you aware that the fourth trimester is a thing? It’s a bit of a misnomer because in reality there are only three trimesters (I mean, duh). That said, it’s become a common term for the first three months after giving birth. And it’s something I don’t really hear talked about often. Once the baby is out in the world, they’re kind of all anyone cares about. Seriously – you go from having medical checkups like every other week to a single postpartum exam after six weeks. It can be jarring.

And honestly, it can take some time to feel like yourself again after giving birth (both physically and mentally). That’s why I decided to share my fourth trimester experience. Sunday is now six months old, so I’m a little bit late in posting this. But something tells me you’ll cut me some slack.

Fair warning, these headers will include a lot of mights. Sorry for the redundancy, but I can’t speak for everyone. I can assume that most people will feel like absolute garbage after delivering a baby, but I can’t say that it’s true for everyone. So yeah – while there may be some assumed universalities, this post is based on my experience and my experience alone.

1. You might feel like you’ve been hit by a truck

I was definitely caught off guard but how horrible I felt after giving birth. We all expect the act of giving birth to be traumatic (and it was), but the aftermath is often glossed over. I constantly see photos of new moms all glammed up with their newborns in the hospital. Honestly, that’s what I was prepared for. I totally threw a bunch of makeup and my Dyson Airwrap into my hospital bag. And I mean, more power to those moms! But that was not my experience. My eyes and face were swollen and puffy and I could barely move. Seriously – getting up to go to the bathroom was the biggest struggle.

Mom and brand new baby.

2. You’ll have to care for a newborn while you’re still healing

This couples nicely with my previous point, but wow. I definitely hadn’t fully considered how difficult it’d be to care for a newborn while healing myself. It’s tough but you’ll get through it. That said, this is definitely one of those times when having friends and family around to help out would be a lifesaver. Of course, that’s much easier said than done during a global pandemic.

If you can manage it, I’d recommend making and freezing a bunch of food prior to giving birth. Bonus points if it’s handheld. Trust me – you’ll be glad you did.

3. Your hormones might be out of control

I had a pretty easy pregnancy hormone-wise. Nothing was all that extreme for me. I never even got morning sickness. Fourth trimester hormones, on the other hand, were an entirely different story. At least for the first few weeks. My mood and energy levels were all over the place. I also experienced night sweats and hot flashes. I assume that this was due to a severe drop in estrogen. Thankfully, this only lasted a couple of weeks, but let’s just say I’m not pumped for menopause.

4. Breastfeeding might be terrible (until it’s not)

One thing that really bugs me is the way people talk about breastfeeding. I read part of The Womanly Guide to Breastfeeding, and one thing they reiterated over and over again is that breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt. But y’know what? It did. In fact, for the first month or so (maybe even month and a half), it hurt like hell! It did get better. And now that both Sunday and I have the hang of it, it’s a pretty incredible bonding experience. But I do think that normalizing the struggle that the early days of breastfeeding can be would help a lot of new moms to either stick with it or reduce the guilt that they feel in quitting.

(To be perfectly clear, while I’ve chosen to breastfeed, I firmly believe that fed is best.)

It’s also completely wild just how much time breastfeeding takes in those early days. For the first couple of months, if I wasn’t breastfeeding, I was pumping. Even when I finally got a little bit of sleep I’d wake up with a milk-soaked shirt. It was maddening. But much like the pain, this gets better. As Sunday got older, she learned to eat more efficiently and the time between her meals increased. I stopped needing to pump several times a day as my supply caught up with her demand. And my body also figured things out after a while, so I stopped waking up in milky puddles with painful, engorged breasts. But wow, for a while there it was all milk all the time.

5. You’ll want to make sure to take lots of pictures and videos

You probably just rolled your eyes and thought, “duh”. But at the beginning, parenthood can be overwhelming. You also might not feel up to being photographed yourself. Take pictures anyway. You don’t have to share them, but at least you’ll have them. Also, make sure to take videos. I’ve never been particularly video-oriented. Photos are my thing. But a friend told me to make sure and take videos as well, and it was probably the best piece of parenting advice I’ve received. I can’t tell you how often I watch those videos and they never fail to make me smile.

Note: In this post, half the photos are staged and edited, while half are real and raw. I think it’s pretty obvious which is which. I did this intentionally, because I’m striving to be honest here and both types of photos have their place, even if I’m more comfortable with the pretty ones.

6. Time will probably feel completely bonkers

Honestly, it’s been six months now and time still feels completely bonkers. At the beginning, though, time felt both fast and slow. Hopefully that makes some amount of sense. Now it’s just flying. On one hand I can’t believe it’s been six whole months since Sunday was born, while on the other, I can’t believe I ever lived without her.

Mom and baby in matching pajamas.

7. You might be extra hungry

I actually wasn’t that hungry while I was pregnant. In fact, at times I was annoyed by the fact that I had to eat three meals and three snacks a day (I had gestational diabetes so this consistency was important). So I was surprised by how much hungrier I was for the first few weeks after giving birth. Breastfeeding takes a lot out of you. It burns a lot of calories, but also requires you to eat more so that you can feed a growing human. This also calmed down after a while, but it was kind of shocking.

8. You might feel like your brain has melted

Sleep deprivation will do that to you.

9. You might crave alone time (or adult time)

If you’re anything like me, you absolutely love spending time with your new baby. At the same time, though, you crave time for yourself. You might also crave time with other adults (once again, easier said than done thanks to pandemic life). And you might feel guilty about that. But I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t. You are a human being with very real needs, and those needs don’t negate your love for your baby in any way, shape or form.

10. You might miss it when it’s gone

Again, this is only based on my experience, but despite the pain and the sleepless nights, I already miss this time in my life. I miss when Sunday was a sleepy little baby who just wanted to cuddle. Of course, she’s still very small and she still loves to cuddle. But it’s different now. And I’m sure I’ll miss this time once it’s gone too.

I guess what I’m trying to say is yes, the fourth trimester is awful in a lot of ways. But it’s also beautiful.

Mom and dad with their week old baby.

Anyway, if you’re still here, thanks for reading this. If you’d like more frequent baby/life updates, feel free to follow me on Instagram! I’m definitely going to work more family content into this space, but I’m still figuring out exactly what that looks like.

Finally, if you’re a new mom, I hope this resonated with you. And if you’re a new mom and you’re struggling, know that you’re not alone and you’re doing great.

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