Travelling through the trimesters…
Every parent knows about the three pregnancy trimesters. The new challenges, sensations and emotions that each of these phases brings. Most new parents will be aware that the first three months of parenting are the fourth trimester. The time when other members of the parenting team can finally connect directly with their tiny, new baby.
For me, I loved each of the four trimesters. I was one of those pregnant women that loved the sickness and nausea of the first trimester because it meant I was pregnant. I loved the new sensations of feeling our baby move during our second trimester and the third trimester was when we truly entered our preparation for birth mode through Hypnobirthing classes, nursery decoration and pregnancy yoga.
The fourth trimester…
Well…I actually don’t have the words!
A. Ma. Zing doesn’t even cover it! I was a Mama! Our girl was here! Old friends, new friends, family, breastfeeding, nighttime nursing, midwives, health visitors and baby classes! The list of firsts, new skills and visitors is endless and warms my heart when I think back over the overwhelming happiness that channelled through my constantly evolving body.
Those first three months after your first baby are crammed full of such huge changes and no matter how prepared you are, you never know how you are going to feel about everything that is happening. It is an immense time and I am so grateful for having such a positive experience which I truly believe has been down to maintaining a positive mindset. I know that this is not easy to maintain, and I know that I have been able to stay positive through the sleepless nights and changing hormones with the ‘village’ of support I have around me and who I suddenly appreciated on a deeper level that I just couldn’t have before.
This brings us to the fifth trimester.
What a strange time this is! I’m beginning to forget what life was like without our daughter and can’t quite believe that we’ve done it- we’ve been pregnant and given birth! It’s all been lived and is now a memory to keep. I wonder at where the time has gone as I put away her new-born 0-3month clothes.
I feel my eyes tear up as I lay our girl in her cot to sleep as she no longer fits in her Moses basket.
We take photos of her with her new baby friends and I feel so lucky to have met so many new people to share our lives and Mama experiences.
I look back at ‘old’ photos and miss the way she slept on my front in a tiny scrunch. I miss trying to open her clenched fingers to remove the self-regenerating pieces of fluff. I miss swaddling her and holding her when she was a small bundle, safely wrapped and snuggled. I know- how can I miss her? But I do! She has changed and is no longer a ‘new-born’.
But, all at the same time, this fourth month has been more of ‘don’t blink or you’ll miss it!’ as so much has happened! I love her 3-6 month clothes as she is beginning to develop her own style. I love seeing her starfish sleeping in her cot- total contentment! She interacts with her baby friends (ok, this means she pulled her friend’s ear and got clonked in the head with a rattle but it’s all good!) and the new skills she is developing make me laugh and smile everyday. The first time your baby laughs- I mean, really loses themselves in the moment laughter- your heart just melts, right?
This trimester is strange…
So much has already happened within your body and outside of yourself and, as a result, I have found my mind is trying to process and store everything. Yet, time is flying and so many memories are being made! This is parenting- and I love it! My life has changed, and I never want to go back!
There are all these feelings of missing her, but they are totally overcrowded with feelings of a love that is indescribable as well as such contentment with the present moment. Then, in turn, this makes me feel excited for who she is becoming and the adventures we will have as she grows up!
Cruising for a bruising!
I found in the fourth month that I felt like I was at an in-between stage. So many major milestones achieved, but so far to go! It made me feel a little lost as my mind turned to my career and how to reconnect with my own journey following maternity leave. I was busy; so busy seeing friends, family, new people at baby classes and loving the social freedom that my job (as a Primary Teacher) does not allow.
The questions about my own future began to seep into my mind. It all came crashing down (literally!) as one day, I was too busy rushing around doing jobs (packing for our first family holiday) while she slept, that I slipped on a patch of water and landed heavily on the tiled floor. Yep- it really hurt but I can tell you; it made me stop!
I struggled up and hobbled over to my girl, as she had heard the bang, and sat with her. She had obviously felt my anguish as she was really upset, so I sat and sang soothing songs to her for ten minutes. I felt my mind calm, my body relaxed (apart from the throbbing pain from landing!) my daughter relaxed and I realised how all my questions had been gathering, clouding my mind and were pushing me to keep busy in order to help with thinking about life after maternity and dealing with the uncertainty.
That night (after a drive to Devon for our holiday) I sat with my husband and talked. It meant a late night but it was worth it!
I realised how much I had been worrying subconsciously about the path I should take to be the best Mama, to fulfil my own potential and to make the best opportunities for our family. I had also begun to question my own body- should my body be back to ‘normal’ by now? And it was all putting pressure on myself where there should be none. We should be free to enjoy our first months of motherhood, without worrying about external pressures or unrealistic ideas of postpartum bodies, but the reality is- we do!
I made a three-month plan. *To me, a plan is not a fixed expectation and is allowed to be adapted!*
I broke down the worries, came up with simple solutions and broke them down into small steps. The first step was the plan. The second step was to leave it alone for a week and live in the moment as we enjoyed our first family holiday. This was a great idea, and after making the plan, I could leave it all alone, safe in the knowledge that I roughly knew what the next three months would bring. Then, after a much-needed break, I began to tackle each step with much more energy and calm then I would have without the talk and the plan!
Should there be more support?
I am fortunate to be one of those people whose husband truly is my best friend. We met when we were 14 years old and have lived more of our lives together than apart. I know I can talk to him about anything. Having this communication is key to having a calm and happy life journey, but it doesn’t have to be with your partner- share with people who bring your positivity. People who restore your energy and give you solutions or at least help you to find them. Choose who you share with carefully- this is part of self-care and it is a key component.
I must admit, I have been quite surprised at the lack of government support for new mothers. Although I had a wonderful midwife who I saw for most of my appointments and who got to know me and gave me excellent care, I did meet other midwives who didn’t afford me the same high-quality care and attention to mental health. Following birth, a quick question ‘How are you feeling?’ at the six week check-up just isn’t enough. I wondered at how many other mothers have reached the same point of feeling lost as me at the fifth trimester and felt they have no one to turn to?
Our NHS is pushed to the limits, but there is definitely help out there! But my worry is for the mums who can’t, won’t or don’t ask. I feel a responsibility now for all my new Mama friends. I listen extra carefully to the way they talk or the words they choose. I glance over when they’re not talking to give an extra smile. I try hard to give words of encouragement, to share what I have found hard and ask if they want any ideas before sharing my dose of ‘wisdom’ because they have probably had plenty given to them already. But most of all, I try hard to make them smile…a compliment for them, a funny story, a great place to take baby for the day, or…a compliment about their baby which never fails to light the sparkle in a new Mama’s eyes!
We are the support!
So, now I’ve sorted out my own headspace, re-found my calm and centre, I’m on a small but important mission!
Reaching out through my blog, my Instagram posts and most importantly in my real life to Mama friends to share that we all have our rainclouds, but there are most certainly strategies we can use to blow them away!
This is an amazing journey, but it wouldn’t be a journey if it didn’t have its challenges and we can all be there to cheer each other on and make our own villages in this modern, digital age of motherhood and parenting.
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