Here I am in the middle of my 4th trimester, the 2nd time around, and what a completely different experience I’m having. Since I started my business in 2018, I’ve learned so much about pregnancy and birthing and have been able to utilize that knowledge for my second child. The two things I knew were critical in managing the struggle after the birth of a baby were community and services.
My baby arrived two weeks before my proposed due date and my mom was not scheduled to arrive until 10 days later. A group of girlfriends in the area, my birth tribe, swung into action and, in that time, provided meals, postpartum healing supplies, playdate time for my older daughter, recovery foods and drinks, lactation treats, you name it! We had enough home cooked meals – not frozen meals or take out – home cooked meals to cover us until my mother arrived. One of my friends even dropped off a breast pump in the middle of the night when both of mine had unexpectedly broken down. Each one of my friends had different skills, talents, resources, even experiences that I was able to draw from to enrich my own experience. This tribe came together during my Mother’s Blessing (see blog post) and made a birthing necklace for me using a stone that resonated with them (seen in picture) to wish me a smooth, peaceful, and powerful labor and delivery. That mom to mom community support was everything and was invaluable those initial days.
We had our hands full with appointments with lactation consultants and chiropractors, and others. My husband spent the days running up and down the stairs bringing me food and snacks, and refiling my water bottle, and cleaning baby bottles, and changing sheets, and taking care of both the girls and me. One night he made tacos, upon my request, and realized how even something so quick and easy was so hard to do those early days. He was immensely grateful for the meals our friends dropped off that were hearty and nourishing. He was so moved, he wanted to be part of a birthing tribe to pay it forward! 🙂 We couldn’t have managed those days without my tribe.
My mom arrived at day 10 and took a lot of the pressure off my husband. A few days later, his mother joined us. Now, we had 4 adults to maintain a house of two children and a newly birthed mother. And everyone was busy all day.
I had so much support, which was so different from my pandemic pregnancy. Not once did I feel lonely or isolated. I did, however, have to deal with the physical recovery, lack of sleep, caring for a newborn, and feeling guilty for neglecting my older child or not spending enough time with everyone, in addition to working and running a business and that was plenty. My family and my tribe took care of the rest.
My doula visited me 1 week after delivery. My midwife came to visit me 1 day, 1 week, 2 weeks, and 6 weeks after I gave birth. The average mother, who births in a hospital is only seen once at six weeks. In six weeks, I dealt with latch issues with my baby due to a tongue tie, exclusive pumping, a clogged milk duct, a UTI, pelvic floor pain, breast pain and soreness, back pain, bleeding, and two days of severe headaches. I would have had to suffer through all of this with negative outcomes had I only been seen once at 6 weeks. I might have given up on breastfeeding or not known my baby had a tongue tie or not gotten a release done. I had a WhatsApp group with my doula and midwife and was able to reach out to them any day, any time. I had experienced, compassionate support at my finger tips, which was invaluable and made all the difference. So much better than googling.
It is insane that postpartum mothers are not seen more often, in the most vulnerable of days, to assess and problem solve. Fortunately, I didn’t struggle with postpartum anxiety or depression but, if I had, could me or my baby have afforded to wait??
The 4th trimester is the most trying of times for all moms and this does not include other responsibilities such as working, running a business, cleaning, taking care of other kids, etc. I felt prepared because of what I had come to know but, unfortunately, most women do not have access to this information or to resources.
I followed my own advice too and sought out the services I needed. Yes, I questioned the need and thought I could get by without the support. We do that often, right? It will get better. Do I really need it? The pain will go away. Maybe I can find a free resource. Yes, services are expensive but, if you invest in yourself because you’re worth it and because your family needs a strong, healthy version of you, then you realize how critical they are to your overall health. You’re saving time and money in the long run with a lingering issue such as pelvic floor disfunction or a colicky baby.
My baby’s tongue tie issue, for example, required a multidisciplinary approach. My midwife saw the tie during her 2 day postpartum visit and suggested I talk to a lactation consultant. I reached out to the first one that came to mind, who we had interviewed for our YouTube series, Mom Meets World. She was able to squeeze me in the next day and help me to start tackling the issue. She confirmed the tie, helped with improving baby’s latch, and shared a very short list (3 to be exact) of tongue tie release providers she recommended in the area. These providers recognized that a tongue tie issue requires a team approach so they wanted to know that we had seen a lactation consultant as well as a body worker, such as a chiropractor. This team would not only help with the tie but with long term breastfeeding success.
I didn’t have to google furiously looking for a provider or try to determine who was a good fit or what price points we could afford. I had done the 4th trimester planning while I was pregnant and I strongly encourage every new mama to do the same.
The importance of the 4th trimester cannot be underestimated. Most of us don’t think about life beyond the birth nor does society allow us to. We rush to return to our pre-baby weight- often to make matters worse- and that’s about it. We have some of the highest rates of postpartum anxiety and depression of any country and mamas are most likely to die in the first six months. A huge cause of this is not having the critical time to rest and recover with a community of support and services. We talk about PPA and PPD in Episode 5 of Mom Meets World.
In some Latin American countries, they celebrate la cuarentena, which has two meanings. The first is 40. It is believed that the first 40 days of baby’s life affect the first 40 years. The second meaning is quarantine in that a new mom should self-isolate to rest, recover, and bond. In our YouTube series, Mom Meets World, we talk about postpartum practices around the world in Episode 2: Postpartum Practices. There are so many practical and beautiful and meaningful practices of communities around the world that are meant to honor the birth of mom and baby because both of have been on a physical, emotional and spiritual journey that has taken a toll on them in so many ways. After both my babies were born, I practiced a traditional 90 day self-quarantine (it’s easier during times of Covid) and wrote about the first experience on Voluntary House Arrest. Whether 40 days, 90 days, or 100 days, choose a period that is significant and right for you.
My heart breaks for those mamas who have to go back to work after two weeks, still bleeding and leaking and feeling pain in every possible way. If you have the right of maternity leave, make the most of it. If you take the time to slow down, rest, heal, recover, and bond with baby, your time of recovery will be shortened and baby will have better outcomes. You really will never have this time again. As instructed by my midwife, and based on what I knew about postpartum recovery, I did not leave my room for 10 days. Me and my baby stayed in, rested, ate, and bonded while others in the home took care of cooking, cleaning, and running the house. I even hosted an online training four days postpartum in my bed (I wouldn’t recommend this but didn’t have a choice). Nevertheless, my bed and bedroom were where I found respite and it was my safe and happy place. It was the place I retreated too when the physical pain became too much or the circumstances too overwhelming. It was a place under my control at a time where you have little to no control.
I hear often from mamas, “why didn’t anyone tell me x?” And you can fill in the blank about postpartum bleeding or the challenges of breastfeeding or the lack of sleep or any number of things. The reality is you can’t really prepare someone for exactly what the birth or postpartum will be for them because each experience is so unique. Some might have easy births and very difficult time with healing or breastfeeding or one of many many issues. Others might have difficult and traumatic births but have an easy time with breastfeeding. You just never know. What you can plan and prepare for are retreat, warmth, support, rest, and ritual. If you have these, you and your baby can thrive and not just survive in your 4th trimester and that is everything.