(Don’t be fooled. These photos, while beautiful, are not at all indicative of life in the weeks after giving birth.)
You’re pregnant for three trimesters — typically, 40ish weeks, give or take a few days. That’s what all the books, apps and doctors tell you, and when baby arrives, you re-start your count on how many weeks “along” you are. It’s no longer about your growth and experiences — it’s all about the baby bug’s.
But the truth is, the fourth trimester, or the three months after giving birth, can be the most challenging of all for mom. At least, it has been for me.
I’m so lucky to have a dream baby. She nursed within 10 minutes of being born, she rarely fusses, she sleeps (fairly) well and she’s growing like a weed. At four weeks old, she’s in the 88th percentile for height and weight, is starting to give us little smiles and coos and brings us joy every single day.
We’re even venturing out — visiting Daddy at work, going to the park to take walks and more. With Audrey, I was much more cautious, which led to me feeling pretty cooped up after a month.
Remy is thriving, one month into her out-of-the-womb life.
Me? It’s a little bit more of a not-so-hot mess. I walked by the bathroom mirror the other day and barely recognized myself.
Who is this person with a frizzy topknot, smeared eyeliner and roll around her waistline? And wait…is that breast milk or spit-up staining her shirt? Poor dear. She looks like a meme for #momlife. Oh no…that’s me!
At four weeks after delivery, I’m wearing pads — nursing and maxi — because I have stuff coming out from where stuff normally would not. My face, neck and shoulders are currently smeared with an oatmeal mask because I inexplicably broke out with a raging case of hives a few days ago (bad enough that I’ve been taking benadryl to take the edge off). My best guess is that it’s stress- or hormone-related.
While I’ve started to wear some of my non-maternity clothes, I’m often defaulting to my stretchy waistbands and ruched shirts because I’m still carrying quite a bit of weight in some very non-flattering places and my normal outfits are just too depressing to wear.
I’m only now not afraid of going to the bathroom after weeks of tummy trouble (seriously, ladies — the first post-labor poop is among the scariest things I’ve ever faced). I still have a dark line down my stomach, except now it’s more like a zig-zag, since my belly isn’t nice and round and full like it was when I was still pregnant.
Emotionally, things are better (and believe me, I’m being very cautious and alert for any signs of postpartum depression — I wouldn’t mess around with that and would absolutely reach out for help if I even had an inkling that I was struggling that way), but they’re still difficult. I am touchy, and quick to react to anything stressful. I’m lacking the patience I’d normally have with Audrey, and that just leads to guilt that I’m not handling this whole new-mom-of-two as well as I’d expected. I’m on maternity leave but still checking in on projects, and feeling a little bit of anxiety when I think about the work that awaits me in just a few weeks but also thankful that I’ll be able to get back into a fairly normal routine and have meaningful adult conversations again.
The lack of sleep is a doozy — I have forgotten the words for yogurt, diaper, seat belt and leash, just in the past 48 hours — and I am fairly certain that I’m operating at about 75% of my brain capacity. I’m both desperate to work out and get active again and terrified that when I do, it will hurt and be uncomfortable (when I started running after my first pregnancy, I truly thought my uterus might fall out of my body because everything had shifted around so dramatically).
That’s #momlife — a true picture. Sorry, but I’m not sorry for sharing the behind-the-scenes experience, because it’s all part of the process.
The fourth trimester is absolutely amazing. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my newborn and despite the ailments I’ve outlined, I spend more time feeling blessed than stressed. And I know that soon, this trimester will be in the history books and I’ll be back to myself.
But for now, I’m just trying to remember that pregnancy is much more than 40 weeks. And I’m doing my best to treat myself with kindness.