Before having children, I had no clue what The Fourth Trimester was, or how it important it was to my long-term health. When I got married, like most couples nowadays, I lived 2.5 hours away from my parents. I didn’t realise how much this would affect me until after I had my first child. It was then that I understood why it was so common in my family to stay living close-by.
After trying to conceive for nearly 4 years, when I finally got pregnant, my husband and I did the usual preparations for the birth and for the baby after he arrived. The one thing we didn’t think about was actually the most important, my own recovery. Women are now expected to ‘bounce back‘ days after birth, not allowing their body and mind to heal. We spend so much time thinking about the nursery, bottles, clothes and some of us also do the necessary education on birth and hypnobirthing, etc; but we forget about life after birth – The Fourth Trimester.
Many cultures and traditions around the world, including my own, acknowledge and accept what we now call, The Fourth Trimester. This is the 3 month period that mums need to rest, recover and rejuvenate after childbirth. With all the amazing things our western society has given us, we’ve lost the support system for women and families after birth. Most of these traditions focus on very similar aspects when it comes to postnatal care: Rest, Good Food, Love and Support so here are a few things you can do:
Resting after birth is crucial to allow your mind and body to heal and recover as well giving you time to process the birth. For example, it’s common in my culture, as well as many others, for mums to stay indoors for the first forty days and be taken care of by other women in her family. Their only role would be to feed baby and rest. Use this wisdom and take time to settle, adjust and spend time bonding as a new family. It’s okay to say ‘no’ to visitors for the first couple of weeks unless they’re coming over to help you.
It’s common in my tradition that food is cooked for mums in the first few weeks by other women around them, full of all the nutrients she needs to recover. The body goes through incredible changes during pregnancy and birth, the digestive system is affected as well as the organs moving back to the right place. That together with the blood loss and producing milk, it’s crucial that you eat the right foods. It’s probably not the best idea to tuck into a bucket of KFC but instead, porridge in the morning, hot soup for lunch and some rice and lentils with salad for dinner will be better for you as well as healthy snacks of nuts, dates, and fruit in between.
Many cultures have a similar tradition where a mum is loved and pampered after birth; for example the Mexican traditon of Closing the Bones Ceremony. In my tradition Belly Binding is done, which is where women have their bellies wrapped with a cloth while being taken care of by other women in her family. This helps to support the body going back to normal, as well as allowing mums the time they need to recover emotionally. The effect of pregnancy and birth on women is often ignored in western society and mums are expected to get back to life as soon as they can. Take your time, look after yourself and accept/ask for the support you need so you can find a way to transition that works for you.
The villages may have disappeared, but the support mums need after birth certainly hasn’t. It’s so important that women are supported throughout The Fourth Trimester, and surrounded by people they trust and can rely on. It will allow you to have this time to mentally, physically and emotionally adjust post-birth. It’s especially important if you’ve had a cesarean, a difficult or traumatic birth or don’t have the confidence yet as a new mum – the support will stop you from feeling isolated and alone. Find your village, whether it’s a group of friends, a local mum group and/or professional postnatal support; it will help you accept the changes in your life.
After going through these challenges myself, I’ve made it my mission to help other mums and families who are exhausted, overwhelmed and struggling emotionally and physically. I help by giving you personalised tools, education, and support to find a journey that works for you. If you’d like more info on how I can help you after birth, in The Fourth Trimester and/or beyond, send me a message and we can have a chat.