4th Trimester Recap
Beware: novel ahead 😆You wanted details, I give you details!
I thought I’d have had this done and shared at 3 months postpartum, but lo and behold, life had other plans. Actually, Theo had other plans. The whole fourth trimester was SO much harder than I ever expected. And that’s saying a lot because I expected it to be difficult, I just didn’t realize how difficult it would actually be.
Just like any human being, babies have different personalities. Some are super chill (apparently me and my husband were that kind of baby) and others are more active and “high touch” as some say, haha. Theo is beyond healthy and his pediatrician declared him “the perfect baby,” but he definitely falls into the latter category. Once or twice I mentioned on social media that Theo had colic for the first few months of his life and it was truly torturous. And by “colic” I do not mean gas. I mean unexplained crying for hours and hours every single day and night for months. This topic will get its own post, but I wanted to give you some context for my experience.
So, let’s get into it!
Though there were plenty, I found the physical changes to be the least of my complaints! You can read my super detailed birth story here where I talk more about those first few postpartum days.
I had a superficial tear from delivery, and even though it was minor, the stitches and healing from that was pretty uncomfortable for a solid 10 days. It actually got worse each day, and then magically got a whole lot better after day 10 and continued to heal super fast after that. I couldn’t even really sit-down comfortably so I always sat a little off to the side. Weirdly enough, going to the bathroom wasn’t uncomfortable at all! I think this must depend on if and how you tear, because I heard horror stories about going #2 after delivery, but truly, I felt no difference. That was a relief 😅(how about that pun?)
I was prepared for a lot of heavy bleeding postpartum as well, but that wasn’t as bad as I expected. The first few days were like a heavy period, then it tapered off quickly and lasted a solid 7 weeks for me, but it was pretty light.
Here’s a list of all my personal favorite postpartum essentials too!
I didn’t end up with any stretch marks anywhere after pregnancy (here’s what I used), though I’m pretty sure I’ll have some after I finish breastfeeding because my boobs are SO EXTRA. I’ll be shocked if I don’t end up with some after this! More on that later, haha.
This is SO SO SO REAL! For me it didn’t start until 3 months postpartum, and then 12 weeks TO THE DAY, the flood gates opened. I lost insane, alarming amounts of hair multiple times a day until about a week ago (5.5 months pp) when it finally started to slow down.
Hormones & Baby Blues:
All the literature the hospital sent me home with along with everything I read during pregnancy prepared me to experience some normal baby blues in the first couple weeks postpartum. Surprisingly, I felt the opposite! I was on cloud nine– I felt amazing, proud, close to my husband, energized despite the lack of sleep, and even productive. I felt like I was totally winning at mom-ing. I had zero baby blues immediately after birth, so you can imagine my surprise when I sank into a serious depression soon after that for the first time in my life. Again, this needs its own post entirely, so I’ll revisit this topic later. I’ve actually been working on that post for the past 2 months… it’s been difficult but cathartic to write so I’m looking forward to sharing that one too.
HOLY COW breastfeeding was SO much harder than I expected! Let me count the ways…
- It’s painful
Yes, it was painful. But not just because your nipples get sore, but because your boobs themselves can become SO MASSIVELY huge, it’s excruciating. I remember reading that some women barely notice when their milk comes in, whereas for others, it’s more of an “event.” “An event.” That’s adorable. I had a huge oversupply for a solid 10 weeks, so about twice a week, I was dealing with clogged ducts (when one of your milk ducts gets backed up, the milk gets stuck but you continue producing… so it gets more and more backed up which means more pain, swelling, and tenderness– SO FUN!). And my boobs were SO painful even wearing clothes was unbearable, let alone needing to let Theo breastfeed. It was horrible and didn’t let up until I hit the 10 week mark and my supply leveled out.
- T had some trouble latching.
He grew super fast, but he was actually a pretty small baby. Totally average in height and weight at birth, but his mouth was teeny tiny so we ended up using shields at first. I feel weirdly embarrassed talking about this, but this was honestly the only way I was able to breastfeed right away, so if it helps other women do the same, I’m fine with being embarrassed. It was the ONLY thing that allowed him to latch. I started to wean him off of those at 5 weeks which was another torturous process because we were already dealing with colic, so adding yet another thing to try felt insane. But I was adamant about wanting to continue breastfeeding and to be able to do so without any shields. So I really REALLY insisted on him latching without them for every.single.session. I’d insist stubbornly until he got it OR he got frustrated. If he got frustrated at the breast, I stopped and would try again later. But after a couple weeks, he wasn’t using shields at all anymore and it was 100% smooth sailing without them from about week 7 onward. Still going strong with exclusively breastfeeding at 5.5 months now! Everything they say is true, too– it gets easier and easier as time goes on. Stick it out if you can!
- It’s time consuming.
Of the 10,000 reasons I cried in those early weeks, here was another: I felt like I was breastfeeding 24/7! T would eat for 45 minutes at a time, then 15 minutes after we finished, he would be hungry again and would eat for another 30+ minutes. This went on for WEEKS. It was like he cluster-fed for the first 3 months of his life. I swear I was shirtless and tied to the sofa 24/7– it was SO claustrophobic. But since I was SO committed to getting breastfeeding down without the shields, I also didn’t want to introduce a bottle or any feedings from anyone else yet. So I know I did it to myself, but it was like being imprisoned. The good news is that around the 3 month mark, he got a lot more efficient, and his feedings went from taking an average of 30 minutes to now taking about 10-15 MAX, but usually they’re more like 8.
- Everyone has an opinion.
Here’s a small sampling of advice I got about breastfeeding:
I should feed on demand.
I should stop feeding on demand.
I should put him on a schedule.
I should let him create his own schedule.
I should never feed him more often than every 3 hours. (Our first of 4 pediatricians told us this… we switched from him quickly, haha.)
I should never skip a feeding.
I shouldn’t have to burp a breastfed baby. (A nurse told us this. Definitely false in our case…)
I shouldn’t have dairy.
I shouldn’t eliminate any food groups.
Babies know when they’ve had enough.
Sometimes they stop eating prematurely and you should offer again in 20 minutes.
Offer both sides each time they eat.
Offer one side each time they eat.
There’s nothing wrong with feeding your baby to sleep.
NEVER feed your baby to sleep.
Don’t pump if you don’t need to increase supply.
Pump if you’re uncomfortable.
That is NOT an exaggeration. Seriously, EVERYONE has an opinion when it comes to breastfeeding and how you should do it, but it’s 90% trial and error and will almost definitely vary between babies. There’s some basics to know (mostly how to take care of yourself while you’re breastfeeding– your boobs should become your legal dependents during those early weeks because they need so much attention, lol), but overall, the “right” answers will depend on your baby.
What’s been true and best for me and Theo when breastfeeding?
I fed him on demand for about 4 months and now he eats approximately every 3 hours during the day with zero feedings at night. This was led by him– I still consider this feeding “on demand,” it’s just that his demand is less frequent now. I also fed him to sleep every night for 3 months until I started weaning night feedings and sleep training close to 5 months (with Taking Cara Babies ABCs of Sleep– full review on that coming soon). I gave up dairy for a couple months and saw no difference with him, so I stopped being overly cautious. I always feed him from both sides. I ALWAYS burp him. Even since I weaned his night feedings, I still wake up once in the early morning to pump with the Haakaa (a true lifesaver!) but now never need to use an electric pump.
When some people say “colic” they mean a fussy baby who’s uncomfortable because of gas and tummy troubles. This was never Theo’s issue. When I spoke about his colic, I meant the medical definition which is “frequent, prolonged and intense crying or fussiness in an otherwise healthy infant.” An average baby can cry up to a couple hours a day for seemingly no reason. It’s just their way of coping with a new environment. A colicky baby cries at least 3 hours a day, at least 3 days a week, for at least 3 weeks. Our baby cried almost every minute he was awake, every single day, every day of his life until he was about 4 months old. We saw a slight improvement at 8 weeks old when we could get about 10 minutes of contentedness after a nap before the crying picked up again. Then another slight improvement happened around 3 months old, but he really turned a corner at 4 months and it’s been much easier ever since.
Unless you’ve had a baby like this, you truly cannot understand what it’s like and the toll it takes on your mental health. It’s not as simple as “well, babies cry!” No. I mean, yes, babies cry, but this is very different. During one of my desperate Google searches to figure out what was wrong with my baby, I stumbled on this quote: “Navy SEALS are trained to endure torture by putting them through sleep depravation with the sound of crying babies blasting through the speakers.” I felt so validated! I wasn’t crazy for thinking this was torturous– it was exactly as awful as I felt it was.
Anyway, I’m writing about this in much more detail in my PPD post which I’ll finish writing soon, but for now I’ll just tell you that he no longer has colic!
Thank GOD we went into this with a super strong relationship, because a baby can definitely put a strain on your marriage. Again, I bet if you have a super easy baby, things are, well, easier. But when you’re both running on an hour and a half of sleep and your baby is screaming so loud at 2:30am that it’s hitting decibels I don’t even think have been discovered yet, believe me, you want to LOVE the person in this trench with you.
We definitely struggled to cope with the reality of having another human in our home and no longer having all our time to ourselves. Newborns are just difficult. They’re truly all consuming, and it’s hard to see a light at the end of that tunnel, but I promise there is one. I know it’s hard, but there’s an end to the mayhem.
Adrien and I work together from home, so we had a lot of opportunities to regularly check in to see how the other was doing. He was INCREDIBLE in the beginning (I mean, he still is, but this was exceptional). He was as hands-on with the baby as I was and taking over so I could get extra sleep whenever possible. We’ve both had to work on being clear about what we want and expect from the other as well as accepting help when we need it without guilt.
Best advice I can give on this front is to be clear, communicate often, and let go of guilt.
Everything you’ve heard about the “4th trimester” is true: it’s so so so hard. It’s mostly about just surviving and getting through it, but like with so many other things, it DOES get better. I remember one time asking Adrien how many days it had been since T was born, and he said 93. I was like, “THAT’S IT?!” It felt like a lifetime and the blink of an eye all at once. Time warps in this period.
Now that we’re past that phase, motherhood has started to feel less intrusive, if that makes sense. It’s still a LOT, but I love being Theo’s mama and even though it’s still a hard job, it’s one that I’m proud of and happy to be doing.
Now, this is the kind of work I expected. It’s hard, but like a normal level of hard 😉
Phew! I’ll put a cap on this 4th trimester post for now but I’ll be revisiting the mental health aspect later on.
Over to you! If you have children, what was the hardest part about adjusting to a baby in your life? If you don’t have children, does this scare you away from ever wanting them?! 😂