The Fourth Trimester
You may have heard of the term “the fourth trimester,” which refers to the first three months after baby’s (or babies’) birth. Essentially, the idea behind this concept is that a child is born three months too early. You’re not alone if you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about since technically a pregnancy is considered full-term at 39 weeks, and most doctors won’t let you go a week or so beyond your due date.
While your body may be ready to give birth, it doesn’t automatically mean your baby is ready to live in the real world. This three-month period is essentially an adjustment period—both for baby to start to get used to life outside the womb, and for mom to get used to baby.
An extension of this concept is that all mothers don’t automatically fall in love with their baby immediately. Just like any other relationship, taking time to get to know each other is absolutely necessary. Know that it is very normal and common to not fall in love right away, and this doesn’t mean you are a bad mom by any means.
For a first-time mom, these initial three months can be quite the adjustment period. It may be the first time in your life that you have been sleep deprived, or even been around a baby. There may have been complications around the birth, or afterwards that make this time period more difficult. Many moms are also on maternity leave for this time, and just being home when you are used to working outside the home can be quite the adjustment. Your baby is getting used to things too-even just the sensation of wearing a diaper/clothes or having a bath is something to get used to. If you have a second or third baby, this time period can also be complicated by balancing their needs as well as introducing a new baby to the family.
Just like with most other parts of motherhood, children are usually more resilient than we are. I’d be willing to bet that it takes your baby less time to adjust to life outside of the womb than it will take you to adjust to motherhood. That’s because I see motherhood as a lifelong adjustment—your child is constantly growing and as a mom, you will need to adjust accordingly.
A major part of adjusting to your child’s growing needs, as well as your own is being resilient. As a psychologist, people often ask me how they can raise a resilient child, and the answer is to model that behavior. In other words, you can foster a child’s resiliency by being resilient yourself. While you may not need a psychologist to tell you that, it certainly is worth repeating. The concept is simple: model the behavior you’d like to instill in your children; if you are resilient, they certainly will pick up on that. But that’s easier said that done, right? Especially when we live in a stressful and busy world.
That’s when taking care of your emotional and mental health is essential.
Most moms will prepare for childbirth is at least some ways, and how we prepare often reflects our personality in general. We do things like register for and have a baby shower, set up the nursery, pack a hospital bag, and maybe take a childbirth/breastfeeding class. But all those things are mostly focused on 1. tangible things and 2. the baby. But what about focusing on mom in general, and the emotional adjustment to motherhood in particular?
It’s just like how society tells us to spend a year planning for a wedding but little preparation for the actual marriage. We just assume we’re ready for the marriage just like we assume we’ll be ready for being a mom.
For many moms, motherhood is easily one of the biggest life transitions—and it is constantly evolving. There is also something about becoming a mom that drudges up all your past shit—you know all the baggage that you think you’ve dealt with.
Taking care of yourself emotionally in motherhood will result in being more of the person you want to be—not just as a mom, but in all your other relationships. Most of all, it will strengthen the relationship you have with yourself. You’ll feel more happiness in your home, more present and patient with your children and more fulfilled with yourself.
If you want help with emotional support during your fourth trimester, use this link to schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation to see how I can help. Hope to talk soon!