Postpartum Secrets - Tips For “The Fourth Trimester”
Updated: Oct 18, 2021
So I am currently in the thick of what they call “The Fourth Trimester”. Things are wild on the other side, and I wanted to share some things that not everyone talks about during pregnancy! In my opinion this is the most overlooked, ignored, yet super important time of pregnancy and birth. We had our sweet baby girl, Maya Grace, on July 9th. Her birth was beautiful and wild, my first natural birth. And although recovery has been really quick and smooth for her birth, there is still so much that happens during the postpartum period that goes unsaid.
We spend our pregnancies so focused on our bodies, prepping for birth, and getting our homes ready for a new baby. But what happens next? What is on the other side of all of it? What happens after that amazing birth? What happens to your body? How do you nurture and heal your body? How do you really feel on the other side? How do you care for your little one and help them to grow and thrive, all while healing and recovering, navigating your hormones and emotions, figuring out how to co-parent, making big decisions for your babies, and continuing to manage your day to day life and responsibilities that are still there waiting for you on the other side? How is the transition into motherhood (or motherhood with an additional baby) really?
So the postpartum period is not easy. the reality is that we need support, sometimes support we don’t have access to. We cannot do it all. Our bodies need time to heal. It doesn’t always feel good. We can feel overwhelmed. We cannot just jump up and continue cooking meals, cleaning, working, taking care of other kids, and giving to others all while feeding a new baby every few hours, making sure they are thriving and growing, making sure we get a few hours of sleep and eat and drink enough water, and feel emotionally well enough to nurture our babies at the end of the day! We cannot do it all but often we do it all because we have to. But our bodies feel it, and don’t always get the proper healing we need. So I’m here to tell you all of the ways that you can prepare for the postpartum period so that it can be a beautiful and healing time for you, rather than an overwhelming and painful time. This season is equally as beautiful as our pregnancies and births if we have the support that we need, allow ourselves to heal, and give ourselves grace.
These are the things that I do to prepare for the postpartum period, the things that we often don’t talk about and expect women to just know - everything you do to prepare before your birth will help you SO much after your little one is here. And having realistic expectations of what is to come is super important, and helps us to feel less overwhelmed by our realities. We can’t do it all, and you don’t need to do everything on this list, I just recommend doing what you can! Every little bit of preparation helps - you will be so grateful when you’re on the other side.
PUT TOGETHER A POSTPARTUM BASKET FOR YOUR BATHROOM
Ok this is EVERYTHING to me! If you only do one thing to prep for postpartum, I think this is the most important! It is so nice to have everything there and ready for you every time you go to the bathroom after baby comes. You will want to have several things on hand for trips to the bathroom - supplies to nurture and care for your healing perenium, pads, postpartum underwear (yep you gotta get some!), peri bottle, etc. I will share all of this with you in my next post titled What’s In My Postpartum Basket. I also prepare supplies to keep by my bedside or couch or the place in your house that you will spend most of your time recovering with your baby during the first few days/weeks home. This includes nursing pads, burp cloths, nipple cream (so important!), coconut oil, After Ease (for after birth pains), diapers/wipes, baby supplies, and maybe even a newborn care book to read if you’re a new mama. Whatever supplies you choose to keep around and use during this time for both you and baby, I highly recommend gathering it all before baby comes to make your life easier!
PREPARING MEALS OR MAKING A PLAN FOR MEALS
Full disclosure - I am not an amazing cook nor do I love doing it, so I don’t usually prep a ton of freezer meals. But I always make at least a few! I spent more time and made more freezer meals with Weston, my first, and we also had several friends and family bring us meals. It felt so good to not have to think about grocery shopping and cooking dinners when you’re figuring out life with a new baby. And if you’re breastfeeding, I swear you will feel hungrier than you ever did during pregnancy! I recommend stocking your fridge and pantry with healthy and quick snacks and meals before baby comes so that you and your partner have one less thing to think about. I’ve always loved having protein balls or lactation cookies around during the postpartum period, so I usually make several batches beforehand - they go fast! With baby Maya I was terrible at prepping freezer meals - I think I made 2! But I am super blessed with a mom and brother who love to cook, and they stocked our fridge and freezer so well before baby came. And we have amazing friends that have brought us meals and snacks and all the things. So if you have family or friends supporting you, someone that offers to bring you anything or put together a meal train, lean on them! Let yourself accept help during this time, in any way that it comes.
MAKE A PLAN WITH YOUR PARTNER
This is something that my husband and I are not great at, and I realized this time around how important it is. Giving us grace here, I think we just didn‘t think we needed a plan! We have a lot of family support and just assumed we would figure it all out as we went. We totally failed to make a plan or talk about how we would handle Kit going back to work, how soon that would be, if I would have other help, or how he could continue to support me and our family in other ways even while being away. My husband's job can be super flexible (he is in Real Estate), yet we don't always know when he will be busy. We expect that he can take some days to just be home with us and be available after the baby is born, but we kind of failed to put a plan together if there was a circumstance that would make him have to leave us right away. And all of the sudden a few days after baby girl was born, Kit was leaving to go work with clients and I was pretty unprepared to handle life at home with a newborn and toddler! It has been an adjustment for us and we are slowly getting into a rhythm, but I would recommend having a plan for help... you need help in the first 2 weeks minimum after having a baby! I was told by my health care team that for the first 5 days postpartum moms should stay in bed or on the couch (except going to the bathroom and taking a shower) to let our bodies heal. I know that sounds like a lot, and sometimes isn't possible, but we should do everything we can to try to allow our bodies the rest and healing that we need. The first two weeks postpartum are really important for the healing of our bodies from the inside out. We cannot see it, but there is a wound inside your uterus where the placenta detached. Even though we start to feel better and get a little more energy, we shouldn't be lifting, walking too much, exercising, or pushing ourselves during those first few weeks. It's hard for me to accept help, but it's so important to communicate a plan with your partner and family/friends for those important weeks after baby comes. Let someone come and take a few chores off your hands, bring a meal, do some laundry, etc. Reach out to friends and family when you're feeling overwhelmed. And talk about it beforehand with your partner to avoid some of that overwhelm.
GATHER AND WASH BABY AND MAMA THINGS
This is pretty self-explanatory, but I recommend having baby clothes, blankets, swaddles, burp cloths washed and put away. Wash everything in a gentle/sensitive/scent-free laundry detergent. I like to use Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent for everything! I use that same detergent to wash my mama things - nursing bras, nursing tanks, shirts and robes I wear during those first few weeks. If you haven't yet, grab a few nursing bras and nursing tanks. I pretty much live in nursing bras and tanks for those first few months (well basically as long as I'm breastfeeding!). I was someone that never slept in a bra before I had babies, and you quickly realize that you HAVE to wear nursing bras constantly, so grab a few comfortable ones to start.
TIE UP LOOSE ENDS IN YOUR LIFE
This goes without saying - you will have significantly less time on your hands (even during maternity leave) than you did pre-baby. Whether you are preparing to have your first baby or your fifth baby, your life is about to change in ways that you cannot imagine or picture! As mamas you learn to quickly adjust to a new little one joining the family, but it's always a little different than how we plan, isn't it?! From my experience, if you feel busy during pregnancy... push yourself a little bit to take care of some things that you won't want to be doing after baby comes. This includes projects at work, bills, house projects, whatever you have going on... take care of what you can, as much as you can, before baby comes. You will be so grateful you did when you can truly enjoy your newborn. I'm obsessed with the newborn period. It really is so special, and I try to just soak up every moment of the sleep-deprived, messy, emotional, loving time with my brand new babies. It goes by way too fast.
PRIORITIZE SELF CARE
As well as getting as much done as you can, the last month or two of pregnancy are the time when you will really want to prioritize some self-care and rest. Especially new mamas, rest while you can during your pregnancy. Take allllll the naps you can! Please, take the naps! Sleep in! Your life is about to change drastically, your sleep intake will really never be the same (#momlife), and your body really needs the rest to gear up for birth and the newborn period. Childbirth is such a big event, and it requires physical and emotional preparation. So please, take a few moments for yourself during the third trimester. Rest, do yoga, meditate, take walks, read a book you love, get your nails done, savor moments running errands and shopping at your favorite stores before you have a little sidekick with you... this is the time to fill up your cup, so that you can turn around and give everything you've got to your sweet sweet baby once they arrive earth-side. The postpartum period may drain you in ways that you didn't expect, and I've had this feeling lately while learning to care for two little lives 24/7 that my cup is pretty empty, and needs to be filled to be the mama that I want to be. So before baby comes, please mamas... listen to your bodies, indulge a little bit, rest, get a massage, grab coffee with a good friend, do whatever it is that will fill up your cup the most.
I hope you found this post to be helpful, mamas. The postpartum period is always different than I expected, more challenging, even more sweet, more emotional, more exhausting. There's only so much you can do to plan for what is to come, but a little planning and prep goes a long way on the other side. I think as mamas we don't share as much about our postpartum period because, well... it's NOT glamorous, doesn't allow us to feel "put-together" or on top of it, and leaves us feeling a little uncertain. As I transitioned to becoming a mama for the first time, what was overwhelming to me was all of the new and important decisions you have to make for your little one. The emotional and mental adjustment to becoming a mama is pretty overwhelming in itself. Add in the physical recovery that our bodies experience after birth, and all I have to say about it is... mamas are amazing. Mothers experience things that are kept secret until new mamas experience it for themselves. Mamas are limitless, and pure magic. Mamas can endure so much for our babies, and if you're a new mama and feeling uncertain as you enter into this new journey, I just want to tell you... trust your instincts, trust your body, trust your capacity to love, trust the mama magic that you will experience. You will be the best mother for YOUR baby, no matter what.