The first time I heard the phrase "fourth trimester", it made me laugh. How can such a thing exist? I mean the word trimester itself states that pregnancy is made up of three parts, not four makes the whole thing silly in my mind (it also doesn't help that my dad is a math teacher and I have things like this permanently tattooed in my mind, that and the quadratic formula..thanks dad!). Shouldn't it be a Quatramester? Is that a thing? Did I just invent something? Just bear with me, I'm extremely exhausted and overly caffeinated... But the fourth trimester is explained as the following;
" Your baby’s fourth trimester starts from the moment she’s born and lasts until she is three months old. The term is used to describe a period of great change and development in your newborn, as she adjusts to her new world outside your womb."
Any new mom will tell you that the first 3 months of motherhood are very eye opening. Your entire world changes, you're now responsible for a little living, breathing human of your own. The first time around, it was all a blur - terrifying and exciting at the same time. You're trying to find your groove with the babe, all while recovering from birth. Your milk is coming in, your hormones are completely out of whack and you feel like a stranger in your own body, in your own life. It's a drastic change, something that nobody is prepared for - no matter how many books you read - and trust me, I've read a million.
The second time around, however, it's not as quite of a shock. Of course, I can't control the hormones and the emotions that come with no longer being pregnant. However, my resume is a little bit more developed now - I've had almost 2 years of experience in this role and am ready to take on new responsibilities (can you tell that I'm a working mom, ha!). I find myself feeling a range of emotions - sad because newborns are so special. They're brand new, experiencing everything that the world has to offer for the first time. And they're much easier to take care of - you only worry about sleep, eat, poop and crying (and not dealing with meltdowns in the grocery store or your 2 year old eating chalk and spitting it out because it didn't TASTE pink- but that's a story for another day). And there's nothing more magical than the newborn smell, their gassy smiles and their deep sighs as they sleep on your chest.
But I'm also excited for new things to come. For baby girl to be able to sit up, crawl and eventually walk hand in hand with her big sister. I'm excited for them to make each other laugh, for their first fight, for family vacations and for all of the moments in between. Motherhood is such a roller coaster - I find myself constantly wanting my babies to stay small, but looking forward to all of the adventures in the future.
The largest change, however, is the amazing mama community that I have met - largely through social media outlets. I have met strong, wonderful and open minded women, who are open and honest. I've been able to rely on these women, to share my thoughts, secrets and opinions. I've related to these women in a way that only other mothers are able to understand, facing the ugly truth - tears, postpartum depression, anxiety... all of which made me realize that I'm not alone. When they say that it takes a village to raise a child, these ladies have helped me understand this to be true - we all need our tribe, virtual and/or in person - and I am forever grateful.
So I asked a few of these women to share their stories with me - elaborating on what the Fourth Trimester means to them. Check out their stories below - and trust me, you'll love them as much as I do.
"The fourth trimester? That’s a tough question. Imagine you were one of the few survivors of Armageddon, and someone asked you to explain your feelings toward surviving the unimaginable. Well, you’re surviving. It’s just that. You’re essentially learning to live again in this new version of your same safe world. You’ve come to terms that you may never shower again, visits with friends and family members become a distant memory and the most intimate parts of your body feel absolutely foreign. But your heart- it belongs to your tribe. And you fight for them because it’s all you have left. And you love, harder than you’ve ever loved before, because if you don’t, and you give in to the sleeplessness and leaky breast woes and night sweats, you fear you’ll never get out. But you do, mama. You always do. It’s a right of passage and it’s the most beautiful journey you’ll ever venture. Because on the other side of Armageddon is your life right back where you left it. But with a whole lot more to live for." - Victoria McKinnon, VROSEPHOTOS
“Fluids & Feels”
Blood, poop, sweat, puke, tears
And that’s not just from baby!
It’s fourth trimester
"When someone mentions ‘the fourth trimester’ the things that automatically come to mind are: gushing (Yah - that gushing. You know, down there), pyjama soaking sweat, getting waterfalled in baby puke, and Googling about poop. A lot.
It isn’t all bodily fluids though. I mean, the fourth trimester is like 65% bodily fluids and then 55% hormonal rollercoasters, and that doesn’t add up because my mom brain can no longer conduct basic arithmetic. Welcome here.
That fourth trimester is such a bizarre time of self discovery, both with mental challenges like gaining confidence in your brand spanking new maternal intuition, and with physical challenges like finally being brave enough to hold a handheld mirror between your legs and survey the damage to your snatch.
The fourth trimester could arguably be the most significant period of change a woman will go through in her life, in the shortest amount of time.
In those three months, I went from being completely clueless to feeling somewhat capable of caring for my child, just in time for the four month sleep regression and teething to slap it all to shit. But that’s motherhood isn’t it? When you feel like you’ve finally, just maybe, ‘made it’ you can expect to promptly have the rug of self-assuredness yanked out from under you.
That’s why fresh babies smell so damn good though, and why they have the most adorable jellybean toes; why they look like little angels. Despite sweating so much that you’ll smell like a number one special from Burger King, the fourth trimester is also the most magical time in your baby’s life and you’ll likely one day wish could have lasted much longer. Maybe not right away. But one day." - April Derksen - Our Life In Haiku
"The fourth trimester for me was the happiest of my life and the most terrifying. My son unfortunately had to spend his first 3 weeks of life in the NICU and after finally bringing him home it seemed as if the natural fears of motherhood intensified by a 100.
I was crippled with constant fear for the first 4 months of his life. So bad that I thought it for sure would bring on PPD but thankfully it didn't. Instead it gave me strength I never though I had. Such strength that I was able to overcome my biggest fears and create a second life soon after."
- Aldijana @mama.bear.and.cubss
"Who knew that three of the hardest months of my life (as a FTM), would also be the three months where I had experienced the most love and joy."
"The first three months with my baby were hectic, beautiful and full of contradiction. On one hand, time stood still. I felt overwhelmed and exhausted by the never ending cycle of around the clock feeds and sleepless nights. There were tears and moments where I resented my baby and wished she was more independent. At the same time, I remember watching her and feeling a sense of awe about the smallest things. How she grasped my finger and nuzzled into snuggle. The moment she first smiled at me and the little grunts she made as she slept. In these moments, I felt an immense amount of joy. The these moment, despite all the struggles, I wished for time to slow down. Nothing has made me think about the concept of time more than becoming a mother. The fourth trimester truly is the longest shortest time."
-Kristen Holm, Kristen Holm Photography