Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Fourth Trimester

We all know that pregnancy has three trimesters.  Most know what happens in each, and all that comes with them.  What we don't realize or don't understand is that there is more to pregnancy than growing and then birthing that baby.

There is another trimester that we brush over, the period from birth until baby is about three months old.  For most those first three months are a trial.  You are getting to know this new person that has needs and wants, and it is especially hard because babies don't use words, so you have to figure it all out through actions and cries.

The birth our your child starts a new phase in your life.  It doesn't matter if this is your first baby or your fifteenth.  Each baby has a different personality, different wants, different needs.  They are their own person.  You have to learn about this person right from the start, and having this new baby can be hard.

Unless you have an incredible support system after birth, the fourth trimester can be lacking and made even harder.  People come over, not to help, but to meet and hold the baby.  People that you don't know very well all the sudden invade your space, sit on your couch, and cuddle this new person, while your needs are put on the back burner.  You don't matter, all that matters is this cute, precious little bundle.  You have to go back to how life was before this baby was born, even if you aren't ready for it.

Women need support more than ever during this time.  They need people to come over, to do their dishes or laundry or make them dinner or watch their other children for an hour.  They need people to watch the baby so they can shower or nap or do something just for themselves.  Mothers shouldn't be left alone in this fourth trimester.

Most women stop nursing within this fourth trimester because of the issues that arise and there is no one there to help them.  Lactation Consultants at the hospital or in the health department are most times not board certified and don't know how to help most issues.  Women need a support system that understands the issues she might be going through, or even just where to find accurate help.

This fourth trimester is very trying, and new mothers need so very much.

This time is misunderstood, it is blown off as nothing more than new mom nerves or worries.  We joke that they will feel better later or that they just need to get this gadget or that gadget and things will be instantly better.  We give bad advice or tell our great stories thinking that it helps.  We tell them that they just need a wrap or sling, or need to nurse more, or maybe just need to pump and feed a bottle, and we even sometimes throw out that formula could be a better option for these mothers.

The fourth trimester is very real.  Women are vulnerable, they are crying out for help, and we are ignoring them.  We need to be there for them, even if it is just a shoulder to cry on or doing a sink full of dishes.

We need to do better.  We need to be better.

Next time a friend has a baby, go over and ask how SHE is.  Ask what she needs you to do.  Say hi to the baby, say how beautiful the baby is, but spend the majority of the visit doing or being.  She needs you.  Be that person she needs.


Doulamaddie said... [Reply to comment]

This is beautifully said, thank you! And if there are no friends or family to nurture the mother at this time, you describe exactly what a postnatal (postpartum)doula does!

Kayce Pearson said... [Reply to comment]

Exactly :) I should have added the postpartum doula info if there aren't family (I am one so I should have thought of that).

Thanks for your comment :D

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

this brought tears to my eyes! ive actually been told that i should feel better cause im not pregnant anymore and i should be back to my old self. i dont know how to make it any clearer I NEED HELP!!!! my baby was just born on the 7th and im expected to be back to normal?

Doula Karma said... [Reply to comment]

This is exactly how I feel and the reason I became a doula. We need to reach out to each other, to new mums. Not just give advice. We need to help each other practically. I totally agree.

Kayce Pearson said... [Reply to comment]

Oh Anon, I am so sorry :( I so wish more people understood that giving birth isn't the end of it all. You just had a baby!! Even with just that, you need help! Huge huge (((hugs)))

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Actually, if a person is calling themself a Lactation Consultant, then they are board certified; unless they are lying. Not sure why why you'd write that they do not know how to handle most issues. If not an LC, then who? An IBCLC has to be passionate about breastfeeding (and therefore moms) to even consider the amount of work it takes to become one. They must be current on information and have codes to adhere to. I agree w/ everything else, as would any Lactation Consultant!

Kayce Pearson said... [Reply to comment]

Anon, most lactation consultants do NOT have to be board certified. Most can go through a few courses, stay up on credits, but there is no board backing them up, even some of the ones working in the hospital. The problem with a lot of LCs is they know how to assess most problems, but the ones they don't know how to handle, and there have been a lot of stories lately where women go to an LC and receive very very poor advice and zero help about their issue, they pass off saying it's something it isn't. LCs are not created equal, and there is no board certifying them. The only board certified consultants are IBCLCs and IBCLEs. That's it. Not regular LCs.

Sublime Dream said... [Reply to comment]

This is wonderful! I think you are right about too many people not realizing the help moms need. Being a military wife, I have been there with no support- and it is rough. Thank you for speaking out!

Maya said... [Reply to comment]

This is a terrific post! I was really lucky to have about 5 weeks of help after my 2nd son was born, but those first 3 months are HARD.

Caren said... [Reply to comment]

Amen! I think this subject needs to be talked about more.

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

This is a wonderful post! I've shared it on my weekly links post today: http://freeyourparenting.com/2011/09/25/sharing-sunday-10/

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