When you are pregnant or have a newborn, one of the most common questions you'll find yourself being asked is, "how are you feeling?" When I started to think about why people asked that, I realised that it's probably because most people know that being pregnant and giving birth is a huge change; physically, emotionally, mentally and to your lifestyle.
Perhaps instead of asking, "how are you feeling", we should be asking mamas, "how are you coping? How can I help you adapt? What's getting to you the most, and what can I do to help you adjust to this?" Sometimes, we have to ask ourselves these questions too. Maybe we need to check-in on ourselves to make sure we are adapting to the fourth-trimester rollercoaster.
When you are pregnant, your body goes through a truly remarkable transformation. Not only do you grow a beautiful bub, you also grow another organ (the placenta!) Your body produces an enormous amount of hormones, creates extra blood and needs more energy and oxygen than ever before. Then, after growing a little person for nine months, you literally bring a new life into the world.
Photo credit: @tinyheartseducation
From that moment, the fourth trimester begins. It doesn't matter if it's your first or third or tenth baby: the fourth trimester and the changes it brings can be challenging, but you don't need to fear it. Even if you feel alone, you're not alone, Mama. We're here for you, to help you cope with the changes that pregnancy, birth and the fourth trimester brings, so keep reading for tips on dealing with the changes to come on the journey of parenthood.
As I said above, pregnancy, labour and the fourth trimester bring huge physical and emotional changes. Some Mama's will feel excitement, anticipation and overwhelming love, while others experience uncertainty, anxiety, depression or a fear of the unknown. Some feel a whole mix of these, and no matter what you're feeling, I want you to know it's ok.
There are things you can do to help:
- Acknowledge what you're going through
Label what you're feeling, and ask yourself, 'why am I feeling this?' Speak to a friend, family member or health care provider and see if there's a practical solution. For example, some Mama's feel stressed during pregnancy about the uncertainties that childbirth brings. At this moment, a practical solution could be to write a birthing guide to give you more of a sense of control. An informed Mama is an empowered Mama.
- Be kind to yourself
We put such high expectations on ourselves to be the best mother, but the reality is that you already are the best Mum to your baby. When your bub is grown, you'll look at your bub's friends and won't know who breastfed or who was formula-fed. It doesn't matter who walked first. Remind yourself that you are strong. The postpartum hormones, as well as the reality shock of life with a newborn, can be a lot for some new Mamas. But let me remind you that no matter what you're facing today, 'this too shall pass'.
Meditation involves stopping, focusing on your breath or a repeated mantra in your help that helps you be present in the moment. It reduces or manages common emotions or experiences that pregnant or new Mums often experience like stress, anxiety and mood changes.
Gentle exercise during pregnancy (unless otherwise directed by your doctor or midwife) has significant benefits like improving your sense of wellness, helping to manage weight gain, building strength in preparation for labour and releasing feel-good endorphins. After birth, once you have recovered, exercise has similar benefits like assisting to return your body to its pre-pregnancy state, re-strengthening pelvic floor muscles and promoting your sense of wellbeing.
- Ask for help.
There are no medals for motherhood. If you need help, don't suffer through it alone. Ask for help, and get the help you need. It doesn't make you a bad Mama; it makes you a brave one.
Photo credit: @evarosebirth on Instagram
- Pre-cook meals
Having pre-cooked, healthy meals in the freezer can be a gamechanger. Instead of stressing about grocery shopping or cooking, or you'll have meals ready to go to feed yourself or your family so that you can focus on other things.
- Breathing techniques
Breathing techniques can help a pregnant, or postnatal Mama settle anxieties, and a labouring Mum with pain management. Different types and rates of breathing techniques can achieve certain things, but the general benefits include lowering your stress levels and switching off your fight or flight response, bringing down your heart rate, delivering extra oxygen to you and your baby and working as a distraction.
- Address any birth trauma
Some Mama's experience trauma following birth. It's essential to address this as soon as possible either through a debrief with the hospital, psychology sessions or other techniques. Birth trauma can impact upon feelings of self-worth, Mama-infant bonding and subsequent pregnancies, so don't delay and get help as soon as you feel it.
- Have a postnatal plan
We all know about birth plans, but often forget to make a plan for the fourth trimester. Consider things like do you need to create a budget while on maternity leave? Where will bub sleep? Who can help if you need a break? Will your co-pilot have holidays? Will older children go to childcare? Who can you talk to if you find yourself struggling? Will you freeze meals beforehand? Where can you take bub to get out of the house? These seem like simple things, but when you are sleep deprived with raging postpartum hormones, you'll thank yourself for having had these conversations and making these choices beforehand.
We often hear about how hard the fourth trimester and the changes that come with a newborn are.
Photo credit: @tinyheartseducation
And while it's true, let me remind you of the amazing, heart-stopping moments that come along with it too. The first time my baby smiled at me, I felt like my heart was going to explode with love. Nothing prepares you for the amount of pride you'll feel when your bub rolls over. The first time your baby laughs, you won't know whether to laugh back or cry happy tears.
During the fourth trimester, you'll be challenged like never before, but in the same 12 weeks, you'll feel an intense, all-consuming, unconditional love for this little person. And guess what Mama, this little bub is going to love you right back, no matter what.