Making It Through the 4th Trimester
Rory is four months old this week. It has been the best and most exhausting four months of my life. And during this time, I’ve obsessed over everything happening with Rory. Is she eating enough? Sleeping enough? Pooping enough? As a new mom, I found myself spending every waking moment consumed with her and I often put myself and my own needs on the back burner. Was I eating enough? Probably not. Was I sleeping enough? Definitely not. Was I showering enough? Um, that would be a no.
Birthing a child is a major physical and emotional experience and I find that many people don’t discuss the nitty-gritty of postpartum life. Thank goodness one of my good friends told me that you will soak the bed from your night sweats those first few weeks or else I would have thought I had the flu! The 4th trimester is rough in every way and I thought it might be helpful to share my experience with other women out there. Not that I have the answers (far from it!), but because I think it’s good to know that you’re not alone and it can be rough.
As I mentioned in this post about surviving the first 8 weeks, when we got home from the hospital it was all about survival mode. How do we keep ourselves going and keep this baby alive and well? We were running on adrenaline and the thrill of having a newborn and somehow we managed to make it through those first few weeks.
Physically, I wasn’t feeling great. I had stitches from my delivery and going to the bathroom was a bit scary those first few times. Ladies, listen to your doctor and load up on the stool softener! Even sitting to hold Rory was difficult and I found that I had to sit on a pillow as I nursed or rocked her. My delivery was fairly easy, so I can’t even imagine how it is for women who are in labor for hours (even days!), have terrible tearing, or who have c-sections. Superheroes, I tell ya!
Those first few weeks, I lived in sweats and it was a good day if I was able to sneak a shower in (which was much-needed thanks to those dreaded night sweats). I wore mesh underwear that I took from the hospital (take alllll the things!), ice packs, and ginormous pads for at least the first ten days. I highly recommend buying this postpartum kit and this squeeze bottle to make your life easier.
Slowly, but surely, I started to heal and sitting became more bearable. But it wasn’t pretty for awhile.
Getting Used to Breastfeeding
While I was healing down there, I was also learning how to breastfeed. You have breasts your entire life, but it isn’t until you have a child that you have to learn how to use them! I was lucky that Rory latched easily and would take both a bottle and a breast from the start. However, the leaking, the pain, the engorgement…that took at least a month to get used to.
Getting dressed was also a struggle because nothing I owned was comfortable for my new chest or made it easy for me to nurse or pump. I ended up buying tons of these tank tops and I now pair them with kimonos, cardigans, jeans, and leggings. I’m not the most fashionable girl in the world, but these get the job done!
My New Body
As for my new body, that was definitely something to get used to. Many of my girlfriends had warned me that once you have the baby you’ll still look six months pregnant, so I’m happy I went in knowing that (and it was very true). In the first week, I lost about 15 lbs from the water weight, baby, placenta, etc. But my stomach was still very large and puffy and it stayed that way for weeks and weeks.
I’m still nowhere near where I was pre-pregnancy and I don’t expect to be in the future (maybe ever!). My body is just rounder and softer…and well, different. Once I received the all-clear to exercise from my doctor, I started incorporating light stretching and strengthening back into my routine. I also took long walks with Rory right away and it just felt good to move. I’ve only just started adding more high-intensity training into the mix (trying to run three days per week) and it is HARD. I’m nowhere near the level of fitness that I was pre-Rory and I’m doing my best to take it slow and one day at a time.
To be honest, I have forgotten what “normal” feels like. For the past three years, I was either on tons of fertility medications, going through surgeries after losing babies, or finally (yes!) pregnant. Now that it’s just me, no meds, no crazy supplements, no crazy restrictions…it feels strange, but good! I’m excited to have time to get back to my old “normal” self.
Okay, so that was all of the physical changes during the 4th trimester. But let’s chat about the emotional side because that hormone drop is real. I was very fortunate that I didn’t suffer from postpartum depression or the “baby blues”. However, I experienced a lot of anxiety as a new mom. As I mentioned in this blog post, I was nervous throughout my entire pregnancy that something would go wrong. Once Rory was in my arms, I felt some peace that she was finally here. But the moment we got home from the hospital, I was worried that things could go wrong. I would find myself staring at her while she slept, making sure her little chest was going up and down. After years of struggling to have a baby, I was terrified that she might be taken away from me.
As Rory has gotten older and I’ve gained more confidence as a parent, the anxiety has gone down and down. I’d be lying if I said it was completely gone, though. I’m worried that something might happen to my sweet girl all the time. But maybe that’s what it’s like being a parent? You’re always worried about something happening to this person that you love so much. I suppose there will be lifelong anxiety and worry that comes with this new role.
Now that I’m officially out of my 4th trimester, I am feeling more like myself. Rory is sleeping, which means I am sleeping. She is on a schedule, which means my days are a tad more predictable. And my mom is here three days a week watching her, which is keeping me sane (and productive with work). Looking back, I wish I would have given myself a bit more grace during those first few months after having a baby.
Life (and my body) won’t ever be the same now that Rory is here and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.