Wow, what an overwhelming, emotional, challenging, yet rewarding twelve weeks. The fourth trimester is something else, and the struggles of the other three trimesters whilst pregnant is just incomparable! The biggest difference being, this trimester involves looking after a newborn with no idea what you’re doing.
I guess I should break this recap down into sections of each challenge faced in the fourth trimester… and there’s a few.
One of the biggest hurdles in the fourth trimester is the recovery from giving birth. As mentioned in my birth story, I ended up having an episiotomy and our daughter was delivered via forceps. This resulted in a second degree tear and stitches, which isn’t an easy recovery. But I also suffered badly with my tailbone for seven weeks. It’s common to have damage to your tailbone during birth, especially with an instrumental delivery and the fact that I was pushing into that area for three hours straight. It felt incredibly bruised, and may I say I feared it was even broken due to how much pain I was in over the first three weeks postpartum – I’d go as far to say it hurt more than the birth itself. I’m not kidding!
Fortunately, despite the discomfort of my recovery, it was a smooth one. The stitches healed well and looked fine at all my check-ups. But recovering physically from childbirth is a real struggle when you’re caring for a newborn 24/7. Sleepless nights means rest, let alone sleep, isn’t possible, and even when the baby does eventually fall asleep, it’s mainly contact naps for the first couple months!
Oh my. Postpartum hormones are something else. I remember that first night at home very well and I just cried – I was so scared. From there on in, it was a couple weeks of crying at random hours of the day, even if seconds before I felt like I was fine. These hormones just spring up on you.
Then you have the physical effects of postpartum hormones: the night sweats, the leaking boobs (whether breastfeeding or not), the headaches, the swollen ankles, the physical symptoms of postpartum anxiety, phantom crying and kicks – the latter being the worst. I went to bed one night whilst my husband stayed downstairs with our little girl and swore I heard her cry for 30 minutes. I tried everything to drown it out as I knew my husband had everything under control and eventually I fell asleep from pure exhaustion. I woke up a couple hours later to swap ‘shifts’ with my husband and asked if she was crying much longer, to which he responded, “she hasn’t been crying”…then I knew the phantom cries had kicked in and there’s no way of switching it off. As for the kicks, I’d occasionally get the feeling of mild kicks in my tummy and at one point I irrationally thought, “oh my gosh, it’s twins and one’s left in there”. Absolutely ridiculous, but hormones mixed with sleep deprivation do mess with you.
I eventually had my postpartum check up that’s infamously done when you’re around 6 weeks postpartum, when I was 17 weeks postpartum. At this appointment I admitted I had PPD and after a very quick assessment of ticking 10 checkboxes, I was officially diagnosed with postpartum depression. I knew I had PPD very early on and never shied away from admitting it, I just tried everything not to suffer from it, which is a challenge even when you have the support. I’m planning on writing a whole post about my PND soon.
Becoming the family doctor
Our little girl was unsettled and struggling with reflux and colic since day one, which meant googling and trying to ‘diagnose’ her symptoms myself became a very regular thing. That’s how my anxiety last year started by consulting Dr. Google, so I swore I’d never do it again. However, when just two weeks old I took her to the GP to discuss her symptoms of reflux and colic to see what we could try to help her settle down, to which the doctor pulled up Google on his computer and searched for answers…I was gobsmacked. I’d been doing the same thing at home and did not expect the GP to be doing the same. From there on I found most of the doctors and health visitors I saw to be pretty useless. So, that leaves you feeling like you’re now the doctor who has to figure out exactly what’s wrong with your little one and tell the doctor what you need prescribing or which clinic you need referring to, rather than asking them what they think. It’s ridiculous, and another stress parents should not be dealing with.
If you know someone with a baby around a similar age, or join any parenting group online, or even in person, you’ll likely find yourself comparing their progression to that of your little one. When I saw other babies of the same age rolling and Lily had yet to show any interest, I was worried. When I heard other babies babbling and Lily had yet to make a noise, I was concerned. The reality is, there was no need to be concerned. Every baby is different, and each baby progresses at different rates. Something a new mum said to me at a baby class recently was along the lines of, “no one ever asks you as an adult, ‘when did you start walking? When did you start talking?’ because it doesn’t matter when you did. It has no impact on who you are and what you can achieve”. So true.