Postpartum: The Fourth Trimester

In the blink of an eye, I transitioned from what felt like an eternity of pregnancy to the fourth trimester. On May 7th, 2021 my entire world was flipped upside down and our baby boy, James Rowan was born. I realize now more than ever that no one can truly prepare you for the transition into motherhood. The postpartum phase is no joke and I am constantly reminded that I need to give myself grace as I navigate this new season.

If you are new here, you can check out my first, second and third trimester recap posts here.

postpartum fourth trimester

Postpartum: Weeks 1-2

Hospital stays, physical recovery, sleep deprivation, crashing hormones … the list goes on. Not to mention the brand new, teeny tiny human who is 100% dependent on you. I was not prepared for the amount of love I would have for this new being, nor was I aware of the overwhelm that would take over those first 2 weeks.

The hospital stay lasted 3 1/2 days thanks to my scheduled c-section (stubborn breech baby wasn’t having it any other way!). The days and nights at the hospital all blurred together. Nurses, lactation consultants, technicians were in and out every hour. I spent a portion of my time waiting for the numbness to go away from my chest down, hooked up to a catheter, doctors pushing on my stomach to check for bleeding; all while waiting for my sweet baby boy to be brought back to me from the ‘transition’ room. (Long story short – with c-section comes increased risk of fluid in the lungs since the baby is not pushed through the birth canal and there were some concerns after birth so after 3 minutes of “meeting” our baby, he was whisked away to transition to be monitored. He was not brought back to me for FIVE hours which felt like an eternity and completely threw me for a loop).

Days 2-3 in the hospital were by far the worst. The epidural was removed, I felt weak, tired and emotional; consistent bleeding, zero abdominal strength to get out of bed, breast engorgement pain was no joke and I was trying to figure out breastfeeding. This list doesn’t even touch the surface of every new challenge faced in the first 48-72 hours. However, for new moms out there – I just hope that by reading this you know you are NOT alone. There were more tears in the first week of postpartum than I ever could have imagined. I felt unprepared, overwhelmed, dependent, and unsure how the heck I was going to do this “mom” thing successfully.

Staying at the hospital during COVID times did not help either. We were not allowed to leave our room to walk around, get water, snacks etc. By the end of my 3.5 day stay, I was starting to feel claustrophobic and beyond ready to get discharged. We were discharged on a Monday evening and going home felt great but came with new challenges.

I was unable to go up and down the stairs more than 1x a day and was not supposed to lift anything heavier than my baby. Easier said than done….

Although I am very much still in the thick of postpartum as I write this; I must say the first 2 weeks take the gold medal for being incredibly tough. As soon as I felt like I was getting it together, I would have a meltdown. James’ cry does something to my emotions that no other baby’s cry does. It melts my heart and when I could not console him, it broke my heart even more leaving me feeling inadequate and helpless at times.

Somehow, in the midst of the chaos, the sleeplessness, and the tears; one look at my boy reminded me that this will all be more than worth it. This ‘newborn phase’ will pass and instead of thinking too far forward, I’ve learned to focus on surviving one day at a time. (Heck, one day is sometimes too overwhelming.. more importantly is just surviving the next hour, nap time or night shift that gets me through my anxious thoughts.)

Postpartum: Weeks 3-6

Weeks 1-2 were written in the midst of my experience postpartum. Weeks 3-6 are written with the perspective of looking back in hindsight. I am now at 12 weeks postpartum and in a much better mental space.

The first 6 weeks were a blur. The first 2 weeks came and went. I thought that maybe these ‘ baby blues ‘ were just lasting extra long. Weeks 3, 4, and 5 came and went as well. I continued to feel cry ( a lot ), struggled with lots of anxiety ( especially in the evenings ) and was so upset that I wasn’t experiencing the joy I had hoped for.

My goal with this entire post is to be as transparent as possible in the hope that another mama out there may be reading this and know they are not alone.

Since experiencing birth and the aftermath of birth, I have an entirely new perspective on motherhood. I wholeheartedly believe that no one can prepare you for this new role. I can’t speak to what it is like to go from 1-2 or multiples but going from 0-1 absolutely rocked my world.

Looking back at all of life’s major events thus far; going off to college, our wedding, buying a home, getting our dog.. none of these life events can compare to becoming a mom. I went from full independence to having a teeny tiny human 100% dependent on me at every moment. My life became a 3-hour cycle.. feed, play, cuddle, soothe, repeat. I said goodbye to good sleep, goodbye to the body that I once knew, goodbye to our marriage/relationship the way it was beforehand and more.

Becoming a mom meant accepting a whole new identity. Take that massive change and add in sleep deprivation, crashing hormones, and a healing body and you’ve got yourself quite the equation for a dip in mental health.

In the end, a mix of talk therapy and medication was the right ‘solution’ for me. I am SO thankful that I took the steps in seeking help and jumped on the road to feeling more like myself sooner rather than later. I have truly been able to feel JOY in watching my son grow week-by-week since ~7-8 weeks old.

The blog post is just a snippet of my postpartum experience but if you are struggling or just need someone to vent to – I am an open book and more than happy to discuss further.

I pray that my experience can somehow help another mom out there. At a minimum, I hope it reminds all the mamas out there going through the grind of new motherhood, that they are never alone in their emotions!

Postpartum newborn snuggles

Helpful Resources during Postpartum Phase

  • Therapy – YUP. Pretty sure I have mentioned therapy in my last 4 pregnancy related posts. It has been a lifesaver through all of the ups and downs of pregnancy and now postpartum.
  • Expectful – Also mentioned several other times because you can’t beat mindfulness and meditation in a time of anxiousness and overwhelm. There is an entire section on the app dedicated to ‘postpartum’ and even an entire series specifically for ‘postpartum depression’. From middle of the night nursing meditations to ‘c-section recovery’ and ‘bonding with your baby’ meditations; this app has a little something for every mama.
  • Your OBGYN – One of my biggest frustrations from this entire pregnancy and postpartum experience is the amount of times you see a doctor when your pregnant, versus the amount of times you see (or even HEAR) from a doctor postpartum. ONE appt… 6 weeks after the most amazing yet life-changing and (some may call traumatizing) event. It is on you to seek help (unfortunately) but you need to be your own biggest advocate.

My Take Aways

  • Set Boundaries: No one can prepare you for what you are about to go through postpartum. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries with family and friends. Look out for your mental health. Only YOU know what you need to do.
  • Ask for Help: Hindsight is 50/50 but I wish that I would have asked for help sooner. According to a Cleveland Clinic article, postpartum depression affects up to 15% of women after birth. 50-75% of women experience the ‘baby blues’ which typically last for the first 2 weeks postpartum. If these feelings continue or intensify, don’t hesitate to reach out to your physician ASAP.
  • Don’t Worry about your To-Do List: This is advice that I am STILL giving to myself 10 weeks later. For someone who loves crossing items off my to-do list daily, letting go of this during the early days postpartum was very difficult. I had to constantly remind myself that the most important thing was taking care of James and myself.
  • Enjoy the Newborn Snuggles and Skin-to-Skin: Luckily at 10 weeks, I am still getting the snuggles and sweet skin-to-skin time but it already makes me sad to think about when these days will end.
  • Communicate with your Spouse: My recommendation would be to communicate about expectations BEFORE the baby arrives.
  • Let Go of Expectations: This goes hand-in-hand with the next take away on social media. It is so easy to enter the postpartum period with all sorts of expectations. I found myself comparing my experience to what I was seeing on social media ( hello highlight reel ) and my friends’ postpartum experiences (everyone’s experience is unique and different).
  • Don’t Compare to Others Social Media: See above.
  • It Takes a Village: If there is one thing that 100% has held true, it is that it truly does take a village.
  • In Order to Heal, You need to Feel”: I heard this on Good Morning America one morning and it really holds so much truth. Having a baby is HARD. If you have heard otherwise, then I’m not sure who that person is but KUDOS to them. It is hard physically, mentally and emotionally. I believe that without going through my emotions, it is hard to move through the challenges. So basically, let yourself cry-it-out.
Newborn infant cuddles at the hospital after giving birth via c-section