We expect birth to be the hardest thing we have ever done. So we buy the books, take the classes, stop eating raw fish, interview our doulas, practice our labor breath, buy the baby things and we do this with excitement and joy and maybe some trepidation. Because the unknown is just that, exciting but mysterious. And then we give birth. For some, it's 3 hours and others 3 days but then it's done. Our 9 months of preparation for labor is complete. And we let it sink in, we have no clue what's next. We realize we did not buy all the books for the 4th trimester, we took zero classes, we have no idea what's best for post-birth digestion, we have no one taking care of us when it becomes overwhelming, and there is no postpartum breath to turn too. There are hundreds of books on baby sleep and breastfeeding, countless Instagram accounts to show us tips on tummy time, burping methods, and how to soothe a fussy one. But where are the resources on how to tend to our sore vaginas, the fear of pooping, how to ask for help when you need rest, what exercises are actually safe for us the first 6 weeks, and what foods will best nourish us. Most of us have heard and read about postpartum depression but for some, this is the extent of our 4th-trimester knowledge.
So what can you do?
Create a 4th Trimester Plan:
1. Instead of a baby shower have a Postpartum day. Baby showers are wonderful but they focus solely on the baby coming. A postpartum day focuses on the mother. I love the idea of a postpartum day where you organize a group of friends and family to come over and help you prep your freezer and batch cook for you. It's a beautiful way to be in community with your friends before the baby arrives and it leaves you and your family with nourishing meals for weeks.
2. Support. Just as we had in the womb, 2 layers of support from the amniotic sack, so too do we need 2 layers of support outside of the womb.
3. Resource List. You never know what will happen after birth or during, so it's best to have a list of resources of people you know who can heal you and help you.
4. Save Money. If you live in a country that does not offer paid maternity leave for at least 4 months, you need to save money so you feel supported and secure in staying home with your baby. The last thing you need is financial stress. Remember, we are the master regulators of our baby's nervous system, if we are stressed, they will be stressed.
5. Hire a Postpartum Doula. Her tasks can range from bringing you fresh and nourishing food to giving you a postpartum massage. Holding your baby or even playing with older children. Do your research and find someone who will take care of you where you most need it.
6. Read a book that has nothing to do with birth and everything to do with you and your body post-birth. A few of my favorites are The Fourth Trimester, Yoni Shakti, Natural Health after birth, The First Forty Days.
7. Talk to your partner about what postpartum life may look like. Where do you each need support?
8. Have a postpartum planning session to gain clarity on what you may not know yet. A session can help you become aware of any holes in your planning and help you get clear on what your boundaries are and what you need to boost oxytocin and how to regulate your nervous system. I have written a workbook (Inwards-A postpartum workbook) to help with the planning.
9. Prepare as if you were preparing for birth, a wedding, or a research paper. Interview, ask questions, listen to podcasts, and read.
10. Take a postpartum planning class or workshop. Doing this work in a group session can give you a space to share with other women what your fears and joys are about the upcoming journey. It also gives you a community of other women entering their postpartum around the same time as you. These women will be priceless in those months.
11. Join a Mothers group that inspires you and encourages you to share what's really going on emotionally and physically.