I didn’t leave my house at all for the first six weeks after my son was born at home. Staying home during the early post partum period was one of the most profoundly healing and beautiful experiences of my life. I wrote about my experience here. Often, the post partum experience is expected to end at six weeks, but I feel like my full post partum recovery lasted until about 3 months.
The fourth trimester is a term I only heard about after the birth of my second, but it basically means the time period, about 3 months, after birth when you and your baby are recovering from pregnancy and birth. You take time to nourish your body and soul. And, you spend time bonding with your new child and responding to the baby’s needs. Looking back on my previous babies, I think it took a similar amount of time to adjust to new life when they were born.
After my six weeks without leaving the house, I was very reluctant to go out. The world was big and fast and seemed like it was waiting to devour me. I was surprised at how very fragile, both physically and emotionally, I felt.
The six weeks didn’t just end and I took my first step back into ‘reality‘ and that was that. Oh no… after entering the world, it took at least another 6 or 7 weeks to adjust. Keep in mind, this was with my THIRD baby, no longer a rookie parent, and it still took time.
At first, I had to be very careful when choosing which activities to do. I tried not to do anything too stimulating, (especially for the baby’s sake) and I avoided the elements as much as possible. It was entering summer in Australia when I started to leave the house, so it was hot and sunny. The temptation to take the bigger kids to the beach every day was so inviting (and they begged me)… but I generally had to say no. Doing that would have made me so tired and hot and would have not been enjoyable for my baby. The wind was especially annoying to be out in. Instead, we walked around the cool air conditioning at the shopping centers near our house. And, in the afternoons, we all had big cuddly naps. The few days when I did too much (hello, when we went to IKEA??) I almost always landed myself a massive headache the next day and got easily grumpy with the kids. I had to really watch it and not over-do it!
My son grew very big, very fast, and my body was not strong enough to carry him around for long periods of time. I’m usually as strong as an ox, so it was a shock to me that I was feeling sore from something as simple as babywearing a newborn! But, at six weeks, he was already over 6 kilos (13 pounds). I remember after only taking a short walk one day, with him in the baby carrier, that my feet and joints became sore. This happened for a couple of weeks until I got strong enough to carrying him around. After the three month mark, I noticed that I could carry him for much longer and I didn’t feel so tired.
Here we were at 3 1/2 months, and I still felt a like big adventures were a little too much for us…
Another interesting experience I had during this time was hyper-sensitive senses. Sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. It was really bizarre, like I was on drugs or something. I remember craving weird things, just like when I was pregnant. The feeling of steaming my face with eucalyptus oil and hot water, was something I felt drawn to. Daily warm oil massage was something else I craved. On a hot day, getting in the car, smelling and feeling the air conditioning on my skin and breathing the cool air in, was almost orgasmic! I sort of wish those sensations would have lasted longer because it was fun, everything was new! I don’t remember feeling this way with my previous births, so I think it was because I had been at home for six weeks and had received some very deep rest. I was extra aware and in tune this time around.
Some things I DID NOT crave were things like exercise and socializing. I felt like I needed to save my energy for breastfeeding and things like having patience with my older kids! And, talking to people, even friends, made me really tired.
My daily activities were enough to make me strong. I did go surfing a little, after 2 1/2 months and that helped me to gain my strength again, but surfing is a sport that I’m used to doing, and it can be done sort of moderately. We made sure to take lots of naps and laid around reading books on some of the really hot days.
So that was the physical part of my return to normalcy, but there was also the emotional and mental recovery as well! Getting used to an extra kid, when out and about, took a while. Before, with two kids, my attention was divided, but with three, it felt scattered (even though the baby was usually asleep and in the baby carrier). So we tried to stick close to home that at I could feedback him comfortably at home. Not because I’m uncomfortable with feeding in public (if you only knew how many years of breastfeeding in public experience I have up my sleeve) but because it was much more relaxing that way.
Although I spent 6 weeks bonding with my son at home, I still had to get used to how he would respond to being out, in the car, etc. It wasn’t bad, but it was still something I had to get used to and it was pretty stressful the first few times.
I’m so glad that I honored the process of birth and recovery. Lots of my friends on social media had babies around the same time as me. It would have been easy to get worked up, comparing what they were doing and how they were looking, with my own experience. But, I wanted this post partum experience to be authentic and deep. For once, I felt the need to really listen to myself and to the true needs of my entire family.
Slowly leaving the fourth trimester is a little sad. I still get remnants of it here and there, as my son is only just under 4 months old and still holding on to those small baby qualities, but now he’s starting to change fast. And, I’m starting to change too! Slowly, my attention is being pulled away from the mother-baby bubble and is starting to focus on everyone else’s needs. Life is moving on. There’s no going back. The few months after a baby’s birth is a once in a life time opportunity to take it easy, simplify and tune in. It fills my heart with joy that I honored my needs, and the needs of our new little person, during the few months after his birth. I feel so complete, like I finished writing a chapter of my life and I couldn’t have written it better.