From what I can remember from the antennal classes I did attend, no one really mentioned the formidable 4th Trimester. The hard inbetween period from when baby is born and up until they turn approximately 3 months old. The period best described as the period of development and change as your new baby settles in the world around them.
Over the course of those 3 months your baby develops and changes immensely but there are also changes going on inside your body too. After birth your body begins to slowly return to its pre-pregnancy shape, your uterus contracts back to its smaller approximately pear sized shape, your hormones are well, all over the place.
My experience of the 4th Trimester was not an easy one. Not only was I adjusting to being a new mum, my new baby had oral thrush, reflux and colic and I was put under immense pressure from both myself and people around me to do certain things.
After giving birth at 7:52am on the Saturday morning we finally returned home at 6am on the Sunday morning. Both Isabella and my husband went to bed and feel asleep rather quickly, me on the other hand, I just couldn’t settle at all. By 7am I had given up sleeping and busied myself with doing the washing, unpacking the hospital bag and finishing orders for the business I ran before Isabella’s birth. I made sure the house was tidy for the visitors we were going to have and that everything was in it's place. Looking back I think this is where my struggle began, from the moment she was born I put too much pressure on myself for everything to be perfect and when it wasn’t I just couldn’t cope.
From the day after Isabella was born up until the following Wednesday we had many visitors. Most came in and just sat down, held Isabella and wanted us to be their hosts. Very few offered to help and I was left rushing around after them, in between feeding and changing Isabella. On the Wednesday evening after a handful of visitors Isabella became very unsettled and cried uncontrollably. My husband had gone to the cinema to see Star Wars (which I had agreed to thinking I would be fine) and my parents, my mother-in-law, my brother and his new girlfriend (who I hadn’t met before) had come round to keep me company. I couldn’t settle her no matter what I tried and I just got myself more and more worked up. My mum came through into our bedroom to see what was happening and tried to settle Isabella too. Eventually she fell asleep and I was left upset and feeling like a failure because I couldn’t stop my own daughter from crying. My mum advised that I try and get some sleep too, so returning back into the kitchen to get myself a drink my dad said something along the lines of ‘it will all be okay’ and I burst out crying. It must have been some sight, looking tired and crying my eyes out in my Pyjamas in front of my mother-in-law and my brothers new girlfriend who I had only met just hours before.
At this point I made the decision to cancel all visitors for the next few days. I needed to put myself first. I was tired, Isabella was unsettled and I didn’t want her being passed around like a parcel for me to deal with her being upset when she was returned to us. This decision caused upset from some of the people around us and in turn caused me to feel more pressured.
Around this time we also made the decision to stop people holding Isabella. Four days in to being a mum I realised that I had barley held her. I know this sounds bad. I’d held her whilst I fed her and to get her to drift off to sleep but then I’d put her down or she’d been passed to visitors as I thought this is what you were supposed to do, but I never really just held her. So we made the decision that only my husband and myself would hold her. I carried her in a sling and kept her close and it was only then that our bond really began to develop.
At approximately 2 weeks old Isabella was diagnosed with oral thrush and this continued for about another 7 weeks. We made countless trips to the doctors, numerous treatments and a PAED’s referral. It just wouldn’t clear and as a result I ended up having to stop breastfeeding. The mental impact of her screaming each time I fed her was horrendous and I really struggled to cope. I tried to avoid leaving the house around feeding times, if she got upset I would leave wherever I was in a rush, to avoid the embarrassment of not being able to console her and I would often feed her alone in the bedroom.
When I look back now at those early days, I don’t look back at them with happiness, but sadness. I was struggling, really struggling with the transition into motherhood, learning how to breastfeed, learning what my baby wanted and learning how to do everyday things without her crying. I have many regrets about those first few months, but my biggest is that we had visitors too early. I should have taken the time as a family to get settled and given myself time to recover. I deeply regret not holding Isabella more and because of that feeling of guilt, it took time for our bond to develop.
If I was to give a new mum any piece of advice it would be to take her time. Do things at her own pace, in her own time and when she feels ready too. Do not let anyone pressure you into doing anything you aren’t ready for. When you become a mum, you are in charge of how you parent and you know your child best so trust your instincts.
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