I didn’t know the 4th trimester was a thing until after my daughter was born but having just exited this phase of life, I wanted to recap everything that happened because, woah, that was a lot.
First, let’s talk about the physical changes your body goes through. I gained a total of 25 lbs during my pregnancy and lost 23 lbs by the time she turned 2 weeks old. Can we just process that for a minute…I lost 23 lbs in 2 weeks so yes you could say there were a lot of dramatic changes taking place.
One thing I was not anticipating was how swollen I would be AFTER she was born. My body retains fluids very easily and after I had all the IVs, blood transfusions, etc. after my c-section, I felt like a giant water balloon. My entire legs from the waste down were unrecognizable (I’m talking couldn’t even fit into leggings). My face, hands and EVERYTHING were so so so swollen. I couldn’t even put on real shoes to walk outside until a week after she was born.
After the first week, I started losing weight rapidly. I was having night sweats and peeing constantly. Breastfeeding burns so many calories (on average up to 500 calories a day) and I’m not sure if this had anything to do with it, but I was an “overproducer” when it came to milk. After my daughter was born, I was (still am lol) STARVING all the time. I eat more than I ever have by far but especially in those first few weeks.
By the time she was 3 weeks old I had lost all my pregnancy weight, and then some. My mom told me the same thing happened to her so I feel like some of that may be genetics. I also feel like due to how sick I was while pregnant, I didn’t gain as much weight as I probably would have, had I not been throwing up every single day for 8 months straight. A lot of women have told me how “lucky” I am in that regard, but I would take a healthy pregnancy and normal weight gain over what I went through any day so just remember, it’s all about perspective.
My weight has stayed consistent since then but honestly I don’t pay attention to the scale. For me, it’s all about how I feel. Even though I don’t look that much different than before I had a baby, trust me when I say, I feel it. I’ve said goodbye to my abs and hello to stretchier skin where my 4 pack once was. Whenever I catch myself being critical of those things, I try and tell myself, “DUDE, YOU JUST GREW A HUMAN!” I mean we should be so proud of our bodies for being able to provide a safe home for our babies for 9 months so I actively try to shut down any negative thoughts about my postpartum body whenever I catch myself going there.
I’m allllll for the movement of women feeling empowered to talk about the things that are a little TMI because it’s not embarrassing, it’s not weird, and EVERYONE who has a baby goes through the exact same things. So on that note, let’s talk bleeding after birth. I thought you only bleed (down there) if you have a vaginal birth, but I learned it also happens for a c-section too (I had a cesarean delivery). Bleeding is something you can’t avoid, sorry ladies! I wore diapers (legit adult diapers, and I have an amazing rec for super cute and comfy ones if anyone needs it lollll) for a week after she was born because the bleeding was that heavy. They say by 6 weeks the bleeding should stop and you can resume all activities such as working out, etc. (you know the others I’m alluding to…) but for me it was more like 8-10 weeks before I felt completely healed. I had to really listen to my body even though I felt pressure to rush back into things because I was nottttt ready for the “activities” that come with being cleared at your 6 week postpartum visit.
Don’t forget about the boobs! I’m going to do a whole separate post on my breastfeeding journey but that was one physical change that took (still is) time to get used to. My boobs were rock hard, HUGE and so uncomfortable. Did I mention HUGE!? While my milk supply was regulating (first 3 months) I would leak through everything, not to mention looking like I had an awful boob job. The breast pads did not work for me so I would sleep with a towel in my bra because it was that intense. It’s not cute, sexy or fun but the good thing is it doesn’t last forever. Luckily I never got mastitis or severe breast pain, but sore nipples everyday, all day. Once my daughter turned 4 months, things did start regulating and going back to normal a little bit more but those first few weeks while my milk was coming in, were extremely overwhelming.
Lastly for the physical changes was something that’s really hard to prepare for. And that was my c-section scar. It really bothered me at first. It was super hard and swollen and I felt like when I stood in front of the mirror that’s all that I could see. But one day I stumbled upon a post where a woman said that her scar was her favorite part of her body as it reminded her of the sweetest season of life, barring her children. It reminded her of her selfless love and strength and she saw it as a badge of honor, a trophy, a beautiful memory. Since then, I have tried to see mine in the same way but I think it’s also OK to acknowledge it’s a foreign mark on your body that will take time to adjust to loving. I felt a little self conscious and embarrassed by it even though I had no reason to.
When it comes to the emotional roller coaster of the 4th trimester, I want to recognize that postpartum anxiety and depression are very real and common things to go through. It’s also a very individualized experience and just as I am super appreciative and grateful that so many women are being transparent about their struggle, I also think it’s important to point out that it doesn’t happen to everyone and you aren’t automatically going to experience it just because you gave birth. For me, I felt happier, less stressed, and an overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility after my daughter was born. BUT I will say, I think because of how rough my pregnancy was, I felt a weight being lifted off my shoulders emotionally, after I delivered my baby.
Another thing that I think plays a big role in your mental state after having a baby, is REST. For me (and I’m sure most people) if I don’t get enough rest, I can’t function. We were super lucky to be blessed with a great sleeper since day 1 (knock on wood it stays that way) so I was able to fully heal and relax after she was born. Because trust me, there’s a whole new level of exhaustion that you feel having a newborn. I gave myself a lot of grace in those first few months and I think that was the best thing I could of done for my mental wellbeing.
I stayed in pajamas until noon (sometimes even later), and I would lay on the couch for hours just holding my baby and letting her sleep on me. I wanted to soak in that newborn bliss as long as I could, because man, it’s true what they say about time going by way too fast. I can honestly say, those were the best days of my life.
My best takeaways for this exciting but exhausting time are:
Try and be fully present each day. Babies don’t keep, just blink and before you know it they are 6 months old (ugh!) so as tiring as the newborn days are, soak in all the snuggles and just love on your baby. Don’t worry if you forget to brush your teeth, or get dressed for the day. You’ll enjoy it 10x more if you don’t put pressure on yourself to have it together 24/7.
Be patient with your body.
Take lots of pictures. Even if you don’t feel cute, you’ll appreciate them later. I wish I had more pregnancy and post pregnancy pics to look back on.
Ask for help. Whether it’s hiring a night nurse, having your friends or family come over so you can take a nap, or getting a babysitter to have some alone time. You do you! I had a lactation consultant come over twice after she was born.
Don’t feel shame in talking about your struggle and challenges. It’s therapeutic and reassuring to hear that EVERY woman is going through the exact same thing. Find mom friends, vent to your husband, join mommy & me, whatever you need, find an outlet who can relate or support you in whatever you need.
SELF CARE. Whatever that looks like for you. For me, it’s getting ready. Curling my hair, putting on a little makeup and a cute outfit. Just feeling like myself again. Do something for YOU *not to impress other people. Get a massage, mani/pedi, take a bubble bath, run some errands SOLO, read a book, whatever makes you feel calm and centered.