I’m in actual disbelief that my fourth trimester is over. If I’m being honest, in some ways, it feels like the time period flew by and it other ways, time feels like it was frozen in time into an endless blur of exhaustion. If you’re scratching your head thinking, “I thought pregnancy was only three trimesters,” you’d be correct. The fourth trimester is what we now call the first 12 weeks postpartum after the baby is born. These three months are unlike anything I’ve ever known in my life or ever could have imagined without living them. They are raw and intense and filled with endless amounts of emotions.
Within such a short period of time, I think I had some of my most awestruck joyous moments as well as some of my most trying moments of stress, confusion, and self-doubt. The good news is that the good outweighs the bad, it gets soooooo much better with each passing week, and there is a beautiful baby who I can’t imagine loving more even though I seemingly do with each passing day. In my fourth trimester recap, I’m answering the questions y’all sent to me on Instagram, sharing my 4th trimester pits and peaks, thoughts on sleep schedules, breastfeeding woes, and more.
My Fourth Trimester Recap
P.S.S. Get ready for a LONG post! I shared this week on Instagram that I write blog posts these days during lots of short increments in multiple sittings (aka sporadically when Rowan naps). So I think that’s why this post is so long. I wrote it over the course of 3-4 days, instead of all at once, so I honestly didn’t realize how longwinded I was being. You guys sent in so many great questions too so I had a lot to answer! I hope it’s helpful for any new or soon-to-be mothers out there.
Fourth Trimester Pits and Peaks
Holy wow, they tell you you’ll be tired but the exhaustion I felt in the beginning was a shock. Rowan was actively loosing weight for about the first two weeks of his life until he started gaining weight and getting back to his birth weight. This equated to us never sleeping because I was round the clock feeding him and triple feeding in an effort to get his weight up. The reality is that no new parents sleep because you have to feed babies every 3 hours.
The exhaustion was by far the hardest part in my mind! I honestly never knew I could be so tired. Between the feeding every 3 hours (which every parent knows means you maybe sleep for 1-1.5 hours at a time by the time you feed, burp, diaper change, rock to sleep, and pump if you’re unfortunately triple feeding), the physical recovery from the c-section surgery, and the pain killers after the c-section, it is all a doozy that equals absolutely no sleep. I would be lying if I said it didn’t rock me.
I had to have a c-section because Rowan was breech so I had to be on pain killers for about 10 days after giving birth. Like everyone, I don’t like taking pain medication because I hate feeling out of it. The pain killers definitely made me feel more out of sorts after giving birth but they were also completely necessary. I couldn’t have handled the pain post-surgery without them.
Those Darn Hormones
Just like the sleep deprivation, everyone tells you how crazy the hormones are post-birth. This was another one that I couldn’t really prepare for because I had no idea how wild the hormonal imbalance would be. I would say I rode the crazy hormone train for about 4-6 weeks after having Rowan. I honestly didn’t even always realize in real time that I was so exhausted, emotional, and out of sorts because of the hormones. Sometimes it wouldn’t be until the next day that I could look back and see clearly that I really wasn’t in control of my body, instead my hormones were. Again, just like with the sleep deprivation, the crazy hormones pass and your body regulates.
Triple feeding is one of the most physically challenging things I have ever done. It sucked me dry and wore me out. There were two different two week phases of Rowan’s early life when I triple fed for a total of 4 weeks. This was insane. I can fully understand women who are advised to triple feed but quickly decide it is not for them. It is brutal. I don’t know a single woman who has triple fed that didn’t also think it was utterly brutal. I was really set on breastfeeding so I pretty much stopped at nothing to make it work… hence why I triple fed for a month. And I triple fed to help get Rowan’s weight up in the beginning when he was losing weight and then again to increase my milk production.
In retrospect, triple feeding made my 4th trimester so so much harder than it would have been otherwise. There were a lot of tears and the physicality of it was a real challenge when I was already low on energy. On the other side of the coin, I’m happy I did it because I wanted to breastfeed. I know I gave my all to breastfeeding and did everything I could at that point in my breastfeeding journey, which is what I needed to do. It is all so personal and every mother has to do what is best for them and their baby.
My Sweet Boy
Oh my goodness God is too good!!! My sweet boy is the love of my life. Rowan is such a cuddle bug. His temperament is so very sweet. He is full of smiles and has so much love to give. He gets cuter by the day! I just can’t believe that I get to be his mama. I’m the luckiest mom in the world.
I love love love our newborn photos. Our crazy talented friend Hannah took Rowan’s newborn photos and did the most beautiful job. She captured him perfectly and gave Edwin and I the greatest gift. Photos to last a lifetime so we can always remember his sleepy, early newborn days.
Newborns grow and develop so quickly! It is mind-blowing. It feels like Rowan is constantly hitting new mini milestones. From his first smile to his first giggle to his first full laugh, it all happens in the blink of an eye. The first time Rowan held his head and neck up when we were holding him was amazing! The first time he pushed himself up on his hands during tummy time had me beaming. And the first time he rolled over during tummy time was so exciting. Every single mini milestone is such a joy!
The holidays were marvelous this year with Rowan in our lives! He made Christmas so much more special and made me so excited for Christmases to come. I can’t wait to watch Christmas through Rowan’s eyes. Rowan has given the holidays so much extra meaning.
Having Family Around
We are so fortunate to live nearby my parents and brother. It has been a godsend having my parents close to help and lend support! I love seeing Rowan and my brother, Clarke, together too. They have such a sweet relationship. My sister has also been able to spend a lot of time here since Rowan was born, which has been so wonderful! She is the best aunt. Edwin’s amazing sister and her husband have also come to meet little Rowan, which was incredible! Trips of their’s we will never forget. We absolutely cannot wait for Edwin’s parents to meet Rowan soon!
Fourth Trimester Q&A
How is it going?
When people take the time to stop and ask me this question, it really brings a smile to my face. Thank you to those of you who sent in this question on Instagram! Rowan is now 4 months old so it’s going great! If you had asked me this question when he was 1 or 2 months old, I would have had a different answer.
I was completely in love with my little guy but I was also really in the thick of it then with the pits of the 4th trimester (see above) so it wasn’t 100% going great. I’d say that is pretty normal though for the 4th trimester. I feel really fortunate to have only had standard baby blues and not postpartum depression. From the baby blues I felt, I can see how incredibly difficult postpartum depression would be. And I feel for any woman struggling with it.
Did you let Rowan around visitors/family before he was 3 months old?
We did. Our family members who we knew would spend a lot of time with Rowan after he was born all got the TDAP vaccine in the months before his birth. Friends saw him too but mostly when I would meet friends for walks with Rowan. So, we didn’t have much of a concern since he was nestled safely in his stroller. I totally understand that this is such a personal decision for parents, especially during Covid. So I think it’s best to stick to your gut and do what’s best for you and your family. For us, letting Rowan see family was best.
What was your “schedule”ish for the first 1-2 weeks?
Haha I wish I could say there was a schedule. For the first 1-2 weeks of his life, we were in survival mode and really just listened to his cues. We fed him every 3 hours and thankfully babies sleep a lot in the first few weeks. We visited the pediatrician pretty much everyday except for Sundays in the first 2 weeks of his life to do weight checks because he was loosing weight. I wasn’t cleared by my doctor to go for walks until 2 weeks postpartum. So we really didn’t leave the house much other than to visit the pediatrician. The first two weeks really revolved completely around feeding Rowan and trying to get his weight up.
Even if Rowan didn’t have a weight issue right out of the gates, I think that a schedule in the first few weeks would have been near impossible. We really found that it was all about following the baby’s cues and needs minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day that early on.
What items did you buy but not use?
Such a great question! I do think that every baby is different. I feel like some of the things that we didn’t use with Rowan we might use with future babies (that we hope to have) if they like the items more than Rowan. Here’s an odds and ends list:
I honestly don’t know why we haven’t used this item but we just haven’t. But I definitely could envision us using it though! I think I’ll give it a whirl, ha!
– Baby swing.
We used this a bit but Rowan happened to love the Baby Bjorn more. I have a girlfriend who has two kiddos and one loved this swing but the other didn’t. I’m excited to hopefully use it a ton with a future baby who loves it. I do think this is a great item, it just wasn’t Rowan’s personal favorite.
– Snuggle Me.
We didn’t love this. I was kind of confused by it. I wish it had some sort of padding in the middle. And I read some rave reviews from moms but, in retrospect, I wish we had registered for a dockatot instead. I think we will get a dockatot when we hopefully get pregnant again down the road.
Rowan hated these bottles. We have a bunch of them so fingers crossed a future baby loves them. Bottles and bottle nipples are so personal baby to baby. It’s impossible to know what will work for your baby until your baby is here.
We never really got into a routine with using this. I hand wash all our nipples and nipple rings and use our sterilizer. I see the benefit of this product though.
What did you need but hadn’t thought of?
We were well aware of this little item but for some reason didn’t get it. I ordered it the second after we finished Rowan’s first bath. It is just a little tool that takes one thing off your plate as a parent. During Rowan’s first bath, Edwin and I freaked out. We thought the water was too hot and then we thought it was too cold and we absolutely couldn’t agree on a temperature. First time parents alert! Anywho, this bath thermometer is so easy and great.
– Tap light.
A girlfriend of mine recommended this little light and it came in really hand in the early weeks. We used it in the hospital and then in our room when we came home from the hospital for middle of the night feedings. I also liked it because in the beginning, as first time parents, we were just nervous and liked having a little light we could tap so we could see Rowan and be sure he was okay in the middle of the night (which, of course, he was). We have the Hatch sound machine too which also has a light built into it. So it kind of serves the purpose of the tap light but the tap light is still nice to have.
– Pumping bra.
I didn’t order a pumping bra before having Rowan but quickly learned that I needed one. I did triple feeding for what felt like forever and I really needed a pumping bra so the time pumping could be handsfree at the very least.
– Mini diaper pail and diaper pail bags.
We have a regular sized diaper pail, which we kept in our room where Rowan slept for the first 3.5 months of his life. Our room is on the second floor so it wasn’t always convenient (or comfortable!) for me to go upstairs to change his diaper all the time (especially in the weeks immediately following my c section). We quickly learned that we needed to set up a mini changing station in the family room on the first floor. So this mini diaper pail came in incredibly handy. Rowan’s nursery is on a different floor than our room so we still have two changing stations set up. The one in our room has remained but we’ve now moved the one from the first floor family room to his nursery.
This diaper caddy goes hand-in-hand with the mini diaper pail that I mentioned just above. It helped us stay organized with the changing station that we set up downstairs in our house in the family room. Otherwise, we would have had diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream flying all over the place. If you live in a multi-story house, I really recommend setting up a second changing station on the floor where you spend the most time (if it is a different floor than your bedroom or the nursery). This diaper caddy will help you!
– Noggin Nest.
Rowan favors one side of his head when he sleeps. So it was becoming flatter than the other side of his head. We talked with our pediatrician about it and she recommended the Noggin Nest. It’s a great little pillow that we use for him when we are supervising him (not intended for sleep!) while playing on the ground on his back, in his stroller, or in his bouncer chair. It promotes a round head.
I had phases where I was pumping a lot when I was triple feeding Rowan so having an extra set of pumping parts was 1000% necessary. My pump is the Spectra S2 so these pumping parts were compatible.
I ordered these to store items I/we already don’t need anymore but that I know I’ll need again down the road for future pregnancies/children. I put things like all my maternity clothing and some early baby items that we used the first few weeks and months in them.
What is one thing you wish you would have known?
I actually have two answers for this question. The first is to remember “this too shall pass.” The early weeks and months of parenting are so exhausting and full of many trials and tribulations. In the face of challenging moments, it can be difficult to see past them and realize that this is just a tiny phase of parenting in the grand scheme. The physical and emotional exhaustion pass. What never passes or waivers throughout it all though is your love and adoration for your little one.
The second is that I wish I’d known how difficult breastfeeding is because I was wildly unprepared for my journey with breastfeeding. I knew so little about difficulties that can come with breastfeeding like latching issues, under production of milk, over production of milk, the roll pumping really needs to play in specific instances, circumstantial breast discomfort and pain, and so on. In my experience, I feel like so many people talk about the actual birth and healing/recovering from birth, but so many less people talk about the ups and downs of breastfeeding. Yes, breastfeeding is so natural for humankind. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t really hard and isn’t something that needs to be learned for both baby and mom.
If you are about to become a first time mother, I really recommend talking with your girlfriends who nurse about their experiences.
There is a lot to be learned in this area from relying on each other and the wisdom, experience, and encouragement of other women. I also can’t recommend seeing a lactation consultant enough. They will help you in the hospital and your pediatrician can be of some help but I found a lactation consultant to be the most helpful. Our health insurance covered it too so it was a no brainer. The lactation consultant I saw helped me with everything from little positioning tweaks (that made a world of difference) to helping me feel heard and encouraged.
Breastfeeding is emotional, mental, and physical (especially if it isn’t seamless for mom and baby). I really recommend getting support and bringing support with you. Edwin had to travel quite a bit for work after Rowan was born so my mom went with me to my lactation appointments, which was massively helpful! You need someone to drive you if you’re on pain medication so bringing support makes sense on many fronts. If you live in Charleston, I went to the Breastfeeding Center and really loved my experience there (Ashley was amazing but I’m sure they all are!). If you don’t live in Charleston, your pediatrician should be able to point you in the right direction. Every baby is different and every lactation experience is different so I know that with baby #2, I will preemptively make an appointment at the Breastfeeding Center in the first week of the baby’s life.
What was the hardest, most unexpected part?
Edwin needing to be away for work, breastfeeding, and the exhaustion. These three things were really tied together for me and all kind of affected each other.
What were your favorite and most used baby + mom products for the 4th trimester?
I’m going to write a whole post dedicated to this question because I think it is too lengthy to include here. I have lots of suggestions for both baby and mom! It’s a wild ride and having the best products lined up for yourself can definitely make having a newborn more seamless. Stay tuned!
Do you have a nanny or a night nurse?
We don’t have a nanny. My parents have been tremendously helpful with giving us breaks and watching Rowan at times when we have scheduling/work needs. We just started having a gal 1 day a week for 5 hours. She nannies for another family and is filling in a few free hours with us. It is really a godsend to have a few hours when I know I can schedule things or work without interruption.
We had a night nurse come sporadically a couple nights throughout the first 2.5 months of Rowan’s life. We weren’t planning on getting a night nurse but decided that it was necessary for my mental and physical health because I was alone a lot of nights. Edwin had to travel quite a bit this fall for work starting when Rowan was 10 days old and it was very tough. Edwin’s industry completely shut down March, April, May, and June of 2020 due to Covid so he had to work throughout the fall after Rowan was born.
It was really difficult for both of us!
Being alone at night is so daunting when you are a new parent with a newborn so the nights we had a night nurse provided me with support, kept me from being alone, and helped me get a tiny bit more sleep. If you live in Charleston, we used night nurses from Nurse at Night. My mom also slept over countless nights when Edwin was out of town and acted as my night nurse! It is the understatement of the year to say that I couldn’t have done it without her.
Edwin completely picked up the pieces in the first two weeks of Rowan’s life when I was recovering from birth. Throughout my 4th trimester, he was so present and hands-on when he was in town. He also arranged for his sister to come stay with me when he left for his first work trip after Rowan’s birth. He was all around incredible. Work is work and he stepped up to the plate work-wise and parent-wise in a big way this past fall.
How has life changed after having a baby?
I could answer this by saying how has life not changed after having our baby, ha! As parents, you loose your freedom and realize how much you took things like popping out for an unplanned glass of wine on a Tuesday for granted. You adjust to planning your life around feedings and naps. It can be monotonous. However, having a baby is simply the single best thing you’ve ever done. I could make faces and smile at my little Rowan all day because he is my favorite person on this earth. He makes my heart feel so full, I worry I can’t contain my love for him.
I tell Rowan all the time that if I told him all day, everyday how much I love him that it still wouldn’t be enough. So I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life being his mother. I think life changes after having a baby because I never before knew the type of love I feel for Rowan. Every decision I make is formed based on that love so, everything changes. (P.S. I think all the time that I can’t believe what I feel for Rowan is what my parents feel for me and my siblings. It’s so amazing!)
How was your healing process after birth?
I think it was pretty standard as far as c section healing goes. The first two weeks were intense. It was hard to walk or stand for more than a few minutes and pain killers were necessary. I fainted once about 36 hours after giving birth and came near fainting again after my first shower. So I started walking again as soon as my doctor cleared me. I eased into it and felt great being outside and getting some movement. About a week after starting to go for walks, I went too far one day and kind of set myself back for a handful of days but that passed, like everything else.
At 6 weeks postpartum, I started working out again per my doctor giving me the green light. I eased into ab work because of the c section but I’m now back to doing everything I was doing pre-pregnancy. I didn’t have any healing complications or irregularities so I was super grateful! My incision healed well. My doctor was wonderful and I’m grateful everyday for her taking such phenomenal care of me!
How did you get Rowan in a good routine/schedule?
In the beginning, we just followed Rowan’s cues + the feeding every 3 hours rule. However, we found it necessary to implement a schedule after a few weeks. With Edwin traveling some too, I knew I needed a schedule so I could at least somewhat predict how my days would go. I’ve talked to a lot of friends who followed a similar path of listening to baby’s cues until they hit a breaking point when they decided that a schedule was necessary. We’ve kind of done a mix of Taking Cara Babies as well as Moms on Call. We’ve found both to be great resources full of helpful tips and strategies. Even though naps are unreliable and the needs of babies change constantly, having a base schedule to work off of has been really helpful.
I will also say that every time we’ve had a schedule transition (from no schedule to the 0-2 month schedule, from the 0-2 months schedule to the 2-4 months schedule, and from the 2-4 months schedule to the 4-6 months schedule), it has taken about a week for Rowan to really get it and for his body clock to fully click into place if that makes sense. It has been worth it for us in the long run.
What should a soon-to-be mom expect for the first week or two?
Oh I love this question because I think I’ll think about the first week or two really differently with future babies. Expect to be in in complete and total awe. You will be in awe of how incredible your body is. You will be in awe of how precious your baby is. And you will be in awe of how in love with your spouse or partner you are. You will be in awe of how much your heart feels like it is going to burst at the seems. You will be in awe of how out of control your hormones and emotions are. And you will be in awe of how tired you are.
You will be in awe of your pediatrician (how do they know so much?!). You will be in awe of everyone you know who is a parent as you realize what it takes. If you are faith-based, you will be in awe of the Lord and his love for us.
A few things that I found helpful were cooking delicious freezer meals before giving birth and accepting food + help from others. Accept all the help people offer you! They genuinely want to help so let them. Relinquish control because, while you might not be able to see it in the moment, parents of newborns need the break. Also, expect that you won’t be doing much or leaving the house much. This is something I want to keep at the forefront of my mind with future babies. The first few weeks of a baby’s life is a time you’ll be at home. The more you fully embrace this, the better you’ll be with it (at least for me). I definitely wanted to do too much at times when it just wasn’t possible.
What should a soon-to-be mom plan with family visiting to help shortly after birth?
It is so amazing to have family visit and help out after giving birth! Here are a few ideas of things you could plan…
– Plan a cooking day.
Pick out a few recipes and cook with your mom, mother-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, dad, or whoever it is that likes to cook. You can come in and out and help as you please or you can hang nearby and nurse/feed your little while they cook. You can chat while cooking and do something that is fun, takes place at home, and gives you a great reward (aka a fridge and freezer full of food you can eat in the coming days/weeks when you don’t have it in you to cook).
– Plan a date with your spouse.
Let your family in town watch your baby for an hour or two and leave the house with your love. You have childcare you know and trust so give yourself the gift of alone time with your spouse to go on a walk, go get a glass of wine, or go out to eat. This depends a bit on logistics with nursing but if you can swing it, then I say go for it. Your family will love the time they get with your baby too.
– Plan a movie marathon.
Make a movie jar of movies you want to watch or pick out a show you want to binge together and embrace this slow moving time of your life by watching something together. I had Rowan right at the start of fall so my sister and I watched every fall movie ever made in the weeks after I had Rowan.
– Plan a future trip.
Chances are that you will feel pretty immobile right after giving birth. If you’re like me, you will be a bit anxious for when you can get moving again and feel like yourself. I had Rowan in fall 2020 so my sister and I sat down and planned a trip for fall 2021. It was fun to think ahead to a trip with Rowan when he’d be walking and to plan for a time with family when I’d feel great and like myself (because after birth you don’t quite feel like yourself). You can plan a trip from the sofa, which is where you’ll be after giving birth, so this is a great activity to do with family. Plan a trip down the road to all see each other again!
How did Rowan’s sleeping go in the 4th trimester? Did Edwin help with the night shifts? Did you sleep train?
Rowan’s sleep started going great once we could let him sleep and didn’t have to wake him every 3 hours to eat. He slept through the night for the first time at 10 weeks, which was a godsend! Edwin helped a lot with nightshifts before Rowan started sleeping through the nights. Sometimes we’d decide ahead of time to let Edwin sleep through the night. Most nights though Edwin would get up with me to give me company, help with changing, help with cleaning pump pieces when I was triple feeding, etc. In the first two weeks postpartum, Edwin helped A TON because I was pretty slow moving/immobile.
We did sleep train and it went great! We had a few hard nights that were HARD but Rowan was a champ! We’ve been following kind of a mix of Moms on Call and Taking Cara Babies for scheduling and sleep training. And we had the Snoo, which we can’t recommend enough. We LOVED the Snoo! We kept Rowan in the Snoo in our room until about 3.5 months and then transitioned him out of it and into his crib in his nursery. I listened to the book Crib Sheet and it really gave me the confidence to go through with sleep training. The book is all data based so I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it reliably helpful (thanks for the book rec Allison!).
How long did it take you to feel like yourself again and recover from birth?
I think I hit a big turning point at around 6 weeks postpartum. At 6 weeks postpartum, my doctor cleared me to start working out again (which is the standard timing). That timing definitely wasn’t a coincidence because that was when I started feeling a lot more like myself. Doctors really have it dialed. At around 6 weeks postpartum, I think my hormones started balancing out a bit. Then, at about 3 months postpartum, I think I hit another turning point. Rowan was starting to more consistently sleep through the night and I was finally feeling like myself instead of just on the road to feeling like myself.
At 3 months postpartum, Rowan also officially stopped being a newborn and became much more of a baby. It was a really fun time where it felt like Rowan was making a lot of developmental progress. I felt like myself again and was thoroughly enjoying watching my son come into his little body, develop, progress, and grow. I’ve heard from other mothers that 6 months is often another turning point! We shall see.
Do you fit in your pre baby jeans?
At 4 months postpartum, I just started fitting into some of my more forgiving jeans. I still can’t fit into my favorite pair of jeans that I wore pre-baby so I’m working towards that.
Excitement and Plans for Life as We Know It
With a baby, life changes both so frequently and so infrequently. Our day-to-day remains focused around the same things… feeding, awake time, and napping. It feels pretty absent of change. However, there are so many transitions with little ones that it also feels like something is always changing or adapting. As soon as we get into a grove with something, Rowan gets older or hits a new milestone and transitions to something new.
With this being said, we are so excited for life moving forward! Each month of his life becomes more and more fun as he grows. I have to remind myself sometimes not to be too excited for future milestones and to stop and appreciate where we are now. In the near future, we are incredibly excited to be taking Rowan to California to finally meet Edwin’s parents. I know there is so much fun to come with Rowan and I can’t wait for it all. He is already growing up too quickly!
Thank you for reading the longest post ever!! If you made it this far, I’m impressed! xx