The Fourth Trimester – Highs and Lows

Heidi Skudder Parenting

Fourteen weeks old and counting. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish that time would stand still, and I could cuddle my newborn baby boy forever. We no longer fit into that “take it easy, you have a newborn” category and life is mostly back to normal… I’m both excited but with a tinge of sadness that we wave goodbye to those early weeks and look forward to the months to come.

Rupert’s arrival into the world wasn’t exactly straightforward, and I still haven’t managed to have the time or emotional energy to sit down and write all about his birth. I should definitely do that soon as although I don’t think I will forget it, I would like to put pen to paper. But even after his birth, we have been tested with one thing after another, and at times it has been important to remember that no matter how bad the tongue tie seemed, or reflux was, he is still ultimately a healthy baby and we were lucky to walk away from the hospital after day three with no serious medical concerns hanging over us.

After having dealt with the tongue tie, our Reflux journey has mostly dominated the fourth trimester. This and also working on his sleep and routine, to make sure that he is a well rested baby! I can honestly say that I have worked super hard on getting his sleep sorted, and I know that this is not something some think is important or works for them in those early weeks, but it is my profession and so of course I wanted to try and help him become the best little sleeper he could…not only because it is my job, but also because I passionately believe that setting up sleeping habits in the first four months pays dividends in the future for the babies health, temperament and general happiness and wellbeing.

When the reflux first started at 5 or so weeks, I was sure that it wouldn’t be ongoing for too long. However, with all of the trial and error needed, at 14 weeks we are still working out exactly what milk/meds is the best combination for him, and his sleep is still being affected to some degree. As anyone with a reflux baby knows, you think something is working and then all of a sudden it regresses again. The highs and lows of being a mummy of a reflux baby are so intense – one minute you are jumping from the roof tops about him being super comfortable and finally turning a corner, and the next you are crying to your husband that evening that things have gone backwards and wondering whether there will ever be an end to it all?

We are so lucky in that Rupert is and always has been a super smiley little boy. Of course genetics and personality plays a huge part in how content a baby is, but I genuinely believe that it is also very much that he has his little routine every day, and is confident settling himself to sleep meaning he is well rested and able to deal with the discomfort of the reflux itself.

Reflux aside, for me the fourth trimester has been all about getting to know my baby boy. I am in the lucky position of having had experience caring for hundreds of babies, so I wasn’t all that overwhelmed by the idea of being at home alone all day with a newborn. My fondest memories have been of the times we have spent just sat looking at each other and practising that first smile and the “Ahh Goo’s” that go with it. In fact, sometimes I had to actually force myself out of the house because I was just too happy and cosy at home cuddling my baby.

Then of course I had my return to work to balance, taking on clients as early as week three and then being fully back to work from week 7 with my consultation, classes and other Parent and Baby Coach commitments. This was something that in the first couple of weeks I had mixed feelings about – leaving my baby with someone else to get working again doesn’t exactly come naturally to a new mum. However, I was lucky to find a very caring nanny who comes in and helps with Rupert twice a week, whilst I get business things sorted or visit clients. I had to remind myself at times of the benefits of working for myself. Although starting back to work had to happen early, I am around the house and will never have to return to a full time “office hours” type job, which means I will get to see Rupert more, something I have to remind myself of often.

Then of course there are the changes in body image that you have to deal with as a new mummy. Those first four weeks go by in an instant and most days are spent not even getting dressed, let alone putting any make up on or doing your hair. I first had a trip to the hairdressers at week 7, which made me feel so much better, but I have still struggled with not looking myself and quite frankly how haggered and tired I seem to look. Although back in my jeans, breastfeeding restricts the clothing you can wear so even if I could fit into my old Heidi clothes, a lot of them are still in a pile waiting to come back into the mix for when I finally say goodbye to popping my boob out every couple of hours.

The fourth trimester is a period of time that the baby transitions from womb to real life and is still physically and emotionally dependent on you as a parent to keep them alive. I would also add though that your relationship goes through some sort of fourth trimester where its whole entire functioning as you know it goes completely bottoms up! Having seen so many clients go through these changes, I was well armed with a plan of how I would help Rowan (my husband), to feel confident with our baby and be ok with the sleepless nights (separate rooms), whilst working so hard.

What I hadn’t anticipated though was the constant arguments, fights and disagreements we have had in the last three months. Now don’t get me wrong, those first few weeks were full of love and total admiration from my husband at having gone through what I did to give birth to our son. However, once he was back at work, I couldn’t help but feel in his eyes life had gone back to normal, and meanwhile I was at home trying to juggle a newborn, household admin, our dog and then to add to the mix a business that needs a good few hours of TLC too. He was bottom of the pile and we had entered “survival” mode and we were doing that, just surviving.

It wasn’t really until week twelve when it all came to a head, that we had to sit down and agree responsibilities and work out our new life and how it would function. From what time I can do calls in the evenings, to who would do bathtime, we listed EVERYTHING on paper and since then we have functioned so much better. Don’t get me wrong, we love our family time together and staring at our little man constantly. But becoming a new parent is TOUGH on your relationship, and I can see how easy it would be to not survive this difficult time. It takes energy, commitment and real patience, all whilst thinking about a little person over and above yourself, feeling like you no longer look like the woman he chose to marry, and feeling about as attractive as Daddy pig.

So its goodbye to the fourth trimester, and everything that comes with it. I genuinely feel sad to not be able to say I have a newborn anymore. I even miss those nights of being up for hours, with a tiny little thing that is hanging from you to feed. I have scrolled through my phone looking at all of his photos so many times in the last week or so, remembering and clinging on to those precious memories! There is so much more to come though, and I am often told it only ever gets better, and that actually you are always pining for the last stage, whilst looking onto the new stage with huge excitement. If mindfulness has taught me anything (aside from being incredibly useful in birthing!), it is to be grateful for this moment now, and not take anything forgranted, so with that in mind I am off to kiss my baby goodnight and watch him fall asleep…just because I can.