The “fourth trimester” is the colloquial term for the first three months after a baby is born; while the pregnancy may be complete, the rapid changes that tend to take place during this period mean that it definitely merits a term of its own.
As with most things relating to parenthood or even just life itself, the fourth trimester tends to benefit from forward planning – most of which can be done during the pregnancy itself. Planning for those first few months can be incredibly reassuring, and if you want to give it a try, here are a few things you may want to consider…
1) Find ways to make life as simple as possible
During pregnancy, you’ll likely be told – often in a lighthearted way – that you need to “store up sleep” in order to prepare for the fourth trimester, but sadly, this simply isn’t possible. As a result, there’s really no way to prepare your body for the sleep deprivation of the newborn days.
However, you can prepare yourself for the effects of sleep deprivation and how it may make you feel. When sleep-deprived, everything becomes a little more challenging – even simple tasks can suddenly seem complicated, so thinking ahead for ways to make your fourth-trimester life easier can be very advantageous.
There are a few different ways to do this. You can declutter your home entirely and make lists of where everything is stored, so you never have to worry about hunting for something when you’re tired. You can also pre-book grocery deliveries to reduce the need to go to a store during the first few weeks of your baby’s life and arrange recurring subscription deliveries for essentials such as diapers, nursing pads, breast milk storage bags, wipes, and other consumables. Lastly, think about sleep, and how you may be able to make it easier to grab a quick nap whenever you have the opportunity; investing in blackout curtains or a few eye masks can ensure that you can quickly recreate “night-time”. Simplicity is the name of the game when living with sleep deprivation, so think through your usual routine and make it as straightforward, and as little effort, as you possibly can.
2) Your physical health needs
Many new parents find that while they spend a huge amount of time and energy on ensuring the health and well-being of their baby during the first trimester – as is, of course, completely natural – their own health needs tend to fall by the wayside. It’s therefore important to undertake preparations that can ensure your own health needs are met too.
Focus first and foremost, think about meeting your nutritional requirements. You can prepare a few healthy meals in advance and store them in the freezer; these can be a great go-to choice on days when you don’t have the time to cook. You may also want to consider supplements that may be beneficial during the early post-partum days; there are specialist postnatal supplements you can take, and you may also want to consider taking a magnesium supplement while breastfeeding in order to keep your levels of this vital mineral where they need to be. Thinking through all of these concerns and purchasing anything you may need in advance means that the moment you and your baby arrive home, everything you need is already there ready and waiting for you.
Looking a little further ahead, you can also think about the treatments and therapies that can help to continue your recovery after giving birth. Postnatal physiotherapy, exercise classes, yoga, and massage have become increasingly popular over recent years, so you may also want to explore these options. You should find that these kinds of services are very accustomed to accepting bookings far in advance, so you can research different clinics and schedule an appointment during your pregnancy.
3) Your emotional health and well-being
The fourth trimester is full of some of the best moments of your life, as you get to know your baby and delight in every precious moment. Nevertheless, the fourth trimester is also somewhat infamous for the rollercoaster it places parents on: the highs are so very sweet, but there will be occasional lows to contend with too. Many new parents find that they experience issues such as a shortage of time for self-care, and loneliness can also be a significant concern during this precious time.
While there is no real way to prepare yourself emotionally for these issues, there are a few things that you can plan on a practical level that can be useful. Socializing will always be one of the best ways to ward against loneliness; most new parents find that their friends and family are very keen to visit and meet the new baby anyway, so pre-arranging dates with friends and family can ensure a constant stream of interaction and provide you with the reassurance of knowing you’ll always have someone to talk with. It’s also worth considering online options – registering for, and subsequently using, parenting forums may not be quite the same as face-to-face encounters, but they can help to connect you with others who are in the same situation and allow you to feel like part of a group.
When it comes to self-care, there’s nothing quite like the free time that you can use as you please – and you can arrange free time in advance. You can ask loved ones to babysit in advance, so you know you will have at least a few pockets of time to yourself confirmed. What you do with this time is largely a personal choice depending on what you find most relaxing, but do try to think ahead to your preferred activity and, if possible, make arrangements – for example, if you’d find going to a spa for a massage relaxing, make the reservation as soon as possible.
The fourth trimester is undoubtedly a whirl of activity, excitement, and the overwhelming sense of joy that only a new baby can bring. Hopefully, considering the above will allow you to plan for this incredible period of your life.