I had never heard of the 4th trimester prior to becoming pregnant or even during my pregnancy. In fact, I didn’t hear about it or understand what it is until I was smack dab in the middle of it. Have you heard of the 4th trimester before? I have talked to other new moms about this and they have been as baffled as I am about the fact that the “4th Trimester” isn’t openly talked about. I think it’s something that should be covered in at least one of the pregnancy classes every hospital recommends you take. There should be some serious time devoted to explaining how you are going to feel and how to emotionally deal with it. Not just for the mom, but for Dad too!
For us, the 4th Trimester was a true test of my husband and I’s relationship. We had premature twins who spent 3+ weeks in the NICU before we brought them home. I had 6 weeks pre-birth of bed rest in the hospital with a couple of pre-term labor scares and lots of scary twin pregnancy health issues. This was scary and stressful for us but also for our families. Then once the twins arrived via C-section, I had to recover from that and the pre-term pre-eclampsia symptoms; swelling, high blood pressure symptoms such as sever headaches, loss of movement which caused my entire body to just hurt. Walking up the stairs to our condo the first night back home, took an eternity for me and it was really hard.
As I was recovering from my C-section, my incision got infected and my husband had to pack it for me twice a day for a week or so. This was very uncomfortable and pretty gross. My husband did a great job, but it wasn’t pleasant for either of us. I also had a huge blood clot form in my uterus that was causing my uterus to not contract back to it’s normal size. Because of this, about 3 weeks post partum, I had to have a D & C performed. This procedure was minor and my recovery from it was relatively easy. I basically needed 24 hours of rest and then I was feeling back to normal again. This was a good thing, as the day before my D & C, George, came home. Then the day after my D & C, Gifford came home. It was nice having one night with just George and luckily, my in-laws were still here to help and to drive me home from the hospital so that my husband could stay home with George while I had the D & C performed. I won’t lie, it was a lot all at once and looking back, I’m surprised I handled it all as well as I did.
All of this, took a huge toll on me emotionally. Top that with not getting a lot sleep and you have raw nerves, emotional responses to other people’s comments or behaviors, and just a zombie like state that you live in every day for months. It’s a bit of an oxymoron, your body has just gone through probably one of the most traumatic things it will ever go through. Your body needs rest to recover from that trauma but you have this newborn or in our case, two newborns who need your full attention every 2 to 3 hours. Just when you finish taking care of them and lay your head down to rest, they need something else or you have to start the cycle all over again. So, during the 4th Trimester, you don’t really get the rest your body needs to recover from it’s trauma and your mind doesn’t get the rest it needs to rejuvenate and replenish itself.
I know during this time, which I’m just now coming out of, I didn’t understand why I felt so emotional (luckily, I didn’t suffer from postpartum depression like so many other new moms), inadequate and just exhausted more than I’ve ever experienced before in my life time. Every one tells you, “Just wait! You are going to be so tired.”, but until you are in the throws of it, you don’t really get it, especially if you are parents of multiples. Take your exhaustion level and multiply it by 2, 3 or how many babies you have. It’s unbelievable to me that we made it through. We had some pretty awful sleep deprived snaps and I honestly didn’t know if we were going to make it through. I didn’t recognize the man who was snapping at me in the middle of the night and all I could do was cry. I cried more in the first 3 months of my children’s lives than I ever have and unfortunately, the tears weren’t tears of joy. They were tears of sadness, hurt, frustration, anger and just pure depletion. I was so depleted in every way. I wasn’t sleeping, eating or hydrating enough. I always felt inadequate as a mom and wife. Not a good way to feel. I was on the brink of breaking down into a sobbing mess daily. More than once, I did break down into a sobbing mess. I’m not too proud to admit this.
Luckily, that phase passed and we did…make it through and I’m happy to say that at almost 5 months post partum, we are all doing much better. We are on a better sleep and eating schedule. The twins are sleeping trough the night with an occasional pacifier needed in the middle of the night. My husband and I are getting much better at figuring out what the different cries and sounds mean so that we can comfort and soothe our boys better. As a couple, we are being nicer to each other and the snapping and crying has stopped. Thank goodness!
For the most part, we are very lucky, our twins are good babies (all babies are good, but ours aren’t fussy or colicky). They are only fussy or cry when they are hungry, wet or tired. They are starting to smile more and giggling is a new thing that I just love. They started noticing each other more about a month ago and that has been fun. They hold hands and touch each other during tummy and play time.
I have also hired a helper to come over and help me 2 sometimes 3 days a week for 2 or 3 hours at a time. On the days I don’t have help, I don’t get much done. It’s not a horrible thing, because I love holding the boys and playing with them but I also love having clean clothes to wear and clean dishes to eat off of. I’m probably more particular about my house than I need to be, but I feel better about myself and my environment if my house is tiddy and clean. I’m doing the best I can and I actually have let some things go. You may not know that if you stopped over for a visit, but I’m not as up tight over my house as I used to be. Now, if there are dishes in the sink or more than a couple of loads of laundry, that’s ok. The twins are my priority and making sure they are healthy and happy is my main goal. I am loving being a mom and can’t wait for all that entails.
Back to the 4th Trimester…if you are in the throws of it now, I empathize with you and hope that you have support and help to see you through it. Luckily for us, my in-laws were here for some of it and we have an amazing group of friends who all pitched in to bring dinner, come over and cook dinner, hang out with the twins so I could nap or take a shower once my husband went back to work. If you live away from family & friends, join some Mommy groups on Facebook or at your church. Ask for help at church or from your co-workers. People genuinely want to help, they just don’t know what you need help with. Be specific with your asks and you’ll be surprised at the friends/acquaintances who will be happy to come over and help you navigate your 4th Trimester with grace and gratitude. If you have any tips for other Moms going through the 4th Trimester, please leave a comment. Or if you are a Mom going through the 4th Trimester now and need support, please leave a comment. I will do my best to find resources that will support and help you in anyway I can. Most importantly, remember that this too shall pass and you will sleep again and feel more like yourself. These first 3 months home with your baby or babies are tough, so go easy on yourself and do the best you can to take care of yourself while you are taking care of your new bundle of joy!