There are no words to describe Motherhood, and the emotions you are overcome with, when a woman, after carrying life within her for (plus or minus) 40 weeks, finally gives birth. Holding the tangibility of what you’ve been carrying within you for all those weeks is something not one single word can describe.
The world was practically shattered with the news of the death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter- Gianna, the Altobelli family, Sarah Chester and her daughter, Christina Mauser, and the pilot Ara Zobayan. Three daughters passed on on Sunday. And I think I speak for a lot of mothers when I say, we are all shattered thinking about what Vanessa Bryant must be going through. Not only losing her husband, but her daughter also. I can’t help but think how powerful this motherhood community can be, and actually is, when we all see the other as a part of us.
When we don’t judge, and realize, no matter how the other is doing it, or what the other is going through, we are one big family, ready to hold the other up…. I think that is the most powerful!
Today, I am sharing the account of 4 mothers and their fourth trimester journey. Editing this blogpost has been one of my favorite things. Reading an honest account from these fellow first time moms, screaming and texting them: “I thought I was the only one who went through this!’; you don’t know how amazing it felt to know that I am not alone. And my only takeaway for you in this post -Mama- is that you are NOT alone. Through the highs, the lows, the pain, the fears, the indescribable joys, … YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Always remember that!
And now, without further ado:
#RealMotherhoodMoments: An honest account of what the first 12 weeks felt like after baby- by 4 first time moms.
STORY 1- I want to say this is my favorite, but I would honestly say that about EVERY story!
Whatever God has called you to do, He will equip you to do it as well, including motherhood. Decrease the self-doubt and commit it all into His hands.
I won’t lie the 4th trimester was pretty tough and I found myself feeling like;
thank you God for this precious gift, I prayed for this, but why is it so hard?!
Will i ever sleep again?
When will i ever get a hang of things?
If you’re feeling like this, you’re not alone. I promise you, you’re going to get the hang of things, you will find your rhythm in this journey called motherhood.
The 4th trimester is the 12 week period immediately after your baby is born. If you live in Ghana and work a 9 to 5, this is also the standard amount of time your employer will grant you as maternity leave. I remember having some of my colleagues call me to say how they could also use some time off even though they didn’t have a baby.
Please do not be that person!
Maternity leave is not a holiday. You have to cram into 12 weeks, healing your body, getting to know your baby as they change everyday, and establishing a bond before you have to hand over to a caregiver and pray your baby still recognizes you as mom. The truth is that it shakes your confidence and makes you wonder if your team doesn’t need you while you are away, will they need you when you’re back? And how much you might be missing the little moments in your baby’s life. Will everyone forget about you, including your baby? And then when you go back, you might be treated as if you’re distracted and cannot work at full capacity or you’re well rested given the “time off” you had.
As a first time mom, the 4th trimester was extremely overwhelming for me in the beginning and just when baby and I are getting a hang of things, i have to hand her over to a care-giver and head back to work. if I had to sum it up I would say sleep deprivation, tears, hormones and haemorroids, Hahahaha!!
It is such a whirlwind of emotions and you immediately learn the meaning of sacrifice and immense love. For me, I was also reborn in my heart and my soul.
My Husband and I decided to go with zero help. In a bid to overgeneralize, I will say there are 2 types of people. Those who want a lot of people around them during this period and those who don’t. I just felt like it was a time to bond completely with my little one. I only had help for the first 2 weeks, and then subsequently it was hubby and I winging it. Now this is where I tell you to always, always trust your guts and believe that you are your baby’s expert. (please consult your doctor at all times, this is just to say you should not second guess yourself)
I had a vaginal birth with a 1st degree tear in my perineum and so I had to be stitched up and ooo that pain was a 100% more than the birth pains in my experience. I continued to be sore until the 3rd week coupled with swollen feet that only started after delivery. I was given supporsitories to insert since I was breastfeeding; and this wasn’t any easier because I`1 had developed haemorrhoids from the pressure on my cervix. And ooo the incontinence! Anytime I had the urge to pee, before I could get to the bathroom I would have already done it. Thank God for maternity pads and disposable undies (I wanted to live in them for the rest of my life! Such convenience haha). Yes, baby and I were in this diaper business together.
Look, those first 3 weeks were brutal! I felt my body was completely betraying me. I was so scared to pee all the time! It was like shooting daggers at my lady parts! Due to the tear in my perineum, doing number 2 was unimaginable too! And then I just couldn’t eat. I had completly lost appetite and this was affecting my milk supply as well. Within the first week, my weight was lower than my pre-baby weight. It took everything in me to sit through a meal but eventually I was able to get into eating again.
You can imagine my shock after baby was here and my belly still looked pregnant. Only difference was the fact that it wasn’t sturdy, it was now squishy, wrinkly and wobbly. And then it got so so dark and my tiger stripes(stretch marks) were so vibrant. Don’t worry it eventually evened out – the dark spots, that is. I still have my tiger stripes but I have learnt to be proud of this body because it has done such an exceptional job. Truth is that I still haven’t gotten to exercising but I am eating healthy, and a postpartum belt helped to compress my belly to what it was before. Trust me i’m getting in my steps with rocking baby and comforting baby. When you and hubby are the only care givers, it is really hard to fit in anything else. And listen, that whole “sleep when the baby sleeps” does not happen. I mean, when are you going to do the laundry or cook or bath or eat?!
My milk started to come in on the first day, but I had to supplement from the beginning. We are in the 4th month and I’m still supplementing. Look, I engaged lactation consultants, talked to midwives, read books, joined forums online, the whole 9 yards. I have a couple of theories as to why my milk is still wishy washy in supply but that’s another blogplost and honestly I have made peace with it. I really wanted to breastfeed and I have been keeping at it and will do so for as long as she will let me. Supplementing with formula does not mean that I (or anyone else!!) failed at it. Every ounce of breastmilk I am able to provide is just as good. (I am team #fedisbest) My baby is healthy and ace-ing all her milestones so that’s what is important to me.
Emotionally, my anxiety level was through the roof. I still cannot take a shower and not hear her cry in my head. Also, I began to feel touched out. After spending the entire day, feeding, changing diapers, rocking baby to sleep, I found myself not having the capacity for even a hug most times.
And then, there’s always the feeling of whether I am doing enough. There is so much information out there as to how to care for your baby, it can be overwhelming. Am I reading to her enough? Am I engaging her brain enough? Do I get a bumbo seat or do i believe that it will hinder her natural growth? Do i get a walker or that’s also bad? Am i setting her down enough to practice tummy time? Baby led weaning or puree and spoon feed? The list is endless!
Oh, my newborn could cry for African continent! which is understandable because she was getting to know her new environment outside the womb. Now I look at her and I’m amazed at how calm she is now. During the fourth trimester fussiness was the order of the day, and anything other than mummy or daddy’s arms was useless (swings, bouncers, playmats…).
Can someone explain to me why “slept like a baby” is a saying because basically,it means that you slept and woke up every 2 hours to feed!
I found myself stressing over everything that involved baby especially her umbilical cord. I kept finding spots of blood in her clothing after it fell off and it was so scary. I can’t count the number of times we reported it to her doctor. Turned out to be nothing but you can never be too sure. And now I look at how perfectly it has healed and isn’t God amazing?
We found out on day 3 that her eyes were yellowing, so we rushed her to the hospital, where she had to undergo phototherapy. I actually cried with her when her tiny veins were pierced and a line had to be set for her. That was to be able to give her fluids, should she get dehydrated under the light. I was, however, able to breastfeed her in between the sessions and I am still mad at them for inserting the line! (Apparently her bilirubin levels were higher than normal.) After she was discharged, we were asked to expose her to the sun in the mornings when the sun rises and right before the sun sets. After doing this for about a week, we discovered the yellowing had completely disappeared. I cannot begin to describe the level of anxiety this journey brought.
Can we talk about blowouts?! Do you have a newborn if you haven’t experienced blowouts?! Look, I never knew that the poop could get all the way to their backs! Entire outfit is a poopfest. It is so messy! Wow! “How do I clean this mess?! Or do I throw the whole baby away?!” (i kid,i kid!) It became so frequent, we got used to it eventually.
Initially, i was so sure i would not co-sleep but after waking up every 2 hours and alternating with hubby and trying to find a rhythm, we realized that co-sleeping was good for boys and girls. We will figure out how to get her to sleep independently when the time is right and that’s okay. The pressure we were living with trying to get her to sleep alone in her crib alone was affecting us all negatively and once i moved her next to me, she sleeps better and we sleep better. Win win for now
Surviving the 4th trimester;
Even the things that you think are too silly to bother God with, just pray. You’ll be surprised.
Research, research research. spend your 3rd trimester doing research. Please arm yourself with ample information because you will be receiving a lot of mom advice (it is like regular advise, except no one asked for it). If you want to be intentional about raising your little one, then please read for yourself. Go for your hospital appointments and prenatal clinics with questions and information you need confirmation with, so that they are as beneficial as possible. I admit, knowing what to expect can not really prepare you for the actual thing; but believe me, it helps. Use your social media as a beneficial tool. Follow real mom accounts with children almost the same ages as yours, nutritionists, pediatricians, child psychologists, educational specialists on instagram, on youtube, on twitter or facebook. They usually provide practical and free advice and some of them even hold question sessions where they answer your questions for free!
Prepare yourself to take the hits at work. Consider your bundle of joy as your promotion and congratulate yourself. Yes it’s not fair that you will be passed on for doing a natural thing such as having a baby; but it be like that sometimes so expect it and hope that you don’t end up on the shorter end of the stick.
Pace yourself and enjoy the time. I know it is hard to do so in the moment but constantly remind yourself that they are only this age for a short time. Cuddle your little one as long as you want to, i promise you it won’t spoil your little one. On the contrary it will actually enforce security and comfort and you will soon realize that they’re fussing less and less.
Take as many photos as you want, share them with the world or don’t. Just don’t let anyone tell you you’re doing too much. They really really grow up fast!
Also, make sure to journal everything because mom brain is real and I find that it takes off some of the anxiety. I just found an app that lets me document it all so i don’t forget and i’m at ease. So at the end of the day or at any interval i can pull up how many wet diapers, poop or pees or both, which boob i just pumped or nursed, for how long, how many bottles and oz’s of BM or formula. Yes it is that thorough!
Lastly, I realized that it helped a lot to know how much awake time my president should be having generally for her age. It saved me so much time. So i just let her go for an hour and half for example and then like clockwork she starts exhibiting the sleep signs. You can’t miss it. Rubbing her eyes, staring vaguely for so long, being fussy, before I try to get her to sleep. Sounds so simple now haha.
Now let’s get to the good part!
Having my little lady is the best, best thing that has ever happened to me and everyday I look at her and I thank God for allowing me to experience this immense joy, love and light. A couple of nights, I wake up and just worship God because she’s so perfect and she came into our lives just when we needed her! She fills my life and my heart with so much joy, it feels like it’s going to burst! The challenges are endless but so are the rewards! I’m such a sucker for her toothless grins and it’s such a honor to have her completely rely on hubby and I for everything. Most days, I just can’t stop staring at her, even through the mess. we look forward to all the new phases that are up ahead, knowing that God will equip us to excel.