Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Fourth Trimester

Have you heard the term 'fourth trimester'? See, the idea is that our babies are born too early, an evolutionary trade-off for having such big brains in their big heads, while they can still fit through relatively narrow upright-walking pelvises. So they are helpless in way that the babies of other species are not. And we as mothers remain their home in a very real way after birth. We can somewhat arbitrarily think of the first three months of a baby's life as the 'fourth trimester' of pregnancy. I like this idea, because it makes you reevaluate the cultural expectation to 'get back to normal'. It's an intense period - it's supposed to be intense. Why should my babies be 'learning independence' when they, really, are so small and helpless they shouldn't even be out in the world yet? Of course they don't want to be put down, or left on their own. That said, I've got things to do still - I want to play with F, bake our bread, and you know, shower and sleep occasionally. Some thoughts on getting through it:

Sling it: I'm a big believer in the sling. Carried babies are happy babies, simple as that. Keeping them upright also means they get nice, big, hidden burps out, and they're less likely to get that flat-head-thing from being in the pram all the time. Have you seen that? Babies are spending so much time on their backs that they have to wear helmets! Poor little things, and what a pain for the moms! Anyway, with both babies, the Moby wrap was wonderful for the very early days around the house, and I keep eyeing up ring slings for when he can sit up more (drooling over a linen Sakura Bloom). And once you work out how to nurse in the sling, you're golden. For out and about, we couldn't do without the Ergobaby.

Nourish: It's a balance, obviously, because we're short of time, but I feel so strongly that good, real food will keep us all going. A diet of snatched biscuits and convenience foods will leave you feeling depleted. My freezer stash was/is a lifesaver, but I've actually found that I do still have the desire to cook, especially because I'm feeding F as well as myself.  Not just in the postpartum period, but in life, I think that exercising discipline when you shop makes all the difference when you come to eat. What will save you time, without sacrificing decent nutrition? Maybe springing for pre-chopped veggies for a few weeks, maybe some wholesome canned goods (I think I've said before that I'm a big fan of Amy's soups), maybe you can give your partner (or mom) your favourite cookbook and say "anything from this, please". Something usually has to give for convenience, and when that something isn't nutrition, it's often the budget. I try to remember that these shortcuts aren't forever, and try to balance in other ways, for instance I'm spending more on our groceries right now, but eating out less. 

Snack: I have a strong appetite when I'm nursing, and with H. being such a big boy, I feel like I'm hungry all the time! Again, it needn't be time consuming. In fact, some of the simplest snacks are wholesome enough. Think of things you might also feed a toddler: carrot sticks, hummus, fruit, seed and nut butters. You can do a lot worse than good old peanut butter and apple slices. Stock up on healthy snacks like you're planning a road trip. Currently, I'm never without fruit, nuts, seeds, avocados, granola, non-dairy yogurt - in essence, low-effort, high-energy. Although I'm not dieting (I never diet), I am trying to stick to foods that offer something.

Stay home: Most of try to do too much too soon, if you ask me. You're getting to know this tiny new person. You're nursing around the clock. You're healing. Staying close to home means that you're more likely to sleep when you have the opportunity, and you're more likely to make good food choices. There's a practice that has fallen out of favour in our culture, lying-in; it used to be recommended to literally stay in bed for weeks following the birth of a child. That seems imminently sensible to me, if not practical. It is practical, however, to keep the long jaunts to a minimum - you'll be glad you did!

Prioritise: Since we can't do everything, we'll need to choose what's most important. To me, for instance, it's been important to keep my kitchen ticking over - not just for F, but for myself. But I've been excusing myself from some social engagements, just to save energy. And no one can tell you what's important to you; maybe skipping the shopping, but meeting friends for brunch is a better use of your energy? I'm an introvert by nature (though not a shy one - introverted doesn't mean shy!), and I find that especially right now, social interaction can be exhausting if I'm not careful to balance it out with quiet home time. Maybe you'd be better off keeping on top of the laundry, but using paper plates for a couple weeks? With a toddler around, a tidy home actually makes my life easier, but tidy doesn't mean spotless. We will survive dirty windows, I'm fairly confident.

Delegate: Most of the moms I know, in my little urban bubble, were badass professional women well before having kids. They know how to get things done. So why should they feel that they've got to do everything themselves? Delegate that shit, wherever you can. Ask your partner to do specific things that you don't have time for (for real, they might not know every little thing that needs doing). And if you don't have a lot of family support, and you can afford it, paying for some help is a fine idea - a cleaner every now and then, a postpartum doula, a few hours of childcare for older children. Even just doing the grocery shopping online is a huge time saver. I know my privilege is showing right now, but I still say take help where you can get, even the paid-for variety. 

Try to enjoy it: I know, its a hard time. But its also a time of special sweetness. This season of life has been a more wonderful gift than I ever expected. I mean, check them out:

Peering over the Moses basket:

At him:

Anyway, soon enough we'll be on to the next phase with it's unknown challenges. Here we go!

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