Letter to My 4th Trimester Self

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Disclosure: this is a sponsored post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Given this time of year and its emphasis on reflection and gratitude, and the fact that this is also the month of baby girl's birth, I wanted to reflect and share my experience as a new mother, with gratitude for the support systems during this critical time. I partnered with the 4th Trimester Project, a project that brings together new mothers, health care providers, researchers and other stakeholders to build knowledge about postpartum health issues.  Learn more about the 4th Trimester Project, share your story, get involved here

I was looking for a random document this past week when I inevitably ran into all the file folder I haven’t yet refiled in a filing cabinet (I don’t know why, y’all. Why do I still have papers and why are they not yet filed?!). But, I digress.

I found old documents. My birth certificate, my mom’s naturalization certificate, old immunization records of my siblings. Also in the stash? A letter I wrote to my mom almost 21 years ago to the day. The. Feels.

I’m beyond moved that she kept this letter and wonder what it meant to her. I think I was a lot wiser back then. First of all, I had some nerve telling my mom some things. Second of all, I wish I’d given myself some of this advice!

My life was turned upside down when I had a baby. For so many reasons. So much of that time is a blur. So much of that time I wish I had back. I need a 4th trimester mulligan, folks. By the way, the 4th trimester is those 12 weeks after the baby gets here. The one we hardly talk about but need to.

I know I can’t turn back time. I think of that woman now, not knowing the major life changes that were just around the corner and I want to give her a great big hug and hand her this letter to read…

Dear Sili,

I’m SO proud of you! I know you didn’t have the birth you had planned but you have a beautiful little girl that is everything! Yes, you’ll still be in awe that you are a MAMI almost 8 years later. It doesn’t get old, this Mamihood thing.

This letter I wish to hand you the morning after her birth. When you are still hazy with tiredness and joyful from all of the hormones coursing through your system. I know you want to do it differently, want to carve your own path but, I hope you’ll keep these things in mind.

Call the lactation consultant again! No, not the pregnant one that will see the Frog Princess latch and tell you everything is okay. If you have a weird feeling like maybe an LC didn’t understand you or that you aren’t entirely satisfied with the response, ask the hospital for an outside referral. Or call the doula and ask her for a recommendation.

Why do I want you to do this? Because 2 weeks from now you will be in tears nursing your baby girl in the middle of the night and feeling like you are failing when you are not. Because you will actually making more milk than you need to (tell Mami to chill on all her lactating remedies! They’re working too well!). The baby is latching off to stop the stream of awesome and causing a bad latch that is leading to your chewed up gummy bears! Handle that shit, mama!

If at all possible, try to get out of the house to go to one of the Mami and baby classes you look online for but never go to. I know you feel like you wake up and then the entire day gets away from you. That’s okay! The new normal can be overwhelming even with a new baby! The house doesn’t have to be perfect. And neither do you.

Along the lines of getting out of the house, head on over to Mami’s a bit more. Maternity leave will fly by and you will feel as if you didn’t spend enough time with her. Things will also be rocky with her health-wise and I think it’ll be good for both of you to spend a good amount of time together now.

Don’t forget to go back and check in with your midwives. I know that you ended up with Dr. Edwards at the hospital but, your midwives have your back and letting them know how you are feeling will allow for them to help you understand why you are feeling the way you’re feeling and ensure that this 4th trimester is happy and healthy!

Which reminds me: STAY HOME FOR THE 12 WEEKS JUST LIKE YOU ORIGINALLY PLANNED. The bills will resolve themselves with the planning you did and you, Mami and the baby will be better adjusted for it.

I know you feel as if you have to do every single thing in life. You are an amazing project manager so, I am going to ask one last thing: delegate! That wonderful photoshoot you want but haven’t had time to research? Delegate it. The top to bottom cleaning of the house you secretly wish you could do when no one is looking? Delegate it.

The one thing I don’t want you to delegate? Your self-care. Those words might seem foreign but they will define your well-being and help your mental health in ways that you cannot imagine. Don’t delegate self-care. It’s okay to leave the baby for a couple of hours with her dad. Let him know that just as he takes time, you need time as well.

Along those lines, speak up! Don’t be afraid to communicate your needs to those closest to you. It will help everyone involved and ensure that the entire family have a healthy 4th trimester.

I love you,

You

The 4th Trimester Project is important to me because while I was ecstatic and happy that I’d brought a new life into this world, this was the time when the foundation of care should’ve been laid and for me, it did not. It felt like the opposite happened. I can’t go back and change it, but I can make sure that other women understand the importance of it.

What do you wish you’d known or done during those first 12 weeks after the baby was born? What do you want other Mamis to keep in mind during this time?

Share YOUR experience or write a letter to YOURSELF. The 4th Trimester Project has branded items to offer for those who want to share their new mama stories (Email SuzanneW@med.unc.edu if you want in!).