Today I want to talk to you about what’s going to happen once your baby finally arrives. It’s not something that we often talk about in the lead up to a birth. We are absolutely consumed by creating the most positive experience, or hopefully you feel consumed by wanting to create the most positive birth experience for you, your birth partner if you have one, and of course, your baby. But sometimes, we don’t pay any attention to what happens once the baby finally arrives. So, let’s do this now.
Any mother who is really honest with you will tell you that that is the time that the work really starts. I like to think that actually the work that we do in the Calm Birth School during our pregnancy really sets us up for being able to deal with all of the things that we have not got a clue about. Every single time our baby cries and we can’t settle them immediately, all of the late nights and lack of sleep, that sense of being able to return to your breath and manage your emotions and focus on the things that you can control and let go of the things that you can’t control are all things that you have been developing during your pregnancy. So by the time that your baby arrives, whilst it still is going to be a baptism of fire, you have some tools in your back pocket that are really going to help you during what can be challenging times.
But what I wanted to focus on today is the idea of and the philosophy around the fourth trimester. This is something that I bought into a little bit with my first and took it not to the extreme but really, really focused on nurturing that immediate time post-birth. Maybe in some baby books, they’ll talk about the Golden Hour after your baby’s been born and ideally, the benefits of having that skin to skin time and being really close. It’s allowing you to bond with your baby and connect with them. Even though you haven’t had eyeball to eyeball before, they will recognise your smell and recognise your voice and that will be really comforting to them.
However, after that first hour, I think often in Western society we, as women, are either expected to (or feel that we need to) kind of get back in the saddle within two or three days of baby arriving. The fourth-trimester approach is the antithesis of that. It’s about creating time for you and your family to bed in with this new human being that you want to get to know and minimising contact with the rest of the world, particularly during the first 40 days after birth.
I have to say, I’ve done this three times now and the third time was the most beautiful for me because I didn’t have any guests for the first week. Now, that was hard to say that this is what I wanted, but again, I’d had the practice of asking questions, using my brain, stating my needs and wants during my pregnancy. As this was our last baby, the last time I was going to do it, whilst it was hard for the grandparents to take a little bit of a step back, I was really clear that I didn’t want to have any visitors for the first week.
I stayed in bed for two whole weeks. I think I must have gotten dressed once to go to the doctor’s, but other than that I was in my dressing gown, in my bedroom, being waited on hand and foot, and just staring at this gorgeous new human being. It was the best experience for myself and for my baby. It was so, so beautiful. The anecdotal feedback about how mothers and babies respond to each other when given that space, the opportunity that you give yourself to start really reading your baby’s cues, that removal of the pressure to be tidying up your house and making people cups of tea and thinking about whether you’re going to have to feed them or not, or if you’re breastfeeding and still getting used to it, not having to kind of whop your bap out in front of your neighbours and your friends and everybody in that first week or so, it is really, really beneficial.
I invite you to look at your post-birth times, particularly the first couple of weeks, and talk to your birth partner, if you have one, about your preferences. What would you like to happen during those first couple of weeks? How might your partner or doula or mother be able to help you during your pregnancy to prepare for those two weeks? How can you think about the type of conversation that you might want to have with your in-laws or people that you feel that you may need to make an effort with beforehand to let them know that you’re going to be battening down the hatches and taking time to get to know your baby once they arrive? It’s really useful to think about what you might want and then just let people know. It’s your body, your baby, your time, and actually, asking people to wait for a few days is not a big deal at all.