My Fourth Trimester - by Emma
"It was after a long and arduous labor that we welcomed our first born earthside. A gorgeous perfectly healthy little bundle. We were grateful for this baby, we had lost our first pregnancy, and we were so very keen to become parents.
Despite this I don’t ever remember feeling an immediate or overwhelming connection with our new baby. I remember a long and traumatic labor and birth, and a feeling of relief when it was finally over. I remember calling family and friends and rejoicing in our news, but never enjoying our newborn. He was taken straight after his birth and wrapped. I never offered him the breast, and no one suggested I should. I do remember feeling when I met him, that it felt like we had known each other forever, and I just couldn’t stop staring at our beautiful and perfect baby boy.
I had read books and talked with family and friends, but nothing could have prepared me for bringing home our newborn. Everyone had an opinion on what we should do, but few felt right..... bottle feed him, let him cry, he must be in his own bed, walk him in a pram, don’t spoil him.....
I know these things work for some, but these things never sat well with me. I felt like I was being flooded with advice, which instinctively I did not want to follow, and in turn began to feel like a failure as a mother and wife. I felt very quickly that I lost my identity as a person, and that I was ‘just’ a mum. I measured myself by others high standards. Everyone else seemed to cope so well, yet I felt I was spiraling into a sleep deprived out of control wreck.
When our baby was 6 months old I chose to return to work, while my husband stayed home with our baby. A few weeks later I found out I was pregnant with our second baby.
Fast forward to birth of baby number 2. A totally different experience again. Another beautiful baby boy. My baby is placed on my tummy immediately after birth, and I am encouraged and able to breast feed him straight away. I still feel like I am treading water (baby no. 1 is 17 months old when no. 2 is born), but somehow I make it through the early months. People don’t offer advice this time, though everyone has an opinion. I manage to feed this baby through to 12 months, we choose to co sleep from the start, and I wear this baby in a sling so that I can still tend the needs of my now toddler. I still don’t enjoy motherhood like I think I should, still feel like a failure, and I swear I will not have any more children.
A few years later I change my mind. We decide to try for another baby. We sadly lost another pregnancy, but eventually fell pregnant again. We were overjoyed. The birth of this baby was healing and empowering for me. This time I had the confidence to do things differently, in the way that felt right for our family. I was confident enough to say exactly what would and wouldn’t happen at my baby’s birth, and I stood up for my rights. Our third born arrives earthside in a rush, and is not breathing when he is born. There is an agonising wait for the first cry, and after a few minutes it finally happens. We have another perfect little boy. We spend time having skin on skin, and I soak in his smell. We come home and I actually enjoy this baby. Every. Single. Minute. I am confident in my parenting decisions, and I know I am absolutely making the best choices for all of us. We co sleep, breast feed until nearly 3 years old, we parent gently........ it is amazing how different I feel about myself, my husband and our family.
I don’t talk about our parenting choices with family or friends. I know that many of them won’t agree. It’s okay though. I feel confident enough to tell people when I don’t agree with them (in a polite way of course), and I am still confident about our choices, but it is isolating for me. Then, by pure chance I meet someone, and I discuss with her my feelings of isolation because of our parenting choices, she introduces me to a group of women who parent similarly. I have somewhere I can openly discuss our parenting choices. It is validating and empowering.
I feel blessed and honoured to be having this parenting experience, to be enjoying my family and to be happy and healthy..... and then surprise, I am pregnant again. This baby was not what we had planned for our family. It puts a strain on our marriage, and takes us some time to get to the point of being okay about it. At first I felt a deep sense of shame, how could I be so stupid! Then I am upset, this was not in the plans, I have an awesome new job and life is perfect....... but we deal with it, and so, baby number four is born, a girl, birthed peacefully into water. A perfect birth. I am the first to touch our baby when I scoop her out of the water, and we have immediate skin on skin, just her and I with her daddy watching on. It is so surreal, and peaceful. Again, I am confident in my parenting. I now have friends who parent similarly. I can go to them if I need advice or support, and I know I will not be judged for my parenting choices. I am open about our choice to wear our baby, to co sleep and to breast feed. I talk to others about it, I am confident, and I know we are doing the very best for our family. Again I enjoy every minute of our new addition, but this time it feels like it’s going too fast! I secretly will time to slow down, but it doesn’t, so I start practicing living in the now.
Now I marvel at how a baby can come into our lives, and not divide our love, but multiply it. I feel strong and confident in our parenting choices, and know we are doing what is right for our family. I honor my body and the 4 babies it has grown and birthed into this world. I understand that for mothers, feeling supported in our choices and connected to others is more important that living up to an ideal of how things should be. I understand that birth does matter, and that the trauma we suffer can go beyond the realms of understanding and affects our psyche in the deepest and most profound ways.
Beyond this I have learnt that finding a place to belong, to be heard and be accepted is significant in our parenting journey. Having a village where we can be open and honest about where we are at, and where people can hold us when we need is important. A loving group of mummas also taught me how invaluable a weeks’ worth of home cooked meals is for a new mother and her family.
My heart swells with great love and deep sorrow when I think about my first tiny newborn entering our realm. I am saddened that I did not have the strength or wisdom to enjoy his babyhood, and instead I wished it away. I also know that I am blessed through this experience. I was able to learn and grow, and begin to appreciate my children, husband and myself in such different ways.
I have learned that time passed is time past, every moment of every day is a once in a lifetime moment. We can’t go back and change things, we can’t buy more time, but we can stop and smell the roses now. "
About the Author
Emma is a Mum of 4, wife, daughter, sister, friend. Dedicating her life to spreading kindness and raising gentle, compassionate and happy beings.
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Contact me through my website for submission details or more information.
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Kelly Harper is the owner of Elemental Beginnings Doula & Placenta Services in Adelaide. She provides placenta encapsulation and doula services to families during pregnancy, birth and in their fourth trimester.