Finding my way after the 4th Trimester

I wrote and vlogged about the three trimesters of pregnancy and haven’t found the time or the motivation to share much since then. I might at some point write about the 4th trimester (the first 12 weeks after having a baby) as there is a lot to discuss, however, I felt it more important to write about the next stages. There isn’t a name or term for it, it’s just Motherhood, but the different stages and challenges don’t appear to be as widely discussed as pregnancy and that first 3 months post partum.

The 4th trimester was relatively straightforward for me. I was very lucky to recover quickly from labour and birth; I was in a good place mentally and motherhood felt natural. I’m so very fortunate for all of this and know would not have been in this position if it hadn’t been for the support around me. I’m not saying I didn’t face any challenges. There were some seriously tough times, tears and tantrums, worries, upset and questions. Questioning myself about every single little thing. Was that normal? Should she be doing this yet? Why is she crying? The usual.

Overall, though, I was well and truly in that newborn bubble; finally understanding what all the fuss was about. We had a super chilled newborn! The snuggles, the first smiles, the first everything’s, the breastfeeds, even the sleepless nights, the poo explosions and the tears; made me feel like the luckiest woman in the world! Motherhood is the greatest gift I have ever been given and by far my proudest achievement yet.

What I didn’t realise during pregnancy, even during that 4th trimester was how hard it would become as you adapt to normal life outwith that newborn bubble.

At 10 months post partum, I’m now fortunate to be reflecting back on what was the toughest few weeks of feeling the lowest I think I’ve ever felt. More on that in a bit, but it’s important to say that the last few weeks, (probably months now, as it’s taken me so long to finish writing this!) have been the absolute best and that’s why I’ve decided now is a good time to share this. It’s human nature to share the best, yet always seem reluctant to share the tough parts.

So much happens after the 4th trimester. At 3 months old; babies are still babies. Yes, they’re always developing; surprising and pleasing us every day with something new, but it’s not until the next few months that they start figuring the world out and developing their own personality.

Watching April figure out how to get around the room; from crawling backwards, to planking and push ups, to kind of shuffling/rolling from A to B, to crawling, to climbing, to standing unaided to moving around the furniture at great speed to walking just holding on to one of my fingers, and now, taking upto 10 steps unaided!

Hearing her say her first word; Mama by the way! followed by her second; Dada and then develop sounds like words which slowly seem to be turning into actual words; yeah and bye.

Watching her learn how to communicate; first clapping her hands, then waving, then using body language and pointing to tell us what he wants, to shaking her head and now, her ability to put all of this into context.

Watching her get to know her cousin; just 4 weeks apart in age and getting to know themselves, each other and the world around them together.

Seeing her first teeth pop through; two in the space of about 3 days and her wondering for a few more days what these foreign objects are in her mouth.

Helping her into a nap and sleep routine which gives us all more sleep and structure.

Joining and running Mum and Baby groups together and watching her little face light up when we walk into a room full of little people, just like her.

Watching her facial expressions as she tries different tastes, textures and types of food, learning how to feed herself to now; using a spoon like a pro. Her way of telling us she is finished is just so funny too and then the big task of cleaning up the aftermath.

Seeing the sass and cheek shine through! Wanting to touch everything she knows she shouldn’t and the cutest little grin that follows when you say no!

I could go on for so much longer but in short, it’s just been the best time and she fills me with so much joy, pride and happiness every single day!

All these milestones that we share with family and friends and with the world.

What isn’t shared as much though as the struggles that come with all of this. Everyone asks how you’re doing during those first few months and if you’re coping well and settling into the role of motherhood well by the end of that three months, it’s as if you’ve passed some sort of test and will automatically absolutely nail it for the rest. I certainly felt this way, or at least until the challenges that came with all of these milestones took me completely by surprise!

I’m sure during that fourth trimester, I complained at times that I didn’t have any time to do anything. Only now, on reflection, do I realise that I had lots of it. When she was a tiny newborn, I could take her places without any issues (other than the major upheaval with all of the changes of clothes etc!). I could sit on my laptop, doing a bit of work while she played on her mat or in her bouncer. I could prepare food, and even eat it, while she slept and I could go for a shower with minimal disruption.

Now, all of these tasks are only possible for a few minutes at a time, when she’s sleeping or whenever Mat or a family member is with me. Taking a 10 month old to a nail or brow appointment isn’t even an option, having a laptop on my knee is like all her Christmases came at once (that screen and all those buttons!) and eating food, well, what even is a full meal any more?!

The thing I struggled with the most though is generally balancing it all enough to still feel like me. I went back to work for a few clients when April was 10 weeks old and it worked well; either taking her with me or a family member would sit with her. Now, I’ve condensed my working hours into two long-ish days and I have family childcare for both, which I am so grateful for. It’s just the best feeling being able to work and not having to worry about where or who April is with, or indeed the cost of it!

What I didn’t take into consideration though was that for those 2 full days of face to face work, I still have another full day, at least of admin for the business to do, as well as general; life stuff like renewing insurance policies or whatever. Admin was one of those things I could just do in stages in those earlier days. Now, there’s little chance of achieving anything and I find myself sat at the laptop at 5am or 8pm; only just doing the bare minimum to get by!

I absolutely love what I do and there’s so much I still want to do to progress both personally and with my business. I’ve got courses for other qualifications sitting unfinished, a waiting list for clients and online stuff started, yet not live. Even this blog has taken me over a month!

For a while there, the stress and anxiety caused by not getting a chance to do the things I wanted was really getting me down.

It wasn’t just work related either. Those nail or brow appointments I mentioned earlier… they suddenly require childcare and asking for more support in addition to my work days, fills me with guilt.

Even my training sessions are often cut short or done pre 6am so that I knew I could get it done. I often find myself making a decision between sleep or going to the gym; not a very healthy position to be in!

I signed up to a few Mum and Baby classes as a chance to destress and socialise with other Mums, but to be honest, even those sometimes added stress too. They shouldn’t have, and it is lovely to chat to other Mums, but quite often they interfered with nap or feed times which caused more stress later. With Covid restrictions as they have been too, making new Mum friends at these classes has been tough.

Filling the diary with classes also meant even less time for the admin and study that I was falling behind on and the housework and boring adult jobs also had to wait; all things that I thought I’d feel better once they were done.

I didn’t see much of my friends either which made me feel worse too, but trying to plan visits in between everything else just felt stressful. Trips out to do nice things were often spent driving around for an extra hour to let April sleep and were timed around feeds and naps; leaving me quite restricted and definitely not as relaxed as I should be!

I felt so busy all the time, yet wasn’t really achieving anything. I felt the only thing I was successful in was being April’s Mummy. Ultimately, that’s all that matters, but the feeling that I was failing at everything else was strong!

Fast forward to today. April will be 11 months old in less than a fortnight, and after about 4 weeks of feeling rock bottom and taking a lot out on Mat, I’ve had a solid 6 weeks now of feeling almost back to my normal old self. I don’t feel back to normal because I’ve finished the studying, launched my new programmes, taken on more clients, had a pamper day and got my housework done; I feel back to normal because I accepted how things are now.

Yes, I still have a passion to grow my business.

Yes, I would love to have a full day free to go wherever, and do whatever without having to be back in time for a nap etc.

Yes, I still look at the dust on my skirting boards on a daily basis and wish I could find the time to clean them.

Yes, I wish I could get my nails done by a professional every fortnight instead of having to do them myself and I wish I could get my brows and lashes done regularly too.

But… I have realised and accepted that none of that is actually important right now. And that acceptance has changed my outlook and how I feel.

Normally I’ve got big goals and plans for the New Year, but for 2022, I’ve taken the decision to continue only working 2 days per week, study for a set time each weekend and the only class I’m going to with April is swimming (if I get a space!) That’s the only commitments I’m making! Other than that, training will be a priority as I have a few wee goals I’d like to achieve, but the main change I’m making is that I’m not going to stress about stuff I don’t have time to do.

I’m going to focus on quality time with loved ones and hopefully can pick up a couple of hobbies again. The reality is, time spent doing what I enjoy with those I love most is more important right now for me, for April, for my loved ones than me being stressed out about things I can’t control.

Motherhood is a full time job that comes with many challenges but it is also the most rewarding job in the world and I am so looking forward to 2022, with a completely different perspective. This year is about the simple things and going with the flow. There won’t be any big business announcements, I won’t be posting consistently to this blog or to social media but I will always be here if anyone wants a wee blether about anything!

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