I was wondering what would be an appropriate first article for a parenting column? Perhaps it’s wise to start from the very beginning?
Once upon a time, there was an egg and a sperm.
No, I’m just kidding. There is no need to go that far back. But I do see value in addressing this chronologically because many concerns and stages are cyclical and rear their heads often. There is so much information available about the three trimesters of pregnancy, but no one talks about the fourth trimester, which is the first three months of the baby’s existence.
As a first-time mom, I can attest to this. I spent so much time fixated on my pregnancy and the birth plan that I did not consider what I’d do once the baby is here. I knew how hypnobirthing could release endorphins to reduce labour pains, but I didn’t know how to change a diaper! And after changing what seems like 5,73,892 diapers, trust me, you’ll find the latter information more helpful.
Reproduction, be it naturally or through a C section, is a significant trauma for the body. Your baby and the placenta are larger than most organs, and while giving birth, you push them out and along with it lose quarts of blood. There is a reason it’s called labour. It also takes six months for the postpartum hormonal changes to estrogen and progesterone to reach the pre-pregnancy level. This means that while being physically unwell, you’re not at your mental best. Do take help that people offer, be it from your husband, mother, or nanny. You need to rest and heal as well. Sleep when the baby sleeps is the only generic advice I will ask you to follow blindly.
Another fun feature is the incessant crying even after the feeding and diaper changes. You’ll find yourself wondering – Could it be gas? Probably. Could it be colic? Maybe. Did you get stuck with a defective model? Probably not. The crying and fussing are a newborn’s way of showing displeasure about the outside environment. A dark room, white noise, swaddling, and rocking help create a familiar womb-like feeling for the baby so the transition doesn’t seem too jarring. No habit you instill in this period is a bad habit. With time it will all fall to the wayside. Repeat after me the fourth trimester is about surviving, not about defining.
I’m a planner; I like to exercise control and revel in keeping things organized. Let me rephrase – the only thing I could plan after baby A was born was my 3 am snack after waking to feed her for the fifth time that night. I soon realized I was more likely to be able to control the weather than my newborn. As for keeping things organized? That bird flew over the cuckoo’s nest as soon as we’d seen consecutive episodes of projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhea on day three. Ah, the sweet joys of motherhood.
The fourth trimester is all of these things, the feeling of helplessness, of not knowing what you’re doing, and a whirlwind of sleep deprivation and caffeine withdrawal (because you’re breastfeeding and can’t drink coffee when you need it the most). But let me tell you you’re not alone, and that it does get better, it gets better with each passing month, not because the challenges stop, but because you slowly learn how to parent and well, let’s face it, your baby gets better at living too.
Devanshi Shanay Shah is a bookworm. She is a Master’s in literature and writing from the University of Cambridge. A voracious reader, she has an appetite for fiction and poetry. Mother to one-year-old Ayesha who doesn’t give her much time for any of the things mentioned above. But yes, she manages to work on her debut novel.