The Fourth Trimester: Take Two

fourthtrimester

I love the newborn period.

There.  I said it.

Not something you hear every day, huh?  Normally you hear stories of intense sleep deprivation, aching nipples, a questionable amount of time since the last shower, and a lot of crying.  And if I was talking about my first child, that might be pretty accurate.  But I’m talking about my second child.  And with a second child comes the confidence of an experienced mother.  A mother who knows what to expect, and more importantly, what not to expect.  And that, I think, makes all the difference – for expectation is the thief of joy.

I expected nothing from my baby this time around. Nothing besides the expectation that he would act like a newborn baby. 

I did not expect that he would eat for a certain amount of time, or at certain intervals.  I just fed him on demand, for however long he wanted to, as frequently as he wanted to.  I trusted that he knew what his body needed to grow.  I didn’t freak out when he wanted to nurse every 15 minutes for 4 straight hours right before a growth spurt.  As a result, I have a healthy milk supply, and a thriving baby who’s become efficient enough at nursing to down 5 ounces in 5 minutes if he’s hungry.

I did not obsess over having a huge freezer stash of milk.  My body responds too well to a pump; it means that daily pumping for a week put my body into an uncomfortable oversupply.  So, I pump once every 5 days, just to have a bottle in the fridge.  If we don’t use it, on the fifth day I freeze it and then pump a fresh bottle.  He’s taken about 6 bottles so far, just to ensure that he’s amenable to them when I go back to work.  I have enough in the freezer for an emergency, and have taken to heart the mantra feed your baby, not the freezer. 

I did not expect that he would eat at certain times of day.  Like I said, I fed on demand, and I didn’t even try to predict it.  To not plan my day around having to pump this time around meant I could go anywhere.  I just left the house whenever I wanted to, without regard to the time.  If he got hungry, I nursed him.  In parking lots, in dressing rooms, in restaurants, on walks, at the park, wherever.  And it felt so freeing to be unchained from the pump this time around.  Have boobs, will travel.

I did not expect that he would take scheduled naps. I didn’t stress myself out about “nap times” and fighting to get him down to keep on a schedule.  I just followed his cues, and whenever he got fussy after a period of awake time, I put him down and he went right to sleep.  Except for the few times he didn’t, of course, in which case I held him, bounced him, rocked him, nursed him, or whatever else he needed from me to drift peacefully off to sleep.  I didn’t worry about holding him too much or spoiling him, because those things aren’t possible. All in all, he’s been a wonderful napper, and all I had to do was listen to him and let him set his rhythm.

I did not expect him to sleep long stretches at night on his own.  Over the last 12 weeks, it always seems like the first question that people have asked me is how is he sleeping? How many times does he wake at night? Truthfully, I have no idea, and I don’t care.  He sleeps with me, and when he stirs, I stir.  I nurse him right there in the bed, and after he latches, we both drift right back to sleep.  There’s rarely any crying, I don’t have to get out of the bed, and I don’t have to spend a bunch of time getting him (or myself) back to sleep – it’s quite literally, dreamy.

I did not expect that much of myself.  I let my husband wait on me hand and foot for the 3 weeks that he was off on paternity leave.  I didn’t prepare a meal, I didn’t wash the dishes, and I didn’t feel guilty about it at all.  Instead, I took a shower every single day. I took a nap with my son every day for at least the first 6 weeks.  I let my body heal from birth.  I didn’t care about losing weight right away; I know my milk supply dips when I cut calories, so that’ll just have to wait – all in good time.  I didn’t worry about how much I “accomplished” each day.  Snuggling my son while watching 6 seasons of The Good Wife is accomplishment enough for me.

This feeling of freedom and ease with motherhood did not come easy or automatically.  I remember going through all of this with my first, where every decision about every aspect of her life had to be carefully considered and decided upon.  It made the newborn period stressful – when everybody has an opinion, and you’re not quite sure what yours is yet because the sheer number of decisions and the total upheaval of your pre-parent life is just so overwhelming. This time – there are no decisions to be made, just instincts to follow.

And I feel so free. 

And I don’t mean to make it sound like it has been easy.  On the contrary; my neck and shoulders are constantly sore, it’s frustrating to always eat in a hurry with one hand, the dynamic of parenting two children can be tough, and I really don’t get much done.

But I know this too shall pass.  

Unfortunately, it will pass.

The only times I’ve cried have been about how fast he’s growing and how fast it’s all going.  I’m writing this post as I watch my son on the baby monitor; it’s the first time I’ve put him down to sleep for the first stretch of the night in his crib.  I used to put him in the bassinet in the living room – but he has started spinning in his sleep (he has already rotated 90 degrees since I began this post), so the bassinet is officially too small.  And it’s the first of many things that he will outgrow.

And now the fourth trimester is over.  And I’ll never have a newborn again.

The only thing I’ve expected is change.  Change coming at me so exceedingly fast that it’s a blur.  Where one day, his hands in his mouth means he’s hungry, and the next day it means hey, I found my hands!  Where one day he fits curled up on my chest, and the next day I’m putting away the tiny clothes forever.  Where one day he’s looking off into space at blurry shapes, and the next day he’s staring into my eyes, smiling his mega-watt, heart-melting smile.

So, forgive me if you think I take and post too many pictures of my kids.  Because I’m having a moment.  Like, some of the best moments of my life.

 

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31 thoughts on “The Fourth Trimester: Take Two

  1. Thank you so much for this article. I am pregnant with my second now and I often think back at the blur and stress that came when my first was born. That anxiety and feeling of having to get it right was profound. I am looking forward to enjoying these beautiful moments when they come the second time around…

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  2. Reblogged this on lycrawidow and commented:
    Currently, my husband and I are so apprehensive about the newborn stage. The first 6 weeks with Sebastien were absolutely overwhelming, exhausting, tear inducing and wonderful.

    This time we know. We know that there’s no point attempting anything other than eat sleep/change. No classes, no “routine” no timing feeds. Just being. Being there for the toddler and the newborn. Expecting nothing. Responding to everything. Listening to ourselves rather than others. Slowly slowly we will all grow together!

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  3. My first child was born in 79 with 3 coming after that. As I observe moms today struggle through all the information they are receiving and the pressure they feel I am saddened to see how much they are missing out on. Being a nanny has opened this door to watch this firsthand. I breastfed all my children for about a yr and a half. My mom was too sick to give input and my mother in law was pretty respectful of my paenting choices even though she disagreed. I had moved from my hometown so I had no friends or extended family around. I just went with instinct and gut and heart. With a little guidance from La Leche League I had lacation support for the first and then the rest just came naturally and instinctively. It’s very hard as a nanny to watch all the sleep training going on during the 4th trimester and how much moms are missing out on!

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    • Just to clarify… both my previous nanny jobs were definately breastfeeding, attachment moms. Just finding there are many moms who are scheduling and sleep training from day one. I am finding that while intetviewing for my next position.

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  4. I completely relate to this in every way. Like you I’m trusting my instincts through this 4th trimester. I’m so much more relaxed! I’m able to enjoy myself and baby. And even able to spend good time with my 3 year old which is so precious. And no pumping! My milk supply is robust and baby is a nursing champ. Soon I’ll try bottles once a week and have enough in the freezer to get through the first day back plus a little extra. Thank you for sharing.

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  5. I’m writing this because this is exactly me at this exact moment! I was going to start cleaning the baby room and stocking the diapers when I told myself – no just lay down with your sleeping baby and look at her face. She’s my second and my maternity leave is over in two weeks. I have lived every moment of this time with my two year old and newborn. She’s already wearing six month old clothes as a two month old and I’m right with you on the pumping and breastfeeding issue! I love the mantra feed your baby mot your freezer. 🙂 Beautifully written. Thank you for putting my thoughts and feelings into words! It always feels good to know we’re in this together as mothers.

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  6. So appreciate this! As a first time mom, you feel inadequate if your infant at 7 weeks isn’t sleeping more than 1-2 hours in a stretch and eats that often as well. I will appreciate it more! Thanks again!

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  7. So beautiful! Made me cry!……I too have been thinking and soaking in all my daughter for she is just 6 months and growing way to fast! I read this thinking back to when she was moving to her crib and not bassinet and remember when I thought how sad it was to go through her newborn clothes and put them away forever!! Beautifully written ❤️

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  8. Day 6 today. The last time I will do all this. My 3rd. Wish we could record every moment, feeling, the amazing thing of bringing life into the world.

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  9. It’s absolutely true!. Time does not halt. I’m a first time mommy to a two month old precious boy. Sometimes i feel pressure or guilty to be productive doing household duties or as if I’m failing because my lil guy isn’t on a nap schedule. Therefore i appreciate this article as its a reminder to slow down and enjoy my lil guy. These moments are amazing and He won’t stay small forever 😦

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  10. I wish I had this insight 18 years ago when I had my first but st least I can share this with my children when they have their won. Beautifully written

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  11. Today marks one month til I’m due with my first baby, and this is exactly the beautiful perspective I didn’t know I even needed. Thanks for setting such a lovely example. It’s a real gift to read this when I’m still getting a little sleep!

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