The Fourth Trimester
It comes as no surprise for those who have given birth that labour is called labour for a good reason! It signifies the hard work your body has done to carry and bring your baby earth-side, plus the unseen emotional, mental and yes even spiritual labour that produced not only a baby but a mother at the same time. Universally whether it is your first or last, each experience is totally unique and requires a period of readjustment.
A woman does not just become un-pregnant after giving birth she and her family will evolve, making changes, decisions and sacrifices, feeling the height of love and joy and the depths of self-doubt and exhaustion, eating, showering and brushing teeth and time to do anything seem like a distant pleasant memory in this new landscape.
The Fourth Trimester, is crucial time for babies and parents. The UK, US and other modern western cultures appear to think that once women are deemed ‘medically fit’ then they have done it… become a mother in an instant almost expected to be out shopping and having coffee, make-up and hair done, with a peacefully sleeping ‘good’ baby within days of this huge transition NO PRESSURE THEN!
Sadly women may be left feeling, isolated, overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, over protective, guilty, sore, angry or even traumatised by life changing events and real or imagined expectations. These feelings are reflected in the growing number of women who report low mood, a sense of disconnectedness and Peri-natal depression, The Fourth Trimester is when a woman needs to find her circle, tribe or kin, a safety net of support and care not just for a few days but for the coming weeks, months even years.
In several countries such as India, Malaysia, Japan, China, South America, some areas of Europe, it is understood and accepted that the woman and baby will need to be nurtured, perhaps ‘mothered’ by her female circle, both have just been born! Chores and cooking are attended to, her baby safe with a trusted and knowledgeable other so she can take care of herself properly.
Many physiological neurological and emotional developments are triggered by closeness of skin, smell and sight therefore they need time together to rest, snuggle, to feed, to learn subtle cues. The mother needs recovery time from the birth to reflect, digest and make sense of her changed status. Some of the traditional post-natal practices seen in these countries are available here such as Closing the Bones, a celebration of the womans’ body in growing and birthing this miraculous human being. The focus is on the mother and her creative wisdom and knowing, a chance to talk about her birth experience. A lovely way to re align her uterus and re-close the pelvis with nurturing massage. There are many birth workers out there who recognise the importance of kind knowledgeable support and guidance from the first to the often neglected fourth trimester.
An industrialised, commercial system cannot ‘financially gain’ from a woman who is just ‘being’ with her baby it is not recognised by Gross Domestic Product statistics and so places no value on it, yet she holds the key to the most important job of all… raising the next generation.
Interesting then, that this was written in testament to motherhood almost two hundred years ago..
‘Blessings on the hand of women!
Angels guard its strength and grace,
In the Palace, Cottage, Hovel
Oh no matter where the place…
Would that never storms assailed it
Rainbows ever gently curled,
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world ’
William Wallace 1819
Bsc (Hons) Midwifery
Msc Pg Dip SCPHN
Therapist and Doula