Yesterday was Raphael’s three-month milestone and the end of our fourth trimester, when mama and baby are still one
What is the fourth trimester?
Did you know that due to an evolutionary adjustment, human babies are born three months early, when they are still extremely vulnerable? It happened when early human ancestors began to walk upright, a few million years ago, the pelvis became smaller and babies had to be born before their brains (and head) grew too large to fit through the birth canal (and because after nine months the woman’s body can no longer cope with the energy demands of pregnancy). In order to survive the first three months, newborns must be fed, kept warm and carried around, and to thrive they need love, security and social interaction.
Ideally we must recreate the conditions of the womb so they can transition gently into the big wide world. Being held close to a body, hearing the noise of a beating heart, regulated by your body temperature, being rocked gently, smelling your familiar scent and gazing at your face when on the breast all trigger the firing and wiring of the synapses in their brains and are essential for healthy development. When babies communicate their needs by chewing, crying, wriggling, yawning etc they have to be responded to quickly, to soothe and comfort them. This reinforces positive connections, builds secure attachment and creates a solid foundation for a confident, independent child (and adult!).
During this time when the mother provides all the baby needs, it’s absolutely crucial that she herself must be held and supported with love, warmth, rest and nutritious food in order for her body to recover and so that we can be fully present with our new miracle. In every traditional culture, the new mother has always been, and still is, encouraged to take a sustained period of rest to allow her body to recuperate from pregnancy and birth, and bond with her baby. We have to replenish the life force we’ve exerted during birth. I firmly believe that reintegrating this ancient knowledge passed down through generations is the way to the safest, healthiest and most enjoyable postpartum experience.
Using my training as a holistic health coach, and the wisdom both ancient and modern that has helped me in my own birth experiences, I’ve written a free, downloadable guide full of ways to recuperate and be nurtured during this very special time. Download the guide: Holistic Healing in Postpartum
When I had Cece I was lucky to be able to take these first weeks very gently due to a natural lull in my business over Christmas and January, and the incredible support of my husband Dickie.
This time around I wasn’t sure it would be so easy. It was April, I had Cece to look after, my events business was very busy, and of course now running Sacred Space as well. Once again, Dickie stepped up and although I had a lot of work on, I was able to largely lie in bed on my laptop for the first six weeks. He took care of all the nursery runs, meal preparation and washing, kept the house tidy and ran errands… he is seriously our hero! My mum lives in Spain and almost all my best friends now live in the countryside, but we had a few visitors bringing meals and popping in for a cuddle, and I managed to squeeze in a few reflexology sessions. But my physical support network was really just Dickie.
There is no doubt that however well looked after, the immediate aftermath of birth can leave a new mum feeling many things: sore, bruised, overwhelmed, teary, dazed and confused, wide open and shattered into a million pieces. I’m sharing my postpartum diary below, reflecting on my experience, and have also listed some of my top tips to prepare for this sacred time.
My top tips for postpartum
- Batch cook nutritious and warming food that you can heat quickly and digest easily: soups, casseroles and healing broth that you can use as a base for other meals
- Have a warming pad and cramp bark tincture on hand to ease the pain of the uterine contractions immediately after birth. These can be intense, and increase with every birth. A big thank you to my doula Laura for these!
- Don’t put too much energy into preparing a separate nursery for the baby as they will be sleeping with you, certainly for the first few months. I personally highly recommend co-sleeping in the same bed. For a breastfeeding mama, it is far and away the easiest option, allowing you to continue to nurse throughout the night on demand, and be highly attuned to your baby’s needs and any health concerns
- Instead of trying to follow a set routine, feed your baby when they ask for it. Watch for early signals such as sticking their tongue out, sucking or chewing hands, or turning into your chest
- Invest in some silver nipple guards to protect the skin from anything rubbing on them during those first weeks, which can be teeth gritting-ly painful before the skin toughens up
- Stay in bed with baby as much as possible and when any of the family holds them, try to be skin to skin. As long as they’re kept warm, baby doesn’t need to wear any clothes for the first couple of weeks
- I didn’t bathe for the first couple of days until I felt strong enough, and when I did only used soap sparingly so that I didn’t wash my smell off. We didn’t bathe either of our babies for two to three weeks after birth, allowing the vernix and their own oils to hydrate the skin
- Be mindful of the day three to day five hormone crash, which will probably leave you feeling especially emotional and teary. I had a good cry in the bath and felt much better!
- Remember nothing stays the same forever. Every day will be different and bodies heal in time
- When you feel ready, book in some home treatments for massage and reflexology. Do regular self-massage too (see our Gaia skin candle and ritual), to help channel love to your postpartum body, as strange as it may feel
- You are the expert in your baby and most attuned to know how they are doing and feeling at all times
- There is no right or wrong way to do anything. Do what works, in your way, on your terms
- Reach out to other mamas to ask questions, share experiences or just to let off steam
On that note, feel free to get in touch with any questions about anything I’ve written or other conversation. I’m always happy to help if I can, or just to listen 💗
My postpartum diary
Day 1: Tired, bad contractions, can’t stand
Day 2: Bad contractions, left nipple sore
Day 3: Irritable, teary, left bedroom for first bath and saw that I had perineal tear, eek! Nipple, blister, breasts huge!
Day 4: Only couple contractions in morning. Feeling stronger. Can stand up straight. Showered, dressed and put make-up on to go downstairs for lunch with in-laws. Sat in garden. Bliss!
Day 5: Left baby in bedroom for first time for dinner downstairs. Raphael did first poo and had slight skin rash
Day 6: My dad here. Dressed baby for first time and spent afternoon downstairs
Day 7: Felt a bit low, moody weather
Day 8: Felt brighter, went downstairs for supper, tear not looking so bad thank god
Day 9: First outing. Went to Goddess Space book launch and took the car seat in a cab.. knackering and restorative at the same time!
Day 10: Applied Kombu strip to the tear to aid with skin healing
Day 11: First family outing in car for lunch with friends. Took R in the buggy up Primrose Hill
Day 12: First gentle walk to London Fields
Day 13: R seems more landed, eyes open more, neck stronger and looking around. Skin has cleared up
Day 14: Feeding non-stop, painful gas, no sleep. First time in sling with daddy, not keen. Have I got a rectal prolapse?? Think I remember feeling the same with Cece so hopefully only a mild one
Day 15: Haemorrhoids nearly gone, hooray… but rectal prolapse?? R wouldn’t be put down, choking a bit
Day 16: First car trip out of London to Gloucestershire to view houses. R slept the whole way. I think I can see some stomach muscles!
17: R not happy in car on way back, lots of wind. We are all v irritable!
18: R’s first party! Friends over for my bday bbq. Great day and R very happy to be held by others. Took R out to a 40th dinner and wore a swimsuit! He slept on D most of the time
19: Day of complete rest
20: R not wanting to sleep much except on me and feeding most of day
21: Very sunny. Feel almost back to normal. R slept most of day. Slightly worried about him as breathing a bit weird and I have a cold sore and using Manuka on it so researching botulism
22: R restless and windy. Feeding all day. Made reels with him in sling and dropped melted chocolate on his head
23: My bday. First trip into town for lunch at Hoppers, work meeting and company picnic in Regents Park
24: Reflexology. Bliss!
25: Visited a friend locally
26: Picnic on Hackney Downs for a friend’s birthday
27: First big smiles from R today that were definitely conscious. Heart melting! 💗
28: 4 weeks today
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