As a mom myself and a holistic health practitioner who works with moms, it always amazes me how much attention goes into planning nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly did a good amount of planning more than a decade ago, with my first child. I didn’t know even a fraction of what I know today about health and wellness back then, but I did have the mindset to “pre-heat the oven” by taking prenatal vitamins, and dropping some bad lifestyle habits prior to conception. Once pregnant, I loved the planning that went into the pregnancy itself, the birth; and of course I loved the shopping. And while my childbirth educators and pregnancy forums had some mild discussion about adjusting to life after baby, what I learned once she was born was that THAT was the time I should have focused the majority of my planning on. The time that’s hardest to plan of all, since it’s nothing a new mom can even fathom until she experiences it herself. The Fourth Trimester.
The Fourth Trimester was the hardest thing I ever experienced.
I felt very prepared going into both my pregnancies and the actual birth itself, but I have to admit it that what I experienced after the fact made me feel the least prepared I’d ever felt about anything in my entire life. Sure, I was taught to expect a crying baby, feeling sore, sleep deprivation, and all that stuff–but all that is the tiniest tip of the very large iceberg that is the Fourth Trimester. It was the hardest physical and emotional time of my life, and not just the first time. The second time around I got all cocky during my pregnancy. I felt like an old pro. Toddler and newborn? No biggie. I was wrong. Though certain aspects of my second Fourth Trimester were familiar, other issues appeared that I’d never experienced before like weight gain, hypothyroidism, and even postpartum depression.
At first I was really upset because I thought I was the only one who experienced this, but the more moms and grandmothers I talked to, the more I learned that I was not alone in feeling this way. Many, many moms of all ages have gone through their own version of the Fourth Trimester.
Why is the Fourth Trimester such a surprise?
Because it’s not planned to the most minute detail the way conception (for many), the first three trimesters, and the actual birth itself are. It’s not talked about enough among women anymore, and I don’t know why that is. Maybe women are afraid of admitting that they’re not supermom, like we’re all expected to be these days. Maybe they’re afraid they ARE the only person feeling that way since all the other moms at the baby gym and music classes seem to have.it.together.all.the.time. In my own case, when I asked my mother why she didn’t tell me about her own Fourth Trimester experiences (though she had no problem sharing every detail about her births), she told me she didn’t want to scare me. So many women enter into pregnancy without knowing anything at all about the fact that the Fourth Trimester isn’t just about new life–it’s also about death. Death of the old self to make room for the birth of the new self that is Mother. The death of the Maiden and the birth of the Mother. And it’s hard. And scary. And it’s not talked about enough.
That changes now.
My friend, the wonderful Dr. Jolene Brighten, wrote a wonderful book to help women plan for the Fourth Trimester. It’s called Healing Your Body Naturally After Childbirth: the New Mom’s Guide to Navigating the Fourth Trimester, and it’s something every mom-to-be–whether it’s your first time or you’re a seasoned pro–should read BEFORE that baby comes out. I’m very grateful that Dr. Brighten took time to talk about her book, and the Fourth Trimester itself in a very candid interview with yours truly.
During the interview we certainly address the skin issues that happen during pregnancy and often last into and beyond the Fourth Trimester such as acne, melasma, and of course stretch marks. But I’m not gonna lie–this interview is full of the truth about the Fourth Trimester. It’s not sugar coated, and at times it might get a little gritty. If you’ve never had a Fourth Trimester, you might even find it a little scary. Listen anyway, and please share it with anyone you know who’s thinking about being a mom, who is a new mom, or who is a Fourth Trimester survivor–because sometimes that experience still needs TLC years later.
Of course we talk about fun stuff too like sugar scrubs and naming your skin a fun crayon color. Watch, listen, and enjoy (and subscribe too!).
About Dr. Jolene Brighten:
Dr. Jolene Brighten earned her doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from the National College of Natural Medicine. She received her BS in Nutrition Science and completed graduate coursework in molecular nutrition at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. She has extensive training in Integrative Women’s Health and autoimmune disease management and is a practicing Holistic Pelvic Care(TM) provider. Having developed Hashimoto’s following the birth of her son, Dr. Brighten is a strong advocate for the Hashimoto’s community, with special emphasis in fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum thyroiditis. She is the author of the book, Healing Your Body Naturally After Childbirth: The New Mom’s Guide to Navigating the Fourth Trimester, and is launching a new program aimed to support fertility and healthy pregnancies for the Hashimoto’s community. She is a regular contributor to several publications and websites and lectures on the subject of postpartum care, autoimmunity, and women’s health to both healthcare providers and the public.
Connect with Dr. Brighten:
I want to hear from you.
What was your Fourth Trimester like? How did you cope? What advice can you give to expectant moms about to experience this type of “gang initiation?” Please share in the comments below.