Wow, how is it that I’m already 37 weeks pregnant?! JUST 3 WEEKS LEFT!!!
My third trimester continues (knock on wood) to be a breeze. We have weekly checkups with our midwife now and everything is looking “perfect!”
This week my husband and I have been in full nesting mode.
We put together the bassinet.
We set up the stroller and the car-seat and practiced using the adapter that turns the two into a combo. (We have used the Baby Jogger Citi Mini 2 with the Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat which were surprisingly easy to assemble and use together.)
I also practiced using my various baby carriers. I’ve been given four different baby carriers but I think the main two I will use are the Tula and the ring sling. Though they are both described as being very user-friendly, I won't lie I still needed YouTube to help me!
I’ve read that in the weeks to days before labor, it’s common for some women get this burst of energy and I have certainly been experiencing this. (Did you?)
They call it the “nesting” period. Which is funny, because I had thought that any preparation for baby’s arrival was considered nesting. But, I guess this is the official definition?
Supposedly, women often go on a big cleaning spurt right before going into labor. I think this is because they instinctively know the baby is coming… and they want to come home to a clean house!
I’ve packed my hospital bag so that it’s ready to go, just in case.
My husband and I are lucky in that we live only two minutes’ drive from the hospital. So, anything we forget can easily be retrieved if need be. But, it’s still nice to have a bag ready.
My midwife told me that the hospital has everything we need, so to just pack the stuff we want. Think of it like a two-day stay at a hotel, she told me.
So, I have packed:
Though I am officially considered “full-term” now, I know that statistically most first-time mothers carry for closer to 42 weeks than 40.
But, to be honest, I hadn’t really calculated what that meant for me.
That means that instead of waiting 3 weeks for our little girl, we might be waiting 5!! Eek!
I’m sincerely hoping that that isn’t the case!
My doula recommended that my husband and I watch some labor videos in the meantime.
All the ones I find online, though, are filmed by a professional photographer who edits out all the “messy” bits. Or, they are from women who have already had several children.
One woman was sitting in a tub for her home birth, surrounded by her four other children, and she just blissfully smiled and said, “Look, kids, the baby’s head is coming!” And then, bloop, out popped the baby like it took no effort at all!
Another home birth video for a woman’s second child showed her giving a little grunt before reaching beneath her and producing a baby to show the camera. She just grunted, politely as though she were clearing her throat, and out came the baby!
I watch these and I think to myself, I know this isn’t how it’s going to be for me! There’s something they aren’t showing me!
If any of you have access to some raw and perhaps more realistic labor videos, I’d be interested! My doula said it’s a good idea to become a bit desensitized to the messiness of it all.
It was funny, though, because as I watched these videos my baby girl started squirming SO hard! It was like she was getting some ideas!
So, the main thing I’d like to discuss this week is something I’ve been reading a lot about and that’s the fourth trimester.
The fourth trimester is the concept that our babies would remain in our wombs for another three months if they could. But, if they did, their brains (and subsequently their heads) would become too large to fit through the birth canal. As such, they come out into the world before they are actually “ready” in a lot of ways.
Which is why a lot of babies suffer from a culture-shock, if you will.
Virtually every other mammal is born less dependent on its mother than the human.
They’ve been taken from a warm, snug home in which every want is instantly fulfilled and thrust into a world that is cold, loud, and bright. They never knew hunger in the womb or the discomfort of a wet diaper. Now, they have to adjust to all these strange, uncomfortable new sensations.
They are utterly dependent on their parents for survival.
I read that a baby’s brain is sort of like a computer with only two codes: safe or unsafe.
So, something like a light that is too bright or a wet diaper or anything inherently “bad” will equal one thing in a baby’s mind: unsafe.
And the only means of communication that a baby has is…?
You guessed it: crying.
There are some old-school ways of thinking that suggest that the best method is to let the baby “cry it out.” Have you heard that one before? It’s not from my generation, but I certainly know people who have adopted that way of thinking.
The reason this is problematic is because the baby is scared.
Their computer code is screaming: UNSAFE! DANGER!
To just let them cry is not only cruel, but also counterproductive.
This same line of thinking also suggests that some babies are manipulative with their crying, which is why leaving them alone is the best method.
Otherwise, they will become so used to being “coddled” whenever they cry that they will continue this habit of behavior.
But, babies simply do not have the complexity of thought yet to be scheming or calculated.
They aren’t trying to manipulate you with their tears. They are just trying to communicate the only way they know how.
We’ve all heard stories about colicky babies.
My older brother was colicky. My husband was, too.
This fourth trimester concept goes a long way to explaining why some babies have such a hard time adjusting to the outside world.
I’m sure there is nothing more frustrating and heartbreaking than trying to soothe one’s crying baby and being unable to.
My dad has described looking up to the heavens and promising to do anything in the world if he could just know why my brother was crying!
But, once you understand the fourth trimester, you understand that the reason they are crying might be something as simple as they are no longer in the womb and they don’t feel safe.
Understanding this can go a long way to building our patience for the issue.
There is a book that I will talk about more in one of my next blogs called The Happiest Kid on the Block that discusses this fourth trimester in length.
In this book, the doctor/author claims he has found a “cure” for colicky babies.
The best thing to do is to recreate the sensations of the womb as much as possible.
This means, wrap them in a tight swaddle.
Cradle them close and gently rock them (he says it is impossible to hold a newborn baby too much; there is no such thing as over-coddling in the first three months of life! Because if you think about it, even if you hold them for twelve hours a day, that is still less than they were being held in the womb.)
He also suggests using a sound machine to replicate the noises that they might hear in the womb, which are often similar to waves.
This technique is one that he claims is “fool-proof” and while I am often wary of anyone who makes such claims, I have heard from other mothers that this method has been a godsend.
It is often very common for the baby, as a survival instinct, to attach primarily onto one parent.
This is, generally speaking, the mother because the baby is already used to her smells and her sounds and even the cadence of her breath. She is also their supply of food.
As a result, you will hear about new mothers who simply cannot put their infant down without them screaming.
Mom tries to pass the baby to dad and the baby screams.
This results in the mother feeling stressed and worn out and the father feeling bad because he thinks the baby doesn’t love him or that he’s done something wrong...
Again, once you prepare yourself for this, it can hopefully be easier.
As a side-note, (and I may be wrong!) I think this primarily applies to mothers who exclusively breastfeed.
For parents that pump and bottle feed or that use formula,
the dad is given an equal role in the baby’s eyes as another source of sustenance.
Which is another thing I want to talk about!
What is with all this mom-shaming about breastfeeding??
We need to support each other, not tear each other down.
I plan on exclusively breastfeeding.
Breastmilk has all the essential nutrients
(it even changes when my baby is sick to accommodate her needs!)
It’s also free!
I find it mind-boggling that doctors used to push formula over breastmilk with fear-mongering tactics like,
“How will you know your baby has eaten enough?”
Pretty easily, I’d imagine!
Is she wasting away at my tit? No?
Then she’s getting what she needs!
But, there’s an argument to be made that there is no money to be gained from pushing breastmilk, so that’s why they don’t…
My goal is to not pump/use a bottle for at least the first three months
so that way my baby develops a proper latch.
I’ve read that if you bottle-feed too early she might grow to prefer the bottle since it’s easier to suck from.
BUT, do I think any less of moms who formula feed?
There are lots of reasons why mothers end up choosing to use formula instead.
Each parent makes the choice that is right for them and their child.
I shouldn’t get an opinion on the issue!
Back to my point, however.
My husband and I have already discussed how we will adapt if this fourth trimester is a difficult adjustment for our little girl.
If I can’t put the baby down, he’ll step up with the chores around the house—the cooking, cleaning, dishes, and laundry.
He knows not to take it personally if the baby doesn't want to be held by him straightaway. It’s nothing that he’s done wrong.
And I know to ask for help when I need it.
But, we also know that in those moments when the baby is lulled into a peaceful calm, those are the times to pass her off to dad.
This will help her to learn that she is safe with him, too.
If you never pass the baby to dad for fear that she might cry, you are only going to draw-out the issue.
There will also be times that I need to take a shower or a nap or maybe just a few minutes to myself… Except, what happens if the baby is screaming when I pass her to dad?
I’ve read that the sound of your baby crying makes you biologically unable to rest or relax.
So, the best thing to do will be to have dad go for a quick walk or drive around the block.
Take the baby out of ear-shot.
This may sound similar to the “cry-it-out” method, but the reason it differs is because you are teaching the baby that Dad is just as a safe as Mom.
It gives much needed bonding between baby and father and it gives the mother a much needed break.
I have read COUNTLESS blogs and first-hand accounts of new mothers who are all at their wit’s end because they simply cannot put their baby down and they don’t understand why.
They worry the baby is too clingy. Maybe they have emotional issues?
Again, understanding the fourth trimester helps us in these moments.
It isn’t a cure. You will still probably want to tear your hair out at times.
But, I’m a firm believer that knowledge is power. So, understanding why surely must help.
This is why I have been trying to mentally and emotionally prepare myself for the baby’s first three months.
It is possible that I will have one of those unicorn babies that sleeps for four hours in a row (considered a full night’s sleep for a newborn, by the way) and that won’t scream her head off when daddy wants to hold her. But, it’s best to just plan on the fact that, while the baby is no longer attached to me from the inside, for those first three months she will be attached to me on the outside.
And that’s okay.
It doesn’t mean something is wrong with her. Or that I am doing anything wrong.
In fact, it is perfectly understandable and natural.
I’d love to hear from some mothers… what was your newborn like?
Did they latch onto one parent as the primary? (If not, out of curiosity, were you breastfeeding?)
Had you heard of the fourth trimester?
I’d love to hear your experiences!
As always, thanks for reading xx
I'm Kelsey! Proud Iowan native, world traveler, writer, wife to the most incredible husband, and now soon to be mother