The 4th Trimester – Part I.
When I look at pictures of Cade I cannot believe this little guy is in my family, our son, created from a love so beautiful and real. It blows my mind almost daily. Still. Does that feeling ever go away? I’m okay if it doesn’t, really. It’s a fun feeling to have and it’s definitely a blissful state to be in.
I’m sure a lot of you have heard of the concept of the 4th Trimester. (you can read a blurb about it here and here) Basically, for babies, it has been suggested that 9 months is too early for human babies to be born, however if babies were in utero for any longer, their heads would be too large to safely pass through the birth canal. In order to minimize the transition from womb-to-world, parents should mimic the womb for the first 3 months (at least) in order for baby to feel secure and to, essentially, experience less trauma upon their entrance and introduction to the world. Paediatrician Harvey Karp has established a system of using “the 5 S’s” in order to mimic the womb: swaddle, shhh’ing, side lying, swinging and sucking.
For moms, there is also a 4th trimester, which is basically the post-partum period and all the physical, social, spiritual and emotional changes that accompany it. I’ve been wanting to write about what my 4th trimester has been like, but I haven’t had the energy, or creative output to do it the way I have wanted to. I still don’t know if I’ve ‘got it’, however when I start writing I often find that the words I am searching for usually flow as I want them to. And sometimes they don’t and I suck it up and keep writing. For the last week I’ve really been experiencing some thoughts and feelings about myself and my body that I’ve wanted to share, however when Kyle and I were able to go on a supper date Friday night (thanks to the kindness of a lovely friend), thoughts and feelings poured out. (Apparently time away from your sweet little babe gives you time to think about things in a different light. Who know.) We sat at the table, waiting for our dessert – because why stop at drinks, appetizers and entrees – and I was attempting to articulate what was going on in my brain when I felt my eyes welling with tears. This has happened on more than one occasion in the past 3 months, but at the restaurant? Seriously? I’ve been having a bit of a time with trying to vocalize myself properly and have my thoughts carefully and clearly manifested into words, so I hope I can portray what is going on in my brain in a way that makes sense and in a way that I feel okay about. I’m going to be miss organization and do this post in sections aaaaaand post-partum healing journey take 1:
Physical: My hair is falling out. My perineum feels weird. My belly is soft and squishy. That ’bout sums it up! But for real, it is amazing how I am losing hair. Oh good ole’ pregnancy post-partum what have you, chalk it all up to those hormones, such little stinkers that they are. I am having to clean my brush out WAY more, and because my hair is so dark, I am constantly cleaning my hair off the bathroom sink. I’m not particularly a fan of random hairs lying around, so it’s not super awesome but because it’s my own, I am fine whatever okay blah deal with it. Seriously though, will I become bald? All signs point to DAMNIT I HOPE NOT. I run my fingers through my hair (trust me, not as romantic as it sounds) and hair comes out. I constantly find hair in between Cade’s fingers – and even toes! Poor little guy, that’s got to be annoying. Don’t tell me you haven’t been in a pool and had hair in between your fingers or toes, SICKEST FEELING EV-ER, though maybe when you’re 3 months old and it’s your mommy’s hair it’s not as bad? Hope not.
A week ago I had The Procedure done and while it was not as bad as my mind had conjured it up to be (think: psychological horror, lots of blood and screaming and torture), I am most definitely glad that is over and done with. In a nutshell, she gave me a needle in my perineum to freeze the area, then snipped off the granulation tissue and put some silver nitrate on it again as a preventative measure. She didn’t even have to stitch because the healthy skin hangin’ on tight to the granulation tissue was so teeny that she thought it best to leave it un-aggravated and let it heal on its own. She showed me the tissue she snipped off and it amazed me how such a small piece (though apparently it was on the bigger side of granulation tissue) could cause such discomfort and pain. I’m so glad it is gone and that is one piece of my body I will not be grieving the loss of. I’ll tell you though, lying naked from the waist down on the bed in the treatment room, beside a table of ‘tools’ (scissors, needle, container for the ‘waste’, and some other random metal things?), I am so glad I respect and like my doctor because I was scared and wanted to run out of there. But not before I put my pants back on.
I’m feeling better already, though not 100 % normal physically or emotionally, which I will speak more to in another section. (In another section? What the hell am I, an academic of some sort?)
And then there’s the belly. Oh, the belly. The belly of love, of pride, of strength. Though at the best of times I struggle with thinking of it under those terms. I’m trying to get used to it, and really, it’s not as if I had some amazing set of washboard abs (do people still say that or am I stuck in the 90’s?) I definitely feel like my waistline has expanded a tad, which of course it has given that I gave birth, but I guess some magical part of my brain feels like my waistline should have reduced given that the birthing process is complete and my pride and joy as a direct result of the process is currently sleeping beside me so sweetly. If only, right? I shouldn’t complain too much. I’ve been wearing my pre-pregnancy clothes since we got home from the hospital and I didn’t gain a whole shwackload of weight during The Journey, but I still feel like my body is different and I am ultra sensitive to it. Okay Okay, I’ll save it for the emotional stuff (aka the meltdown).
Social: I cannot tell you how humorous, enjoyable and AWESOME I find the pregnancy and mom clubs to be. I use the term ‘club’ very loosely and use it in reference to my newly expanded social circles. When I was pregnant, at work there were several of us in the pregnant club, and it is too funny and amazingly awesome how we magnetically attach to each other to talk about all things pregnancy and all things birth/labour/delivery/parenting. Nothing spared, everything shared. And then as we each started to give birth, a new awesome club formed. I straddle both clubs right now because I still feel this deep connection to pregnant women (especially those that I L-O-V-E!) and also obviously a connection to new mommas and mommas in general. And no, it’s not that I can just as easily relate to anyone that is a mom, but the fact that these individuals whom I already had a connection with, respected deeply and cherished dearly, are now entering yet another area of their life where we have that shared connection? BONUS! It is a wonderful thing to have friends with babies and on maternity leave at the same time. I do not know what I would do without these special, strong women in my life. I love them! I hope they know it! I want to stand on top of my house and yell it out to the neighbours (and consequently, the dudes who will be pruning our trees in 4 hours… I really should get to bed). I love being able to share stories, feelings, milestones and experiences and have somebody say “yup, I get it” and know they mean it and aren’t just ‘trying’ to relate. I love being able to laugh at the concerns and issues that frustrated me and made me cry the week before. Even though my finances and budget (ahem, budget?) have completely changed due to a significant decrease in income (thanks a lot, EI), I have been more social than I feel like I have ever been. Going for coffees, lunches, walks, the whole bit. It is incredibly supportive and productive to my overall well-being, and I love also exposing Cade to wonderful people, different settings, and ways of learning about this new place called the World.
Stay tuned for post-partum healing journey take 2.