Family planning · Life

The fourth trimester

There was a book I’d seen called the fourth trimester in my list of recommendations from new moms. But I never had the time to read it. Now I wish I had because I’d have known what to expect the first few months with a newborn! This is going to be a post on the fourth trimester, my reflections after labor and delivery, and anxiety related to the end of mat leave. I am really writing this more for myself than for anyone else out there. 

We met our healthy baby girl March 25th, exactly 6 days before her due date! Labor was eventful (as expected) yet quick. I like to say that our baby girl wanted to make it easy on me and slipped out quickly! After 2 nights at the hospital, we brought her back home and were instantly swept up by the new parent syndrome of constant worrying, frequent questions to the pediatrician and consulting Dr. Google when times are desperate. FYI Dr. Google isn’t very legit. He has a fake medical diploma. 

Preparation for baby

During the nearly 10 months of pregnancy, looking back what surprises me the most is that I didn’t read a single book on newborns and babies! To think of how much time I had back then to read more about breastfeeding, baby’s circadian rhythms, hiccups and bowel movements! All the things that now keep us awake through the night. 

The fourth trimester is a term used to describe the first three months of a newborn’s life. The same term is used to describe the roller coaster emotional and physical ride that mothers go through. Our bodies are still recovering from the labor process, while training for the ultra marathon of breastfeeding 8-12 times a day! Why do I call it an ultra marathon? According to ACOG, breastfeeding can help you burn up to 500 calories a day. For an average person like me, who does yoga or takes an exercise class less than 3x a week, that’s an ultra marathon! Baby 411, a book recommended to us by A’s pediatrician, states that breastfeeding helps you lose postpartum weight while also letting you eat like a professional wrestler. It’s true, I eat constantly and yet have already dropped 20 pounds off my pregnancy weight gain!

New parenthood

But, back to the fourth trimester. What else makes these first three months unique? Babies do not have a fully developed digestive system so they need to feed around the clock. This makes you- the mom- a cow. Available to your child, at their demand. If you have always valued your sleep, this is going to be a very challenging time for you. I knew I was experiencing sleep deprivation when I started feeling more tired and cranky by the end of the day, and started to have a mild headache that would not go away. They say adrenaline takes you through the first few days, but after that you need to be more practical and come up with a plan to get sleep. Luckily, my mom is at home with me. And she has made it her job to take care of me! She ensures I eat well and sleep when the baby sleeps. This helps me get some shut eye before the night begins, when I almost certainly do not get more than 3 hours of sleep at a stretch. Working with my husband to develop a plan of pumping and bottle feeding also has helped. Having a support system around you is key at this time. Without mom and my husband, I would have been completely depleted by this time. They keep the house running, help ensure food is on the table and take care of the baby after her feeding sessions! 


While I am lucky enough to be able to take 3 months off to take care of our little one, I sometimes wish I could take more time off. I never thought I’d say that by the way. I’ve always been such an advocate for working moms. And ofcourse I do want to go back to work, but now that I have this adorable fluff ball at home, I wonder what it would have been like if I had a practice and had staff urgently waiting for me to come back to work. Practicing as an independent contractor is so different. I set my own schedule and my patients choose to wait for me to come back or work with another provider while I’m away. I don’t have any direct staff that I am responsible for. It’s a guilt free feeling that I love! A friend of mine who has her own practice had to return back to work in 3 weeks! I can’t imagine needing to go back to work in 3 weeks. Most women are nowhere near their pre pregnancy weight at 3 weeks, are not fully healed from their vaginal (6-8 weeks)  or cesarean (9-12 weeks) deliveries, and are definitely sleep deprived due to night feedings that only stop around month 3-4 (when the baby weighs at least 13 pounds). Not to mention the emotional toll going back to work will take on you, logistics of pumping that need to be coordinated with your employer or at your workplace, the stress of finding a daycare/nanny for your baby that quickly and most importantly, the precious bonding time you lose out on!!

Going back to work?

The anxiety of going back to work in 10 weeks hasn’t fully kicked in yet. It probably will once my husband gets back to work and when my in-laws visit us in a few months around my work transition phase. By a giant stroke of luck, we found a great nanny who has been coming over to our home, a few days a week to cook since the last few weeks and who will transition to full time when my husband returns to work. I am so excited to have the extra help around the home, while continuing to recover and nurse our baby. I am sure some anxiety will kick in a few weeks before I have to go back to work because I’ll need to get a portable pump ready to go and have to start researching different brands to see what works best! Portable dentistry always throws new challenges (or opportunities) our way! I love my work but I also love our baby. I will miss her deeply when I go back to work, and I don’t even know why I think about it now, but I can’t help it.

I think it’s a new mom thing where you worry even about the possibility of worry. 

The lack of sleep

Sleep deprivation is a scary thing though and I’m convinced it is what causes moms to experience PPD, or postpartum depression. The lack of sleep makes you resentful and tired. It does not allow you to revel in the many joys and firsts of a newborn’s life and instead makes you focus on all the bad stuff. Your soft and protruding belly- a gentle reminder of your first trimester, pain from your vaginal or cesarean incision areas, hunger pangs when you feed in the middle of the night, your messy home (because what you and your husband cleaned together before baby is now being done all by your hubby alone so obviously its not perfect) and others. This article may as well have been titled sleep deprivation rather than the fourth trimester, because that’s all I seem to be talking about. I can’t help it, it’s pretty much the most important thing at this time to me! 


In a nutshell though, a few weeks into this new phase of our lives, I feel thoroughly blessed with being given this much joy in my life. There’s no greater joy than the joy associated with growing our family. It has brought me and my husband much closer. Yes, it has brought us some worries, but the happiness it brings exceeds that manyfold. I’m also blessed to have a supportive family structure, which includes my sister and sister in law, who bring in food, come over and clean the house, load the dishes, and allow us a few hours of sleep while they play with the baby. Life is wonderful!

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