A New Mom Reflects On Her Difficult Fourth Trimester Journey

To preface this story: I am incredibly grateful that I had a safe and healthy pregnancy and delivery. I hope this does not come off as complaining. I am simply sharing my experience.

Where do I begin with the 4th trimester? I’ll start by sharing that I gained 60 pounds during my pregnancy. 60 pounds is a lot of weight for someone with a petite frame. It’s a lot for anyone to gain!

You should also know that I am an extremely disciplined person, and I'm incredibly hard on myself. That level of weight gain was traumatizing for me mentally (and, of course, physically). I’m sharing this context as you can imagine it really affected my 4th trimester and road to feeling like myself again.

What is the 4th trimester, you might ask?

It’s the 12-week period following childbirth that every mom and newborn experience; it represents a time of serious change. Your body is adjusting from having carried a baby for nine months, your baby is acclimating to a whole new world, your hormones are surging, and you as a mom are tasked with keeping a tiny human alive.

I honestly hadn’t put much thought into what the 4th trimester would be like, both physically and emotionally. I pictured leaving the hospital 40 pounds lighter and even packed a size small dress to wear home, thinking I’d be 75% closer to my old self. This now makes me laugh.

Everyone’s experience is different, but for me, those six weeks after my daughter Colette arrived were extremely difficult mentally and emotionally. That was not due to lack of sleep nor infant fussiness. In fact, I found the general act of taking care of a baby to be much more instinctual and satisfying compared to what I’d read about or heard friends describe. I’d heard “your life will never be the same," but my life actually felt pretty similar, just with a precious addition making it sweeter.

What made those six weeks so difficult was how I felt about myself. I would catch my reflection in the window or walk by a mirror and feel sick by my appearance. I did not experience a speckle of joy or that euphoric bonding feeling when I breastfed my daughter, as I’d read about. All I could think about was how I didn’t recognize my body–I had a panicky feeling that I was stuck in someone else’s body and trapped there forever.

What surprised me the most was that I had to wear pregnancy leggings and tops for a full two months after Colette arrived. I knew I wouldn’t bounce back completely for a while, but I was taken aback that I couldn’t fit into a single non-maternity clothing item for months.

I very much enjoyed this time period with Colette–I relished in all that one-on-one time with her, seeing her personality develop with each passing day, and felt overcome by a love I had never known before. The unsavory feelings I had toward myself, fortunately, did not take away from that special early stage of Colette’s life; I was able to compartmentalize and soak up all of her deliciousness.

Photo by Lana Tavares of 222 Photography

By about seven weeks postpartum, I remember putting on a pair of jeans and although they couldn’t zip, they actually went above my hips! I started to see light at the end of the tunnel. I finally started to relax a bit–I realized I would be me again, I would feel confident and PROUD of what my body had gone through to create human life.

Now, about six months out, I am PROUD to have gained 60 pounds. I realize it’s what was meant for me and my pregnancy. Maybe Colette needed that extra weight to be healthy? Maybe I needed to experience that to be more grateful for my body no matter what and less hard on myself?

My biggest advice is to give yourself grace and to go into the 4th trimester with low expectations on your physical appearance. Do not try on pre-pregnancy dresses or jeans immediately. Just don’t even go there for a while. Know that in time, your body will heal, and trust that you will feel like yourself again.

At the end of the day, I’d do it all over again a million times for the result–my smiley, silly, scrumptious baby girl. If I am lucky enough to have another child one day, my goal is to embrace the weight gain and that foreign body feeling…it is all worth it and it’s all temporary.