by Ann Waterman
I’m not quite sure where the time went with this pregnancy, but here I am, days away from the birth of my third child. A lot of people assume I must be eager to get this baby out, but I’m actually quite content to let him come into this world in his own sweet time. I’m sure I’d feel differently if I had difficult pregnancies, but I don’t — and I know I’m very lucky. With the exception of a few funky weeks in the first trimester (maybe I claimed to be on death’s door on a few occasions), my energy levels have been great, and I’ve been sleeping like a log with minimal heartburn and late-night trips to the potty.
What I struggle with is what I like to call the fourth trimester: the first three months after birth. Those months are amazing in many ways, but they’re also hard – the sleep deprivation, adjusting to a new personality and his own distinctive quirks and schedule, and trying to find a new normal for family life.
The fourth trimester also involves a lot of letting go — letting go of schedules, letting go of a tidy house, letting go of any and all expectations — which is particularly hard for someone like me who finds comfort and security in a very structured and predictable life. Just yesterday, I was patting myself on the back for having things under control on the home front — meals planned in advance, a clean house by Friday so I can enjoy the weekend with my family, and an empty inbox. It’s taken me years to get to this point, and in a couple of weeks, all of it will be gone… I’ll admit it makes me a little sad to think about.
But having been through this twice before, I’ve also learned that letting go opens the door to a lot of personal growth and unexpected joy that I might not experience otherwise. I find it very humbling to accept help and acknowledge my limitations, but I’ve come to realize how important it is to allow people to help you — for both your sake and for theirs. Acts of charity and kindness are what make us human. As the recipient of generous offers and good deeds, I’ve learned that it’s OK to say I need help — and by doing this, I allow myself to experience human goodness and become closer to the giver in a very real way (not to mention that I develop the desire to pay it forward to someone else later).
The other thing I’ve learned from the chaos of the fourth trimester is that life does eventually get back to normal, though it’s a new and different normal from what I knew before. Things aren’t always as bad as I expect, because I’ve gained experience over the years and additional help — like a husband who steps up to the plate even more than before, or an older child who’s become very conscientious and thoughtful. I’ve also gained perspective: Some things just don’t matter as much as I thought, and I while I’ll enjoy hitting the snooze button for the next few days, I’ll also cherish snuggling with my newborn, even if the house is a little messier than usual.
What’s do you find difficult about pregnancy or those newborn days?
Image: Ann Waterman. I took this photo just before the baby sprinkle my friends threw when I was just shy of 39 weeks. I was touched by everyone’s thoughtfulness; it was yet another reminder of all the wonderful people I have in my life.