Longing in the Fourth Trimester

Welcoming new life is a heartfelt joy and overwhelming change, but it is truly a profound event that brings up complicated feelings. The person nestled within you for the past nine months is suddenly on the outside; a new, separate, individual being. I remember it all too well, the subtle shift of being in power to being completely powerless. I quickly and intensely felt the absence of my daughter’s kicks on the inside, and knowing that I was solely in charge of her safety and well-being.

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As soon as she was born, the longing crept in. I missed being pregnant. What was this feeling? I had wanted to meet her for so long and now that the day was here, I craved the assurance of her in my womb. All of sudden, she was exposed to the real world. No longer nestled safe within me, but suddenly susceptible to the outside.

I now had to produce milk for my child and physically latch her to my breast. It was so difficult. It hurt. I had to make sure she ate at 3-hour intervals, and that she was getting enough, but not too much, sleep. I was constantly checking her breathing. If I thought I knew what worrying was, I had no real clue. And to top if off, I now had other people wanting to hold her and touch her. She wasn’t just mine anymore.

When first becoming pregnant, we have three short trimesters to grow a new life within. The intensity of pregnancy is met with uncertainty and often doubt, but on the other end of the spectrum is confidence. Confidence in knowing that the decisions we make, such as eating the right foods or exercising, will have a positive outcome on our growing children. Add in the adoring attention that we pregnant women receive, and it’s understood why it can be a miraculous and hopeful time in our lives.

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The fourth trimester, however, is riddled with constant change. A new baby, a new experience, a new body…the newness is scary – even scarier than the newness of pregnancy. The juxtaposition of care from mother to child can create a sudden shift in life. What about us? Where did our care go? The frequency of our prenatal checkups picked up in that third trimester, but come the fourth, attention shifts from the mother to the child. Obviously our babies need and deserve robust care, but our motherly support often diminishes quite quickly. Not only are we left to care for a new child, we are left to care for ourselves, with little to no clue what is going on with our bodies.

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To give birth is to create something new and live outside yourself, but the oft forgotten fact is that we sometimes lose a little bit of ourselves too. Hormones flood our bodies and focus is transferred to our beaming new babies. It is a huge sacrifice of womanly mind and body.

Do you remember that emotion? The one you experienced the day your child was born? Not infatuation, not love, but helplessness; suddenly powerless to being fully in charge of the new soul staring up at you.

The fourth trimester is a precious and sacred time. What a privilege it was to grow my children, being trusted with the honour of creating new life. Of course it seems obvious now that there were complicated feelings involved, but I was never prepared to long for the security of them inside of me. I felt enlightened afterwards as it was truly something I never could have known until I went through it.

What I’ve learned is that longing for the bond of pregnancy is genuine and justified. You were your child’s home for so long, don’t forget that. Giving into the emotion of loss is important in itself. It’s a grieving process and a new normal, but it leads to the process of becoming a parent; preparing your child for life away from you, and you from them.

Words by Melissa Curman

Photographed by Feminine Forms for Mother Muse issue No.12

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