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April 17, 2018

The 4th trimester is an intense time that comes with many joys and often many challenges. Postpartum experiences are as varied as women themselves. All are unique in their expression and form.

In the lineage of Chinese Medicine, and many other ancient healing systems, the 4th trimester is a period of time after having a baby that is reserved for healing and support for the mother. It is usually a period of at least 30 to 40 days that immediately follows giving birth, but can last up to three months postpartum. Of course, as all new moms know the postpartum time in general (beyond the 4th trimester) is a journey with no clear timeline or definition.

In contrast, in western-centric culture, the 4th trimester lives in the proverbial shadow of pregnancy and birthing. It’s like menopause or PMS. It remains somewhat hidden, taboo and even shameful in its cultural context. We haven’t had good modeling for postpartum care for many decades and one six week check up is a lame excuse of postpartum health care.

This is beginning to shift as we see a rise in postpartum doulas, pelvic floor specialists, maternity leave rights activism and postpartum education. I really feel that we are on the precipice of some great cultural shifts to include a more whole understanding of what a new mother and family need immediately after birth.

With that said, there is still a level of reclamation that needs to happen for each individual moving through the birthing portal into postpartum life. It’s a time to say my body and my experience matter to me. It’s a time to understand and proclaim that my future health, the health and vitality of my family and community depend on these first months postpartum.

Today I want to share with you three tips to help you in this reclamation process. These are three tips to help you start to reorient yourself to postpartum life, your new identity as a mother and your capacity to thrive as you care for your new baby.

Let’s get started.

  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare.

If you’re still pregnant while reading this, it’s the perfect time to start preparing for the 4th trimester just as you may be preparing for birth. A birth plan is becoming pretty standard and it’s time to make a postpartum plan essential as well. Start by thinking about how you can prioritize rest by asking for support and having a list of potential needed resources ready to go.

On your resource list try to include (with each provider’s contact information):

  • A postpartum doula
  • A lactation consultant or educator
  • Free lactation support group information
  • A pelvic floor specialist
  • Bodyworkers that you like
  • Your midwife or OB
  • Your pediatrician
  • A therapist or counselor specializing in postpartum mental health
  • Friends you can reach out to for additional support

Putting together a resource list gets you involved in your local mom and parent community and requires you to imagine what you might need. It may feel allusive if you’ve never been through the 4th trimester before. That’s ok. Trust that it will help when you have a tiny human to feed and know you need help but don’t know where to turn. Having a resource list can be a great starting point.

Other great preparation steps are stocking your fridge and freezer with nutrient dense foods, setting up a meal train, making your home and (especially your bedroom) beautiful and inviting and letting friends and family know that you will be prioritizing rest and healing after baby arrives.

  1. Create a postpartum healing basket.

This could be considered preparation but it can also be done at any time during the 4th trimester or beyond. Essentially, all you need is a small or medium sized basket of your choosing to fill with items you know you’ll need for healing and things that will nourish your soul.

Here’s what I put in my basket so you have some ideas:

  • Sitz bath herbal blend
  • Homeopathic remedies, like arnica
  • A letter I wrote to myself before giving birth
  • Warm socks
  • Nipple cream
  • A good breastfeeding book
  • Natural calm magnesium powder (great for any postpartum constipation)
  • A mother’s milk tea blend
  • Chinese herbs (please consult with herbalist for custom recommendations)
  • an Ayurvedic Massage oil by Banyan Botanicals,
  • Supplements (like a quality prenatal vitamin)
  • Resource list
  • Some favorite essential oils
  • Rescue remedy

What’s in your basket will be unique to your needs. Think of comfort items you want to have around and also think of warm, healing teas and oils to keep close by. Warmth and oiling are key components of postpartum healing in Chinese medicine and other ancient healing traditions.

If you’re not sure of what you might need, ask another mom what helped her or reach out to me for support.

  1. Prioritize rest.

This is essential. Really, it should be number one on the list but it’s not popular to rest so I gave you some other actionable tips first. In all honesty, most of us struggle with truly being able to rest even when given the opportunity. Resting is counter culture. It goes against finding our value in doing and accomplishing, yet rest is the key healing ingredient for new moms to thrive.

If you’re still pregnant you can practice resting leading up to your birth. Yes, I said practice resting. Deepen your dialogue with rest. What does it feel like in your body? What does it mean to you? Can you expand your capacity for rest and relaxation.

Once baby has arrived, ask for help so you can rest for at least 3 weeks. For the first week or so, you shouldn’t be getting out of bed for more than going to the bathroom or walking to another room in your house. This may sound extreme to some but I promise you it’s worth it. It’s preventative for a whole host of issues like autoimmune conditions and chronic pelvic pain that can show up months or even years later. This requires long term thinking about how your health and vitality affect you and your family for years to come.

You may need to come up with creative solutions to increase your resting time. This could look like asking for more help than you are comfortable with or expected you would need or hiring a postpartum doula to come a few times a week (highly recommend this option!).

Reclaiming the importance of the 4th trimester for yourself and your family requires wide vision and long term thinking. Long term thinking is not valued collectively in western-centric culture. Getting things done quickly, getting your body back, getting back to work, getting, doing and more getting takes priority.

What I am offering here is a radically different, yet simple approach. Taking these three tips into consideration for your 4th trimester can help you ease the transition and have support for the challenges. You deserve to thrive in the 4th trimester. You are so worth it!

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Kristin Hauser is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and somatic sex educator providing radical and embodied whole woman care for planetary evolution. She is devoted to helping women awaken to their inner healer, embodied wisdom and creative potential to inspire change personally and collectively. She has a private practice and also offers online mentoring and education for womb cycle health and sexual wholeness. You can read more on her website here or connect on Facebook or Instagram


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