My Fourth Trimester Story

My Fourth Trimester Story

The Fourth Trimester, a term coined by Dr Harvey Karp, may refer to the first 3 months of a newborn as it adjusts to the new environment. However, it also implies a period of difficult transition for the new mother. As new mothers, we are learning all about caring for the newborn but also are in the midst of recovering from one of the most physically and even mentally demanding moments of our lives. Here's my personal story of how my fourth trimester looked like.

Being an Asian, I have been exposed to the practice of confinement, or “zuo yue zi” (“sitting the month”) as the Chinese named it. To educate myself briefly on some of the rationales behind that practice, I read “The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother” by authors Heng Ou, Marisa Belger, Amely Greeven. From the experience by the author Heng Ou, I saw the benefits and importance of good nourishment and ample rest during this “fourth trimester” and knew I needed those for myself.

Since I gave birth in the United States (our families were both in Singapore) during the pandemic, my spouse and I opted to do without any live-in confinement help. Thankfully, where we lived had a good Chinese confinement meal catering service which we ordered for my first two weeks postpartum. Yet, while I could ensure I had comforting and nutritious food to nourish myself postpartum, I could not anticipate how much discomfort I would experience postpartum.

Confinement Food

I had suffered a 2nd degree tear during my vaginal delivery and had to receive stitches as a result. It was difficult to move about, especially up and down the bed and, it was painful to sit anywhere. I had to use plenty of ice packs or “padsicles” to help numb the area and I also bought a donut pillow - a seat cushion shaped like a donut essentially - so I can sit and nurse my baby more comfortably. Not to forget having to deal with all the bleeding that last through the entire first 6 weeks. On top of having to deal with all these physical limitations, I had to learn to breastfeed my newborn, which is another challenge of its own.

Donut Pillow

Mentally and emotionally, it was a tough period too. The hormonal changes contributed to feelings of helplessness and inadequacy in the face of a crying baby and, feelings of loss - loss of our freedom as just my spouse and I. It was challenging for my spouse too, having to care for both myself and our daughter. The postpartum struggles are very real and yet, seldom spoken about or shared with first-time mothers especially, prior to them giving birth.

Having said that, I am grateful for the village of friends who were there to help us get through the fourth trimester. They contributed to our meal funds, rostered themselves to deliver us meals, whether home-cooked or store-bought. Some friends helped babysit as I went for my postpartum appointments with my OBGYN. Some sent gifts like snacks, sitz bath salts, or eye pillows. All these definitely played a part in helping me feel better and recover over time, despite having to do it all without a confinement nanny.

Postpartum Gift Box 1 Postpartum Gift Box 2

In Singapore, although confinement nannies are very common and confinement centres gaining popularity, I believe that the support of a mother from her friends and family can still mean a great deal, especially to her mental health. To know that she is loved and cared for, that she is still seen and heard, is so essential to a mother’s mental well-being. By providing curated gifts, such as the RELAX Kit, for mothers, it is Fourth Wellness's goal that more people can come to understand the needs of new mothers and how they can care for them better.

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