Mindful Minis for the Fourth Trimester
By Erica Marcus
The postpartum period was such a mystery to me, until I was in the thick of it. In fact, I had never even heard of the fourth trimester until three weeks before my delivery date when it came up at Birth Roots. I knew that babies needed lots of care. However, I only ever saw this in snippets from friends who I would briefly visit during this time. They were always so dreamy and proud.
What they were not effectively communicating is how insanely intense this period of time is. Perhaps it is just impossible to relate. The hormones, the sleep deprivation, and the awesome responsibility of keeping alive a wee one who seemed hell bent on self destruction through helplessness, at times, made me feel crazy, inadequate, and deeply tired.
I don’t know how I would have done it without my mindfulness practice. So many times I drew upon it to come back to reality, or simply accept with compassion those moments where I just had to cry it out. It has helped me weather the storms. It has highlighted those the sweet tiny moments with my babe, the brief private moments of self care, and the connection with my husband.
I offer a few practices to try during this period, to connect more deeply with solace and joy during this time:
Tune into the senses: Our senses act as anchors to the present moment, and can help us stay connected to reality. By intentionally tuning in to sound, sight, touch, taste, or smell, we can escape from a tailspin of thoughts and land back in what is real. Each day, try closing your eyes for a minute or two and simply taking in the world around you… listening gentle grunts from your kiddo, soaking in the warmth radiating from their body, inhaling their sweet scent. Intentionally relax your body— especially your jaw, neck, and shoulders— and fully embrace the moment just as it is.
Watch the Mind: Our minds were constructed, first and foremost, to meet our basic needs and keep us safe. Thus, we are naturally inclined to seek out and remember negative experiences as a safety mechanism. An entire day can be boiled down to a particularly aggressive witching hour, and we can quickly forget about hours of delightful snuggles or new smiles. Tune into your mind’s tendency to seek out and hold onto the negative, and invite your awareness to also include the pleasant from the day. If you find yourself stuck in dark thoughts, ask yourself, “What else is true?” Try sharing what you are grateful for with a partner or friend at the end of the day, challenging the mind to remember the subtle moments of beauty too. Because of the inclination of the mind, we need to actively seek the fullness of our experience.
Find Community: I found it incredibly important to have people around with whom I felt I could completely let go. I needed women who I could text at 3 am about weird sounds my baby was making, women who I could sit in front of, boobs out, with nary a flinch, women would nod knowingly as I bemoaned the intensity of that period. There are so many ways to find that: online forums, baby and me yoga, tummy time groups, and, of course, Birth Roots. I am so grateful to have found my mama bear clan with whom I could struggle in the trenches and celebrate the small victories. Having them around gave me permission to not have to put on a good face and welcome it all in.
As Rumi challenges, may you, “welcome and entertain [it] all”
Please check out Erica’s wonderful work here.