Reclaiming the Fourth Trimester

Sarah Yarwood explains why this period of rest, recovery and replenishment is crucial for new mothers and their babies.

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What is the Fourth Trimester?

Have you heard of the fourth trimester? Read about it? Perhaps you have done it or heard stories about a friend-of-a friend who has? Well if it’s news to you, then listen up because it is an essential missing piece of the puzzle to the replenishment of a new mother.

The fourth trimester is the time period that runs for at least one month after childbirth that is widely acknowledged in many other cultures, and while mother and baby are still at their most vulnerable, so it should be.

Taking a moment to think of ways you could honour this time could have a huge beneficial impact on long term health and overall wellbeing of mother and in turn baby.  Forget “bouncing back” or any other external pressures or expectations during this time. This is a time for you, new parents and baby, surrendering to natural rhythms, to bond and regain full strength for your new days together as you make your gentle, steady way into the future.

How can you prepare before baby arrives? 

From storing pre-cooked nutritious meals, to how to handle unwanted guests, the benefits of considering such things ahead of time all add up little by little. By preparing your own version of a fourth trimester, your future self will no doubt be thankful for it later!

Read more about the fourth trimester, what it can look like and ways you can make it your own in Sarah’s full article here.

FIRST FORTY DAYS

And check out this lovely book The First Forty Days by Heng Ou as you prepare to meet your baby.

Sarah Yarwood is a maternity massage therapist and birth doula working in Kent. She trained in Canada and brings a wealth of experience and passion to her work. 

Why is your baby crying?

Understanding and responding to your baby’s cries
Lindsey Coates and
Suzi Lister

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A baby who cries constantly for no apparent reason can put huge pressure on parents and family life. By acknowledging that birth is a dramatic and considerable experience for a baby as they journey from the security of the womb to the outside world it may help to consider that your baby could be expressing their birthing experience through crying and body language.

As well as times of intense physical pressure during labour, a baby may become disorientated, their body flooded by stress hormones or drugs through the umbilical cord, or deprived of oxygen as the cord gets compressed during contractions.
Babies can be deeply affected physically, emotionally and psychologically by the way they are born and this experience can be held in the cells and tissues of their bodies, a concept known as ‘body memory’.

After birth, your baby may be trying to express their ‘body memory’ through body language and crying as they try to communicate their birthing experience.

Needs Crying and Memory Crying

Crying can be for a present moment need such as being hungry, uncomfortable or tired, called ‘needs crying’, and once the need is met the crying stops.

However, constant crying for no apparent reason, called ‘memory crying’, often occurs when your baby is experiencing internal body sensations that relate to an earlier experience (body memory), such as a moment in the birth that was overwhelming. Memory crying is often associated with repetitive body movements, such as, for example, frantically pushing with the legs or swiping an area of the head or pulling an ear again and again. Babies need us to respond to the experience they are holding in their bodies.

How to support Memory Crying

It is well-documented that babies thrive on empathy. They respond to facial expressions and tones of voice. They are conscious human beings. How we are able to listen to a baby after they are born is very important, and by listening with accurate empathy babies can begin to release the tension associated with held experience/ body memory.

If you sense your baby may be memory crying here are some things you can try yourself:

  • Acknowledging that they want to tell their story and that it is ok to cry,
  • Calmly making eye contact and quietly asking what it is they want to tell us or what they want us to understand,
  • Mirroring their facial expressions or hand movements.

Craniosacral Therapy is another very gentle way of supporting you and your baby to come into relationship with body memory using light touch and sensitive listening, enabling you and your baby to begin to resolve held experience associated with birth or womb life. Craniosacral Therapy can also offer support for:

  • early infant feeding problems including colic and reflux
  • neck pain and stiffnes
  • settling the nervous systems
  • developing good sleep patterns
  • establishing and supporting breastfeeding
  • bonding

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Lindsey Coates and Suzi Lister are craniosacral therapists who work together to support babies and their families in Kent.   

References: Mathew Appleton (MA RCST UKCP) ‘ Birth trauma. A cultural blind spot’ and ideas from the late John Chitty.

Supporting women through Matrescence

Unfiltered Motherhood: Building a community to support women through Matrescence
Maria Garcia (Unfiltered Motherhood)

Maria Garcia, Unfiltered Motherhood.

I became a first time mother last December. My experience of Motherhood turned out to be a lot different than I expected. The first 3 months of my daughter’s life I was keeping afloat, on survival mode, feeling very vulnerable, lost, scared, sad, angry…Reactions that took me by surprise. I cried almost every day, sometimes twice. I started wondering whether I was suffering from postnatal depression. Seeking for help, I talked to other mothers and 95% of them told me what I was feeling was completely normal, that they had felt the same way when they had their children.

I asked myself why I didn’t know about this? How come women are not talking about this openly.

I started researching the subject and found out there is a term that defines everything I was feeling. This transitional stage into Motherhood is called Matrescence. This is a healthy developmental stage women undertake when entering Motherhood.

Matrescence

Matrescence is experienced by women in many different and individual ways, nevertheless there are broad psychological aspects that can have a significant impact. They include:

A brutal hormonal imbalance

This hormonal imbalance starts during pregnancy in preparation for birth and continues once the baby is born, remarkably during the 1st week after birth as a consequence of the breast milk coming in regardless of whether you decide to breastfeed.

The act of giving birth

The act of giving birth is life changing whatever your experience of it is. When this experience turns out to be negative or even traumatic it is crucial to talk about it. Failing to do so can lead to potential psychological consequences as the impact that experience has can get locked in the woman’s body.

A loss of identity

We give birth to our baby and ourselves at the same time, but the woman tends to get lost in the process. The mother seems to become invisible as the baby takes centre of stage. The role of the woman changes completely, becoming a mother, a new role she has yet to find her feet in. Her identity fades away and there is a loss of the old life. The baby takes up all the mothers time and all the activities and hobbies she used to do before are secondary.

Changes in the family unit/relationship

The relationship/family configuration needs to be re-organised as there is a new member. Some couples experience their relationship falling apart, they distance from each other and find it very difficult to connect again. The baby takes priority and everyone and everything else in the mother’s’ life competes for her attention. This can awaken jealousy and feelings of abandonment in the couple and other members of the family. Another difficulty is that sometimes the partner doesn’t know what their role as a parent is which can leave them feeling very disconnected and out of place.

A door to own childhood opens

It is inevitable to become in touch with our own childhood as becoming a mother is informed and formed by how we were mothered.


During my pregnancy I attended various courses, all of them focused on birth and keeping healthy during pregnancy. To be honest, I didn’t have the head space to think beyond birth, plus there were no courses focused on women’s mental health, on women’s wellbeing and psychological preparation into motherhood. We are forgotten about once we become mothers,we are expected to be recovered within 40 days and have every aspect of our lives under control. Everything that doesn’t match that idyllic Motherhood happy picture is not accepted and women end up repressing all those difficult feelings that can emanate from the savage life changes stated above. This leaves us feeling ashamed, guilty and isolated. Especially in our western isolated lifestyle where we don’t have the much needed community to support us through Matrescence.

Unfiltered Motherhood

Unfiltered Motherhood is a project I developed aiming to create a community for women. The goal is to demystify the idyllic picture of Motherhood, normalising and making Matrescence visible by focusing on the woman’s experience. I offer therapy groups as well as Matrescence preparation workshops for expecting couples (whatever your relationship status).


Maria Garcia is a psychotherapist and psychologist based in Kent. She runs her Unfiltered Motherhood sessions in her local area.