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  • Ana Sofia Valdes

End of the Fourth Trimester!

Max is now 3 months old, and I don't know where the time went. In the past week or so, I feel he has doubled his e, I feel as if he grows every time I close my eyes for a second, and it is one of the scariest things I have ever experienced.

It also doesn't help that everyone keeps telling me just how much he has changed and grown. They mean well, but I feel they are rubbing it in my face. Just the other day, I put him down for the night, and when I came to check on him a couple of hours later, I swear his hand had grown. I know I should be happy that he is growing and impressed with the power of my body. After all, I alone produce everything he needs to function and become strong and healthy. Still, I'm just scared of how fast it's happening.

I'm scared of him not needing me anymore. As with everything in motherhood, I find myself in contradiction because I want to raise him to be very independent. Still, I wish that he would last a little longer like this, where he fits perfectly on my chest. His weight is enough that I feel him but not so much that my arms get tired of holding him, awake enough that he can see me and make adorable noises but mostly sleepy so I can hold him for hours.

When talking about this with my husband, he does not understand. For him, as probably for most men, the first weeks and months tend to be scarier, a tiny baby is just too fragile, and so they enjoy more when they start interacting and actually being able to play or "do things."

I have the feeling and fear that for me, this will always be the best stage. (Update 6 months later: every stage has its beauty, and I love every part of it, but yes, those first weeks are extraordinary and will always be close to my heart. It stops happening from one day to another, so enjoy it while you can!)

Apart from not wanting him to grow so fast, I am also starting to have separation anxiety. I know for babies, it starts when they are around 8 months old, and it is a natural part of their development. I wasn't expecting to have it myself and so early! Yes, when he starts daycare or walking, I am feeling it right now. I don't know if suddenly the rest of my activities seem so unimportant compared to spending time with him or that I love the idea of him needing me. I don't know what it is and if it happens to everyone, but I cannot stay away without feeling anxious or scared. If I manage to get over that, I start feeling guilty.

Are these feelings because he is growing so fast, or is it that the fourth trimester is over? Can I still blame it on the hormones? Or is it that I'm starting to feel better, I'm finally not in pain, and my boobs are not leaking every five minutes, so I am not constantly reminded that I need to be close to him, and I am free to be away for longer.

It might just be a combination of it all. Still, instead of feeling great about being able to take a shower in peace or going to get a much-needed haircut, it's the opposite. It is also not just about being physically away but also about being substituted or not needed. The other day, I had to get a test done, so I left Max with his dad, I had been planning for weeks to introduce him to the bottle, but I kept putting it off. Anyways, before leaving, I pumped milk, sterilized the bottle, and left everything ready. I told my husband, "there is milk in the fridge, but you won't need it, I will be back in an hour."

Long story short, the test took a bit longer than expected. Max woke up crying, and although I literally ran back to be with him, by the time I got home, my little guy was sucking on the bottle as if he had been doing it forever. The second I saw him, I started crying. Instead of being happy because they had managed without me and letting my husband be happy about his first feeding with Max, I just felt a deep sadness that I couldn't really explain.

In addition to separation anxiety, and although I'm starting to feel more comfortable with my role as a mom or at least the mechanics of it (you know: I'm not scared anymore of breaking him, I can change a diaper and most of the time will have no leaks and I can confidently say we have mastered breastfeeding and we are getting into sort of a rhythm) now I am scared about a lot more.

I feel like, during pregnancy, I was focused on being healthy and worried about the birth. Then, as I got closer to my due date, I was scared about getting everything ready and how I would take care of him. Now that I am over those hurdles, the bigger questions are starting to overwhelm me.

It's funny because as I am writing about these "bigger questions," I realize how small they really are but still, at points, they suffocate me. I'm talking about things like, is he reaching all his development milestones at the right time? Could I be doing something else to help him? Am I cuddling him too much? Or am I doing something that will slow him down instead of stimulating him? As Max leaves his newborn stage, I feel I am bombarded with things I could be doing better. There is always a better way, a different sleep routine, no more naps in my arms or, god forbid, on my nipple, more tummy time, early stimulation exercises, strengthening exercises…

Ahh!!! My head is going to explode!!! I want to be the greatest mom and give my baby the best care and opportunities, but OMG, it's too much. It is confusing because there is contradiction everywhere, a difference of opinion, and for every person who thinks "x," there are ten that contradict it. I know I have said that information is power, but sometimes too much information is also dangerous. It can make the best of us feel unfit, and instead of motivating action, it paralyzes us.

In a way, I feel my mom and my grandma's generation had a more straightforward approach to motherhood. It is not that they didn't worry about the same things, but there was less information and fewer tools at their disposal. Before, they relied more on their instinct and on what they have been told from generation to generation, and as my mom keeps reminding me, I turned out ok. And although I am the first one to complain about some of their raising methods, I have to say that it just seems they had a more natural and less worrisome journey.

This post isn't about what to do with your baby or with yourself, I'm still figuring that out myself, and I hope in the future I can share with you resources to help you raise your babies in an uncomplicated, guilt-free, and non-expensive manner.

But for now, my advice is:

  • First. Do what you think is suitable for your family and follow your instinct.

  • Second. Take it slow and allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling, don't judge yourself, cry if you need to, and take it one step at a time.

  • Third. If you are like me, someone that doesn't feel confident until she has explored all possibilities and read a million articles… STOP. When you are feeling overwhelmed, stop for a bit and acknowledge that right now, you just don't have the time or energy to read a treaty on every decision you take about raising your baby. I have learned that the more you let go, the easier it will be.

  • Fourth. Take what other people tell you with a grain of salt. Be especially careful with social media because you can get so much information in the shortest presentations, and much of it is incomplete. Remember that most people post the best version of themselves or what they are selling on social media. The sleep coach you follow is not going to tell you about their sleepless nights. They have never shared a post about the unsuccessful stories. Of course, the therapist will tell you that their early stimulation method is the best thing you could for your baby. They might even be correct, but that is provided that you have the time, money, and most importantly, headspace to do it. Finally, don't be afraid to unfollow. You won't miss anything life-changing.

To help your baby thrive, you can't be overwhelmed.

If you are feeling even a bit like what I am describing, hang in there. You are not alone, and for those of you reading me that are not past the first weeks yet, don't worry; there is a lot more joy than stress coming your way. The anxiety I'm feeling is quickly erased when Max smiles at me and holds my finger, when he, little by little, starts to recognize me, not as a meal ticket but as his mom, and starts consciously and not instinctively needing and wanting me. It is also a time when I can start feeling like a version of my old self. The physical pain is gone and having a better handle of the day-to-day things gives me much confidence. In the end, no matter how complicated or intense the emotions are, every time I look at him or hold him, everything disappears, and I'm on cloud 9.

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