The Confident Mama: welcome to the fifth trimester

confident mama

by Melissa Suffield |

Well, hi there!

Welcome to my column for Mother & Baby, The Confident Mama! I want to help every mum feel empowered and confident in the way she looks, how she dresses, her parenting decisions, and speaking up for herself.

So a little more about me - my name is Melissa and I have a 2 year old son named River. I’m an advocate for all things confidence, body neutrality and self love.

Self love is like any other kind of therapy, in that it takes a lot of introspective, hard, constant work. It’s not overnight, it will ebb and flow, and it’s unique to everyone. But I want to show that whoever you are, and whatever your story is, confidence is available to everyone. And I hope by sharing my experiences and the tools I use for myself, I can help you on your own journey. This week, we’re talking the fifth trimester...

We’re constantly told about the Fourth Trimester - the 3 months after you give birth - and we’re instructed to take it easy and be kind to ourselves. But what happens when those three months are up? What do we do now?

If you’re anything like I was, the end of that period of time meant sweet F all. I still ached, I was still exhausted, and I certainly didn’t fit back into my pre-pregnancy wardrobe. But I really just (naively) thought that I’d be back to ‘normal’. Whatever normal was now…

That fourth trimester bubble is a beautiful thing to behold. You’re encouraged to move at your own pace, and if you can keep the hoards of well-wishers away, you can really find yourself learning together, baby and parent(s) getting to know one another, and settling into this strange new life. And you need it. Up every couple of hours for feeds, body recovering from this huge physical ordeal, somehow never having a free pair of hands or an empty washing basket. Even though we still feel it creeping in, the pressure to do anything but just love and cuddle that bundle of squish is well and truly off.

Somehow the end of this magical time also coincides with the unwanted advice and opinions of friends and family, ‘experts’ start touting methods designed to ‘save you’ from the 4 month sleep regression, a dreaded ‘leap’, or whatever other struggle has reared its ugly head in the blink of an eye. All of a sudden, you find yourself in a cycle of doubt and fear, and very much trying to keep up in the real world. The bubble has truly burst.

Just because you come to the end of those three months, does not mean that you’re suddenly a brand new person, a marvel of body, spirit, and mind, unflappable in the face of any adversity, and a fountain of knowledge when it comes to all things baby. And it definitely doesn’t mean you’re ‘back to normal’. But you feel it, the pressure is suddenly weighing heavier. You see other parents, seemingly breezing through it all and it stings. And that’s nothing compared to how you feel when you see the woman in her pre-baby jeans, when you know full well you had to fold your stomach into yours that morning like putting silly putty back into the pot. Although nobody is saying anything (and even then, there are some that are), you feel a need to really step up, elevate, and up your bloody game.

But that’s to your detriment. Suddenly you’re trying to do it all, you’re not accepting help for fear that it will make you look weak, and you’re probably trying an ill advised diet that is leaving you without the nourishment you need to make it through a day, let alone while raising a kid (who let’s face it, probably still isn’t sleeping through!). You’re setting yourself up for a downfall, and you know it, but somehow that’s still worse than the alternative, looking like you don’t know what you’re doing, and that you can’t cope.

I think we’re living in a terrible time to be a parent. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and they’re not wrong. However, for the majority of parents, especially in the western world, the village is sparse, or simply, just too busy and overworked themselves. We’re more alone than ever, and expected to somehow take on more - like returning to work, getting back in the jeans, finding the perfect routine. We’re bombarded with this type of parent, that sleep method, BLW or traditional, articles about ‘taking me time’ but also ‘here’s 5 tips on how to stay on top of your home’, and it’s constant. And the opinions that come with it, the mum shaming, and the guilt at simply doing something differently to someone else. It’s no wonder that so many are secretly struggling.

So I am proposing a new era- the FIFTH trimester. And anyone can be a part of it! Whether your baby is 4 months, 4 years, or 14 years - you’re in. You’re postpartum forever, there is no time limit. I’m still suffering the physical effects of pregnancy and birth (in my hips and lower back), so for you with the aches and pains, you’re in. You whose pre-pregnancy wardrobe is a distant memory, you too. Essentially, anyone who feels like their life has been changed because they became a parent - this is for you.

And the rules are simple. Keep being kind to yourself. Take life at YOUR pace. Don’t force yourself out to groups if you aren’t ready. Feel free to use no as a complete sentence. Listen to your instincts and not the toxic facebook group. Follow guidelines and not opinions. Learn to *accept* your body and show it gratitude - it’s ok if you don’t love it yet.

You don’t have to seem like Supermum to the world, you’re already supermum to your kid. And they love you and think you’re so beautiful.

Find me on Instagram @the.confident.mama

What I’m using

(Ok, it’s River, not me!) In this warmer weather, the duvet has been stuffed back into the wardrobe, but I find that my son can’t sleep without a little something to act as a cover. He’s had this Pattie & Co blanket since he was born and it’s still going strong - and perfect for summer. It’s made from a super-soft organic cotton muslin, and available in a few gorgeous rainbow designs, and if we ever lost it, it would be replaced *instantly*. For every blanket sold, Cat (the owner) donates 10% of the selling price to Tommy’s- so you’re doing a good deed too.

What I’m wearing

Anything and everything flutter sleeve! Also known by angel sleeve or kimono sleeve, they’re the perfect styles for those of us who burn easily or feel arm conscious, but don’t want to overheat in the summer sun in a full on sleeve or cardigan. I love this dress, versatile and easy to dress up or down, in a gorgeous orangey-red- but you can find so many options by typing those sleeve styles in the search bar on any of your favourite online stores!

What I'm reading with @Bookreccos

Happy Not Perfect by Poppy Jamie is a non-fiction book about rewiring our brains and breaking damaging patterns to live a happier life. Listen to the Book Reccos interview with Poppy.

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