The Fourth Trimester | A Postpartum Update

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Apr 3, 2019

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It’s hard to believe it, but Oliver is officially 4 months old. What a darling little boy he is! Time is FLYING! I can’t even believe we’re already out of the “Fourth Trimester.”

Fourth Trimester Update | Lauren Carnes Photography

He’s just shy of 13 pounds, over double his birth weight (5 lbs 5 ozs)… and nearing triple! And goodness, I couldn’t be more grateful for that. Born preemie (you can find our birth story here!) paired with a good dose of jaundice and high bilirubin levels meant that putting on weight was of the utmost importance in the beginning. He dropped down to his lowest weight at 4 lbs 13 ozs… the smallest baby I had ever seen in person. So tiny! So precious! You can get a bit more of an update on his current status here, but today I’m here to share about the “Fourth Trimester” as it’s affectionately called.

Now, the Fourth Trimester is technically months 0-3 of a newborn’s life: when not only has a baby been born, but a mother has, as well. However, since Oliver was born about a month early, we got an extra month of newborn babyhood, meaning that “Fourth Trimester” feeling lasted a bit longer than it normally would… and we’re just starting to feel like we are coming out of the newborn land fog. I’ve heard from so many of you sweetly checking in on how we are doing and how motherhood is going, and I’m excited to finally share a bit of an update here about our first few months of Oliver.

The Fourth Trimester/Postpartum Real Recap

The sweetest of times & realizations:

Y’all, I love being a mom even more than I ever would have anticipated. I had been so excited to become a mom, to welcome our little guy into the world, but honestly, I was nervous about what that transition would look like, and truthfully about if I would be bored out of my mind sitting around all day. Surprisingly, I have loved it. Immensely. I have never spent so much time in one single room of my house other than endless hours at the computer. This time, instead of the computer (there were weeks I’d go without even so much as opening my laptop!), I spent time lounging in the bed, snuggling with Oliver, studying every precious feature of his tiny little face. Infatuation – total, complete love. And total contentment in simply being with him. No work, nothing to tend to other than keeping us fed & happy. I didn’t have any idea just HOW thankful I would be that I intentionally planned maternity leave as an entrepreneur for us (I’ll share more on what I wish I had known/done differently one of these days!).

However, in many moments, I almost felt lame, wondering just WHO I was in all of this. Lauren, the Type A, Achiever on the StrengthsFinder, the one who constantly checks off the list… sitting around all day with the greatest accomplishment being 17 diaper changes & brushing her teeth before 5pm (struggle is real, y’all).

To take from a recent Instagram post, I’ll share snippets of this caption:

“I’ve always found my worth in my work.
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My sense of self has always risen & fallen based on my latest endeavor. My latest success… or failure. I believed I was only as good as my work… and that’s all I was good for.
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Even more recently, I had been known to say about taking some time off for Maternity Leave: “Who even AM I if I’m not a ‘worker’?” Like a mini work-life identity crisis. 😬 I’ve always struggled with fears of inadequacy and like my business would crumble if I weren’t winning at #AllTheThings… if I weren’t creating. producing. achieving.
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I wrestled with being ok taking a REAL break and being fully PRESENT for my son’s first few months of life. Like it wasn’t worthy enough of a job. What a shame, y’all. I know better now, but dang!
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The transition into mamapreneur life is a unique one – full of so many emotions. Those fears & inaccurate beliefs of self worth almost cost me the joy of snuggles and privilege to spend the last 3 months doing exactly what I know I was meant to be doing, even if some days it felt a bit lame that the only thing I achieved was 17 diaper changes and keeping us fed. This photo is even “dressed up” for this season, as I was wearing makeup from the night before: one of the maybe 10 times I’ve done my makeup since Oliver has arrived.
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It seems fitting that the same week I begin transitioning back into work post ML is the same as the #imperfectishuman campaign. And as I step back in, I wonder just WHO I am in all of this: work, life, business, motherhood, wifery, etc. It’s hard to figure out where achievement fits in it all, and a weird challenge to be ok that things look different now than they used to. That a slower pace of success is not failure, and some days success might just be diapers.
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Even posting this selfie instead of a professional photo is a step out of the “perfection” and “achievement” of a perfect grid… but honestly, it feels right, so we’re going with it. Perfectly imperfect. Perfectly human. Learning that that’s ok, and I’m more than my latest success or lack thereof. You are too, friend.

As you can imagine, I had been concerned about what it all would look like – and truthfully, I’d be lying if I said I felt 100% confident that I’m going to rock mamapreneur life right from the start. Y’all, running a business and keeping a baby alive is tough stuff! It’s tricky, but it’s GOOD good work. And the reason why?

I have the privilege to be home with my little man AND build a business I love.

That’s part of why I started this business in the first place, and I’m SO so grateful for it. The Lord has been working on my heart in such huge ways, and I continue to see that this business I have built is designed to bring LIFE to our family, not drain it. And I am so thankful for the chance to have the best of both worlds, even if navigating the waters might look a bit choppy at times.

I’m eager to see how it all plays out, giving myself endless grace and freedom from expectations: mine or others. That’s a good realization from this time… and I’m hoping to carry it with me moving forward.

And gracious, I am so thankful for this work. I love the work I do. I love the clients. I love the challenges. Heck, I love the achievement… and ultimately, I love that I have the opportunity to pursue both things. Good work IN the home and OUT of the home. So, thank you, to everyone who makes it possible. Who trusts us with capturing their stories and moments, with navigating marketing and communications for their brands, and more.

Overall, I am so, so grateful to say that I for the most part have absolutely loved the newborn stage. They say it goes so fast, and they are so right. I am brought to tears about it, but am excited and expectant for the next stage of his life and parenthood and mamapreneur land!

Lifestyle newborn photo in pajamas

What surprised me the most after having a baby (in a good way):

  1. They say it’s a love like you’ve never known before… and goodness, it’s true. I could talk for hours about my obsession with him… but one glance at my Instagram Stories and that’s pretty obvious. 🙂 I wasn’t sure I really understood how all of the sudden you could love someone so strongly, but wow, we adore that little man in such crazy ways. I also have never known such deep love for Chip as I have in seeing him be a dad. And I’ve never been more amazed at the unconditional love of Christ (and my need for Him in my weakest moments) as I have now. While I don’t think being a parent is for everyone (and therefore, it’s not necessary to experience being a parent to have those kinds of emotions!), I do think it’s for us, and as a result, I definitely have felt those emotions in big ways.
  2. The Mom Tribe is a GOOD one. Holy cow. To all the mamas (and motherly figures and nannies and friends of people with babies and etc.) who have offered insight and advice, THANK YOU. You have no idea just how much I appreciate you all. If you’re reading this, you know who you are. So much support (emotional, mental, physical, middle of the late, 8 minute long Voxer messages, via homecooked meals dropped on our front porch, etc.). Sure, sometimes the advice is a little random but in the end there is nothing like someone who says “ME TOO” and “Been there, done that, learn from my experiences.”
  3. As a result, becoming a parent has absolutely transformed my mindset on how amazing parents are & how powerful and incredible a woman’s body is in growing/birthing/nursing/caring for a child. Literally every time I see a mama now, I’m like… YOU GO GIRL. WE ARE WOMEN, HEAR US ROAR! So if you’re reading this and not sure how you’ll do it, just know: however you become a mama, you are MEANT for that little one. There is no more perfect mama than you for your babe.
  4. I never would have expected how much I would LOVE having a bed in our nursery, but we spend more time in that bed snuggling, nursing, & even sleeping than I ever planned for. It’s been the sweetest, and Lord willing for future children, I’d elect to move the only guest bed into the nursery again.
  5. How much my eyes would be opened to what it looks like to set down “achievement” for a moment and assess how we can just plain do a good work and do the next thing, and that is enough. Oh man, I am learning so much about this as a mamapreneur right now, and I am excited to share more about it as time goes on. It’s been so refining. Hard, but so good.
  6. Photographing your own newborn a few weeks postpartum is much harder than you’d expect. 😂 But you can’t miss out on these moments… so alas, wrangle, I did.

newborn photo on white backdrop

What I wish I had known about the Fourth Trimester:

I mentioned grace above. I know grace. I believe in the power of Jesus, but goodness, grace takes on a whole new meaning when you’re navigating mom-life. We need so much of it. Beyond that, oh my goodness, I wish I had know some things. You hear about the difficulties of pregnancy, about the pain of labor, even about the gory details of immediately postpartum in the hospital or the impact of postpartum depression… but not many people talk about a couple things I wish I had known about previously.

So here I am, in case you didn’t know these things… and in case you are like me and just want to be semi-prepared in case this is like your story too.

First thing…

Disclaimer: this is my personal experience, and it’s certainly not everyone’s experience, but I really struggled in the beginning thinking I was ALONE in this. When I started finding other women who had the same experience, it changed everything for me. I felt heard, supported, not quite so crazy, and like I could DO IT if I wanted to. And I wanted to. Therefore, if you feel called to breastfeed and you’re excited about it, that amazing Mama Tribe is here for you through the good and bad. And if you’re interested but scared, don’t worry… you’re not alone. Don’t let the fear discourage you or keep you from trying. You never know until you try. So… with that being said:

Breastfeeding is absolutely the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve done in my whole life. Just as I mentioned that when a baby is born, so is a mother… breastfeeding as a first time mom is essentially doing something you’ve never done before with a human who has zero life experience. It has been 150% worth it, but whew, it has not always been easy. Or fun. Or natural.

Yes, it’s technically natural. Yes, babies do have an uncanny way of biologically being able to nurse. And yes, it’s incredible what a mother’s milk can do in the way of sustenance and nutrition. I literally am MIND BOGGLED that my son has survived for 4+ months solely on breastmilk. Mind blown. Partially because that is unreal that it has literally everything a baby needs, but also partially because wow, I didn’t know if I could do it at some points.

I believe the rhetoric around breastfeeding is a bit unhealthy honestly… it’s an incredibly emotional experience, and your hormones are running wild. Then you put a high achieving mom in the setting of high need for a baby to gain weight and recover from elevated bilirubin levels, and it’s just a recipe for frustration & pain (physical, emotional, mental). The conversations around breastfeeding can often shame you for “failing” rather than encourage you for trying… and helping troubleshoot if you feel called to continue.

They say: “If it hurts, you’re doing it wrong.”

My reaction in a new mom obsessed with her baby but also exhausted and crying from pain stupor: “UM OKAY, THEN HOW IS RIGHT? BECAUSE IF YOU JUST TELL ME HOW TO FIX THIS I WILL DO ANYTHING I CAN TO FIX IT!”

It’s not that easy sometimes.

I had always envisioned breastfeeding being this magical experience… the one you see glorified on TV. Mother & baby gently swaying in the breeze with angelic tunes humming and sun shining.

They say comparison is the thief of joy?

I think comparison’s twin sister is expectation. Goodness they look a lot alike.

Our first three months of breastfeeding were not exactly what you would call angelic for us. Now, I know this isn’t everyone’s story – some of my dear friends found breastfeeding to be a breeze, much like my mismanaged expectations. But every baby is different, and every mama is different!

Instead, it was much gritting of teeth & plenty of tears & an emotional rollercoaster of physical pain and worry that I was not providing for my baby. I know formula is ok, and truthfully would have navigated the missed expectations if we chose to move forward with formula, but breastfeeding was not just a health thing but also an emotional thing for me. I wanted to breastfeed. It was special for us, even despite the tears and days I didn’t even get up from our nursing chair because one feed would run straight into the next other than to use the restroom and occasionally feed myself. Thank goodness I planned for a significant maternity leave… because breastfeeding alone was a full time job for us. 😂 Between a preemie with difficulty nursing, triple feeding, lip and tongue tie revisions, and more, those first few months were trying… but seeing his growth and how he is thriving makes it all worth it!

I’ll spare you the details & what exactly all I did in the journey to get to the other side (but know if you’re in the thick of it and want some encouragement or tips: 1. Find yourself a good Lactation Consultant. 2. Know it will get better if you’re willing to do some troubleshooting and hard work. and 3. I’m here for questions and encouragement, just email me!).

PS: Augusta folks: I 500% percent recommend Sally of Baby Azur. She was a Godsend for us when I was at what could have been the end of our breastfeeding journey. But instead, it was where we turned the corner. And Dr. Will Brantley of Pediatric Dental Specialists for lip tie/tongue tie revision.

Now, I truly am SO SO glad I stuck it out and have the opportunity to nurse our little man. I love it. He loves it. It’s not always perfect, of course, still, but it’s still happening and with much less physical and mental pain, so that’s a win in my book. It’s so special, and while it certainly hasn’t been the full story I expected, the outcome warms my heart & seeing him grow & get all the chunky legs and cheeks is seriously so darn empowering. I am so very grateful I even am able to breastfeed, as I know that isn’t the case for everyone, and definitely don’t take it for granted. I’m hoping we can continue for as long as makes sense for us both! If you feel called to it, know that I’m fist pumping you all the way. And ultimately, remember: fed is best.

I’ll tell you this: this series of photos snapped by my dear friend, Becky of Casto Photography, in our jammies in the nursing chair we spent countless hours in are ones I will forever cherish for the oh so special and refining season and journey they represent. So grateful that the smile here was genuine in seeing the transformation and uphill of what was definitely a rollercoaster.

What I wish I had known about the fourth trimester

What every breastfeeding new mama needs

Resources other than mamas who have been there or are in your current stage, Baby Azur & PDS, & the Spectra S1 (more on that below!) that I’d recommend while nursing:

Legendairy Milk (both on Instagram for education AND the supplements) | Drinking LOTS of water | Eating oatmeal every day with flax meal & brewer’s yeast (things like lactation cookies & breads also are awesome, but I recommend watching the sugar amount in those!) | And not necessarily nursing related, but while in the newborn stage you both NEED sleep in order to even function and have the mental capacity TO think about breastfeeding… so certainly check out Taking Cara Babies (both on her blog/site & Instagram) and the Moms on Call book (and Chip read/would recommend the book: Happiest Baby on the Block) | An incredible supporter – I had many without a doubt in this process, but Chip was my biggest cheerleader and always there to celebrate little wins or lend a shoulder to cry on

I also wish I had known:

  • The in’s & out’s of pumping: I had a pump. But I didn’t really expect to use it. In fact, I saw it as almost “failure” if I had to pump. Which is SO not the case. I had no idea even HOW to use it at first… and I still don’t like pumping one bit, but it means I get to do one of my now favorite things: nursing… so I do it. If you’re a mama-to-be, don’t stress too much over understanding it all, but just at least unwrap your pump & familiarize yourself with it in case you do need it… and know that you may need to use it. I was a bit overwhelmed with it all when on Day 1, the Lactation Consultant told me I needed to start pumping for our preemie guy. Also, if you’re thinking of getting a pump, you can get one through your insurance, so definitely ask about that!! I have the Spectra S1 and highly recommend getting a pump that is battery powered so you don’t have to be chained to an outlet all day long.
  • Healing postpartum may take longer than you expect: I had a fairly uncomplicated birth story, despite a couple things I left out of that blog post to spare you all the… unnecessary details… ha! and despite Oliver arriving a month early. However, what I didn’t expect is just how long it would take for me to physically heal from labor & delivery, and how mentally draining that would be. I am used to being able to go go go, but the healing process definitely limited my mobility & made things like merely walking down the street pretty difficult. Fortunately, it was a COLD RAINY winter, so we didn’t get out much anyway, but I would have loved to know that healing is different for everyone, so know you may have to lay low longer than you expected. It’s a bit discouraging at times, but let your body rest. It deserves it.
  • Ask for & accept help quicker: If you need help with anything at all – and I mean anything – ask for it. And quicker than you think you need it. It’s the absolute SWEETEST but also most trying time. Don’t be ashamed. People want to help. For example, things I asked for help in and am so glad I did:
    • Our families literally deep cleaning our entire house while we were in the hospital & bringing us a Trader Joe’s haul one week later
    • Cutting in line at HomeGoods so I could pay and make it to Oliver’s 1-month appointment on time when we went out for the first time just the two of us to somewhere other than the doctor
    • People making us food… and a MealTrain (this, friends, is a gamechanger)
    • Managing the anxiety surrounding Oliver’s weight gain & breastfeeding (and as a naturally more anxious person, this was very important to manage so it didn’t get out of control)
    • Making Chip in charge of washing bottles & pump parts… and even ordering a package of 100 3ML syringes in a late night moment of desperation during the “triple feeding” stage
    • An also late night desperate email to Sally of Baby Azur through tears and frustration that something had to change about breastfeeding or I just couldn’t keep it up
    • Knowing you’ll need help longer than you thought you would, and that is OKAY
  • Things will be everything and more than you ever expected and absolutely nothing like you ever expected: Nothing can truly prepare you! But take everything one day (heck, one hour!) at a time… and know that they really are right when they say it all goes so, so fast. Snuggle longer. Soak in their newborn sweetness. Kiss their little toes. Take it all in, even through bleary eyes and long days. You are meant for this.

I’ll leave you with that, because this post is entirely too long. Welcome to new mom life and stream of consciousness in Lauren’s brain. 😉

So many of you have asked about other things as a new mama too, so more to come.

Potential upcoming blog posts… (but let’s be honest, I’m giving myself all the grace knowing sometimes it may take a while… so if you have something in particular you’d like sooner rather than later, let me know, and I’ll prioritize it! ;))

  • How the work side of maternity leave all panned out & what I would have done differently
  • Top items for a baby registry
  • How to nourish yourself as a new mama with good (and fast!) food

Friends, what surprised you most about the Fourth Trimester? Or what wisdom would you impart to a new mama in the Fourth Trimester? Share below in the comments!

  1. Amy Owen

    April 4th, 2019 at 9:06 am

    Lauren I’m so proud of you friend!! I read through and kept thinking of how awesome this post would have been for me way back when but here you are, encouraging others right in the thick of everything!! My favorite advice from other mamas was just to keep giving yourself grace and to remember everything can wait, there will always be time to do all the things as they get older, but babies don’t keep!! I definitely miss this stage so much ❤️

  2. Lauren Carnes

    April 5th, 2019 at 8:52 am

    Thank you so much, sweet friend! I am hopeful it will serve as an encouragement to even one person in the transition into motherhood and mamapreneur life! Such a sweet sweet stage of life. You mamas with teens (and 5 nonetheless!) are an inspiration to us new mamas!

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