Having a baby can be a beautiful, wonderful and exciting time, yet it often also brings challenges. Learning how to navigate life as a mother, while fulfilling family and other responsibilities can feel overwhelming for mothers with a newborn. To help new parents, Ann Arbor author Cynthia Gabriel recently released her second book, Fourth Trimester Companion: How to Take Care of Your Body, Mind, and Family as You Welcome Your New Baby. Its goal: support mothers during the fourth trimester, the three months after birth.
Cultural influence on the
As a medical anthropologist, a doula, and mother of three, Gabriel has a significant amount of expertise in the birth arena. She has also researched birth and birth practices in Michigan and California as well as in Russia and Brazil. Through her research and observing birth practices globally she discovered that the United States is one of the only cultures in the world where mothers and babies do not have the ability to rest and stay home with full support and care after a baby’s birth. This lack of support, coupled with immediate pressure from society for new parents to return to life as usual as soon as possible, leaves many women in the U.S. feeling isolated and alone during the time after birth.
Care for mind, body and spirit
In her book, Gabriel provides information, guidance and encouragement for new mothers on how they can take care of their bodies, minds and spirits during these vital months. She emphasizes the positive impact a mother’s commitment to caring for herself in the first three months of a new baby’s life has on the entire family.
One important aspect of the fourth trimester is sleep! New parents often worry how much sleep the baby is getting but what Gabriel thinks is more important is how much sleep a new mother is getting. “The babies will take care of themselves, so our focus should shift to how to get the mom enough sleep,” says Gabriel.
Finding local support
Gabriel discusses the importance for mothers to find a community of support after a baby is born. Developing friendships with other mothers, even when it is difficult to leave the house, is vital. She suggests local community organizations in Washtenaw County and surrounding areas that include: La Leche League of Ann Arbor (lllaa.weebly.com), Livingston County Birth Circle (livingstoncountybirthcircle.org), and Ann Arbor’s Center for the Childbearing Year (center4cby.com). She finds that the women who are having the hardest time getting out of the house often need these groups the most.
Gabriel hopes that normalizing some of these issues that all new families face after birth will help mothers and new babies to be stronger, healthier and to thrive. You can find her book in Ann Arbor at Crazy Wisdom Bookstore, Literati and Nicola’s Books.
Tips for mothers on surviving and thriving the first three months after delivery:
Accept the reality of having a newborn. Even if two adults in the household are giving 100 percent, you will still have a gap and won’t be able to get everything done.
Focus on normalizing the ups and downs of the lifetime partnership of a marriage. New parents should focus more on building your relationship within this new dynamic instead of trying to get back to what was “normal” before the baby was born.
Let your partner develop a special, individual relationship with the baby. The more hours you spend with the baby, the more of an expert you are on the needs of the baby. A partner who spends less time with the baby may just need more experience. It is healthy for your relationship with your partner to give your partner and baby space for that purpose.
Be selective when inviting people over. Make sure they are there to support you and the choices you are making as the mother.