I have ummed and ahhed over publishing this post. I wanted to write about the third trimester as I had experienced it – but at the risk of sounding like a scaremonger. At first I thought, was I being too negative? My second thought: sod it. I am going to go out and spill the beans! *insert bold heading*
The third trimester is a mixed goody bag. A bit like Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans.
“When they say every flavour, they mean every flavour — you know you get all the ordinary ones like chocolate and peppermint and marmalade, but then you can get spinach and liver and tripe. George reckons he had a bogey-flavoured one once.”
— Ron Weasley
You get the picture.
I was lucky to have friends who were pregnant with me and ahead in the game so I knew of all the upcoming ‘bogey’ flavoured variants (read: symptoms) that were coming up to join heartburn and backache in the Third Trimester Battalion. Cramping. False contractions. Heavy pelvic floor. Swollen everything. But what we did not have in common in our pregnant experiences was my manic work-life balance (or the lack of it) so I did not have much in the way of comparing notes on that front.
A hectic work schedule had me travelling between Southampton and London up until Week 34 of my pregnancy. I planned on working up to Week 39, running the risk of going into labour at work and praying every day that I didn’t. Other than my husband, there was no one around to help out with the everyday demands of grocery shopping, cleaning and cooking, all to be fitted around a full day’s work being heavily pregnant. Let me tell you, it’s hard. I almost could not believe how much. ‘I am so tired!’ I remember telling my friend who had just gone through a pregnancy all on her own. ‘I know. No one really tells you how hard third trimester is!’
I consider myself a strong person. A relatively balanced diet and active pregnancy meant I had a very good mental + physical balance throughout my pregnancy with zero complications. The fact that I still found it so hard to cope got me thinking – how do others do it? And why don’t people talk about it as much? The third trimester seems to be glossed over somehow, hiding behind the nasties of the first and highs of the second trimesters.
Was it hitting me so hard because I was a new mum-to-be? Or because I was working full-time till the end? Do second time mums own it better? Something tells me that is not the case. Just like motherhood, there seems to be an unwritten pact to keep the darker side of pregnancy away from moms to be and their happy bubbles. Part of me thinks it’s a good thing. Why get these already tired women overly concerned? But the other, stronger part of me, the part that thrives on planning ahead and knowing what she is getting into before embarking upon something big, thinks the opposite. We need to talk about this. We need to actively spread the message that it is normal to feel overwhelmed in pregnancy. We need to tell others that it’s ok to love our baby kicks and feel unready at the same time because our motherly gear has not fully kicked in.
Now I am not saying it is all bogey flavoured dreadful. I loved being pregnant! I had my fair share of chocolate coated moments and I made sure to capture them (see👆🏻as proof of my commitment although that pose may have more to do with my bladder than my bump 😉). I have never felt more special and I never took a day of pregnancy for granted. All day long I would massage my bump (above photo may or may not be included) and call my baby silly names (so much easier than choosing a real one). I daydreamt of how he would look like and anticipated his arrival with growing excitement. By the third trimester, we were sharing a precious bond as he reciprocated my loving touches with a mighty kick in the bladder. Shopping for a little human – your human – choosing his little onesies and toys as first time parents is undeniably one of the most delightful things you will ever do with your partner.
But the responsibilities to prepare are aplenty, and they all come to head in the last trimester. One fine day you realise you need to finish off everything – all the shopping, spring cleaning, prepping and housework – right about now. Living with that pressure as well as raging hormones, interrupted sleep, skyrocketing weight, labour anxiety and relentless calls of nature can be a LOT to deal with. You despair thinking there is no winning over the tiredness or the to-do list. Resulting mood: woefully unprepared.
Our last NHS antenatal class was a practical one where we practised parenthood with a dummy baby. My brain at the end of a long workday was churning away trying to take it all in as we bathed our toy girl, changed her nappy and put her to bed. I waddled from table to table trying to take photos of handouts, convinced that I will fail at motherhood if I did not have all the manuals in the world. Working in groups of 6 instead of sitting in a class format listening to methods of pain relief (the joy!) gave moms and dads the chance to mingle and talk and me to realise how ready all of them were compared to us. One mum, glowing with a relaxed kind of happiness that I havent had since being a baby myself, was telling us about her daughter’s nursery (our baby was going in a non-existent cot in our room), and their house (we were still renting), and how her partner had arranged a cot and a moses basket (which we had opted against because of limited space) to welcome their little one. The couple had gone to every single class offered by the NHS which we could not make time for because they clashed with our work hours. Boy did I feel inadequate? Surely our baby deserved better than us and our unpreparedness, I thought with self-disgust. The nagging reminder that we were having a baby before a house, something I try not to pay attention to, reared its ugly head, my shortcomings more profound than I had ever remembered. Something the midwife had said that day came back to me and gave me a modicum of comfort: ‘Don’t overplan. It’s best to keep things simple.’
All women are different, along with their circumstances, pregnancies, situations and coping mechanisms. If you have planned for your baby down to a tee, kudos to you. If you have scraped up the bare minimum shopping because your tiredness wont allow anything more, kudos to you. Just surviving and getting through each day in the third trimester is more than enough!
Now that I have dropped the naked ‘truth’ of the third trimester all over the internet and made you sob uncontrollably over this tripe-y post, I am going to cut you some slack and enlighten you with ‘tips’ on how to deal with it, resting, nesting, persevering et al.
- Slow down
Women of the 21st century tend to suffer from what is known as the Rushing Woman’s Syndrome. We are juggling work, home and social life on very little rest, often running from one thing to the next all stressed and tired. Multitasking is our middle name and we just cannot seem to switch off. Now ladies, we need to slow down for this one. Neither your body nor your mind will be able to support the old you. Accepting this slowdown will take time but you gotta embrace and roll with it. It wont be forever that you will feel incapable of going through an entire day without wanting to snooze through all of the 86,400 seconds.
Do you use the little energy you have behind work, baby shopping, taking hypnobirthing and/or yoga lessons, planning a maternity shoot or catching up on sleep? In reality you will struggle to get through just the basics – like getting up from bed and getting dressed. Plan around your energy levels and prioritize tasks on a need to do basis. It will all happen eventually but not all at the same time.
Try to feel prepared so that your mind is not constantly buzzing. Pack your hospital bag as you get closer to your due date. Make sure the labour line number is saved in your phone as well as your partner’s. Ask your partner to download the contractions counter app. Learn about the different phases of labour and when to go to the hospital. Be careful of baby’s movements, know what to do if they reduce. Unpack and set up bulky items like the car seat and stroller in advance so that you are not left baffled once baby arrives. Work on natural labour. Long walks, nipple stimulation, sex (really? how?) hot curry, raspberry leaf tea and membrane sweeps are all well-known methods to get women into labour naturally. Towards the end, especially for first time mums whose cervices tend to be notoriously stubborn, a combination of all the above can help in achieving the magic dilation numbers.
- …but don’t overprepare
The midwife knew what she was talking about: it’s best to keep things simple. There are pregnant mommas out there who have matching furniture and wallpaper in their nurseries – it’s fantastic if you have that level of commitment and the energy to see it through. Not to mention space and cash. If your idea of a nursery is a corner of your room, that’s completely acceptable too. Your baby will love you either way.
- Keep moving
Staying active is one of the most important things you could do to prepare for labour. Keep moving no matter how tough it gets. Once I hit 36 weeks, my pelvic floor threatened to give way as I waddled around the park after work, adamant to get baby in the best position possible. My swollen feet ached as I dragged them in a pair of shoes too tight (mega tip: BUY SOME GODDAMN SHOES). But not giving up on it helped me stay fit. I was lucky to be due around spring/summer so walking was a feasible option for me. If it’s too cold for walks, try simple, pregnancy safe exercises at home.
- DRINK FLUIDS
Even if you are just fed up of going to the loo so many freaking times. Carry a water bottle with you wherever you go. The more you drink, the less swelling you will get in your hands and feet.
- Consume the right food.
Your body goes through a lot trying to grow another human so it is of utmost importance that you nourish and replenish it. Do your research and curate a pregnancy friendly diet, not just for the short haul but beyond. My best friend who gave birth a month before my due date struggled with breastfeeding and strongly encouraged me to consider all possible means of getting my boobies ready.
- Be mindful of constipation
There is nothing more uncomfortable than trying to pass stools on a commode that suddenly seems to have shrunk with a baby in your tummy. Concentrate on eating fibre like sweet potatoes and broccoli to keep it all flowing. Make sure to go to your GP if it gets too bad. Oral solutions like laxido are magic!
- Ask for help
Get someone from the family to come stay with you if possible. Have friends come over for a chat once in a while and to make you a cup of tea so that you can rest those sausage like feet. Even an evening off from housework can do wonders to how you feel and cope with pregnancy.
- Work from home
Commuting to work and back in those last few weeks required energy I simple did not have. When I did go to office, I avoided people and sat at the furthest desk possible. Then I came back home and collapsed in bed. Nothing else would get done that evening other than vigorous footrubs from the husband. I understand it is not an option for many but working within the comforts of my home saved me from breaking down out of exhaustion where going to the loo meant taking a few steps away from my desk instead of manoeuvring a Triwizard Tournament like maze. If you can wfh, get started ASAP.
- Reconsider start date of maternity leave
If work is getting impossible and you cannot do it from home, consider starting maternity leave early. I know it’s easier said than done. When I first started planning my mat leave, I wanted to work as close to my D Date as possible. Like most new mums I wanted to maximise my time with my baby after his arrival. But that was before I knew how hard it was going to get in those last few weeks, not just weekly but daily. If I did not have the option to wfh most of my last month, I would have thrown in the towel and given up. It is important to be as restful as possible when labour hits. Being tired can make the process feel more stressful and painful.
- Buy maternity clothes
What, MORE CLOTHES? Well, yes, sorry. Stop hiding at home because the lone pair of maternity tights you own is lounging in the laundry basket. Go out and get some more. It might seem like a huge waste of money at this stage but right after birth you will want comfy clothes and look like you are 6 months pregnant. The uterus takes around 6 weeks to shrink back so chances are you will still be reaching for the frumpy clothes in the fourth trimester. Do not think twice before spending on a shoe that accommodates your ginormous feet. They get hit the hardest, second only to the pelvic floor, and deserve some TLC.
Yes, it’s hard, but being pregnant and reaching the end line is also a privilege. It’s not just you who has to go through so much – baby, too, is busy getting prepared for his/her grand debut. All the miseries in the world will melt away when the two of you meet. So be strong Mama. Feet up, you got this!