Transcript: Navigating the Expectations & Realities of the Fourth Trimester Postpartum Period
This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called Navigating the Expectations & Realities of the Fourth Trimester Postpartum Period and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.
Helen Thompson: Helping expecting and first time mums prepare for what is ahead is my main goal of First Time Mum’s Chat. This week’s guest, Jessica Dawson, is a mum who has been through it all. To help other mums who are about to embark on this journey, she published a book last month called ‘Pospartum: The Expectations and reality of the Fourth Trimester’, which focuses on the often overlooked fourth trimester.
Jessica’s experience was that there were lots of resources out there for what to expect during pregnancy and how to raise a child, but there’s not a lot of resources out there for new mums on what they’re going to experience in the first couple of days, weeks and months postpartum and she wanted to help mums to bridge this gap.
Her book is a candid and compassionate guide that addresses the physical and emotional challenges that new mums face. Offering practical advice, personal anecdotes, and expert insights to navigate this incredible journey with confidence. In this episode, Jessica and I talk about her book which is a number one new release on Amazon for pregnancy and childbirth, maternity and women’s health, and breastfeeding.
Hi Jessica, and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat. I’m excited to be talking with you today about your new book, which you launched last month. I was thrilled to read it, and I can’t wait for you to share some details about it with my audience. First, can you start by telling us about yourself and your background and how you got started on your book writing journey?
Jessica Dawson: Well, thanks Helen. I’m so glad to be here. Yes, I’m Jessica Dawson and I wrote this book Postpartum: The Expectations and Reality of the Fourth Trimester to really be a guide for expecting moms who haven’t been through it. I think there’s so many resources out there for what to expect during pregnancy and how to raise a child but there’s not a lot of resources out there for new moms on what they’re going to experience in the first couple of days, weeks and months postpartum.
There’s so much of that experience that needs to be talked about because it is kind of tough and there’s a lot to it. So my goal was to take all of my experience, the experience of my friends who have gone through it and other moms that I’ve come across and hopefully provide some insight into what new moms can expect and help them along their journey.
Helen Thompson: Thank you, that’s amazing, I love that because I think that’s such a valuable tool for mums because as you say, there’s lots of other books, but there’s nothing on what actually happens after birth.
Jessica Dawson: As women, we have to empower one another and when some things are awkward or a little too leaky and messy and hormonal to talk about, we have to be the ones that champion them and bring them up and go through it. So I don’t really leave anything off the table. There’s a lot of kind of, I think people would say embarrassing stories in there of things that happened to me, but I think, if anything, it’ll help women learn kind of what to expect and that you should embrace the leaky messy details and just kind of go with the flow because if not, it can be stressful.
So you just got to embrace all of the things that happen and kind of laugh about it along the way.
Helen Thompson: In your book you mentioned a topic about potty training for mums. Now, I’ve heard about potty training for toddlers because I come from a childcare background and I’ve been there, done that but I guess potty training for mums is something that mums don’t often talk about. Can you share a little bit about your experience of that, and what should mums expect, because I think that’s a really interesting one.
Jessica Dawson: Yeah, so after you’ve had a baby, there’s a lot that’s happening down there in your nether bits, right? So a lot of women don’t think about using the loo for the first time, but if you’ve had a C section, you have a wound that you’re healing within your abdomen, which doesn’t make pushing anything out number two wise very easy. Usually you have a catheter too, so you’re used to that for going to the bathroom. You don’t really have to get up and down.
If you’ve had a vaginal birth you may or may not have a catheter put in afterwards, depending especially on if you’ve had a perennial laceration, which can be a tear from your vagina down towards your anus, which usually is helped with stitches or sometimes staples and those things. So there can be a lot of healing that has to happen around your vagina and and the other areas and so that can make it difficult to use the restroom normally because you’re trying to heal. Not only that, but you may be dehydrated or your body’s going through a lot of change, so sometimes you can get backed up.
So usually around day 2 or 3, if you are in the hospital, they’ll ask you to try and use the restroom and I had a C section, so just getting out of bed was difficult because when you have a c section, you’re not able to use your abdomen to really pull yourself up. So it was a lot for me to just walk to the bathroom and then you’ve got to sit down and try and go, which can be a little scary, considering everything that just happened down there.
So usually the doctors will provide some resources to help. So they might suggest laxatives before you deliver. So just in a couple days before your due date or making sure you eat a lot of fiber and then during labor and delivery and then afterwards keeping very hydrated to make sure you have that hydration.
And then when you go to the bathroom, take it slow. Don’t try and use a quick potty break. I actually joked with my husband that I was taking as long as he does in the bathroom.
Helen Thompson: I like that.
Jessica Dawson: So, there’s other things that can help because again, you’re going to be pretty swollen down there, depending on how your birth went, you might have those tears that you’re healing from, so there’s a few different tools you can utilize. The first is a Peri Bottle, which is kind of like a little squirt bottle to use and you can fill it with some warm water and take it into the bathroom and then squirt it to help clean the area, but also it feels really refreshing so that can help.
There’s ice pack pads, which you can use, which will help absorb all the leakage that is happening in those next couple of days postpartum, but also will alleviate some of that swelling with the coolness that the ice pack has. So that’s a great option and then also just again, taking your time and taking it slow and letting it happen on its own, versus putting pressure on yourself to go, cause that can be a little, again, scary,
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I bet, because you’ve gone through a lot of trauma down there, and I think the last thing you want to do is to add more trauma.
Jessica Dawson: Exactly and the best thing to do is if you’re having difficulty, just talk to your doctor. I’m one of those people who’s very open with my experience and what I’m going through with my medical professionals and you know, don’t hold anything back, even if it might be very embarrassing, just say it because they probably experienced it hundreds of times before and if you don’t, it might cause things to go awry down the line. So better to be open and say, Hey, here’s what I’m experiencing now versus continuing to struggle when you don’t necessarily need to.
Helen Thompson: It’s interesting you mentioned the tear because way back, I can’t remember which number of podcast it was, but I did a podcast with a lady who specializes in healing after tearing after birth, and she explains ways that you can heal after birth and she actually gives a lot of good tips on it. I found that really fascinating because I learned so much from that and I’m learning so much from you here because as a mum these are the things that you don’t think are going to happen to you. You just think, you know that it’s going to be hard, but you don’t think it’s going to be that hard.
Jessica Dawson: Oh yeah, well, a lot of the times, because we don’t know, we don’t prepare for it. So you might not have a Peri Bottle at home, you might not have cooling pads, or you might not have, there’s foam peeling spray that you can put on yourself as well to help with all this. If you don’t know that it exists or that you’re going to go through this potentially, you might not prepare.
That’s why in the book, I try and bring these things up so that women can say, Oh, that sounds good, I’m going to make sure I have everything I need to take care of myself postpartum because it’s kind of like being on an airplane where if there’s turbulence and the masks fall down, you got to put your mask on first, so that way you can help others. It’s the same thing with being a mom. If you take care of yourself, take that time for self care, take a couple of moments just to deep breathe, you’re going to show up better, in the way that you parent, in the way that you have your relationships with your partners or your family and friends that are supporting you and in just that bond with your baby as well.
Helen Thompson: That scenario of an airplane, I say that to people all the time, and I think it’s so valuable because your immediate reaction is to give that support to your child, to give oxygen masks to your child, which is admirable, but if you don’t give it to yourself first, as you quite rightly say, you’re not going to be in a position to be able to support that child because you’re lacking oxygen yourself, and I think that is so important, that one. I think that’s a good thing about the self care too.
Jessica Dawson: I agree and that can be anything from just taking 5 minutes to deep breathe in the mirror or putting on mascara for the day. I know for me and my journey, it was putting on nonactive -active wear because I was in mismatched active wear walking around the neighborhood and I didn’t feel myself, so if I actually put on real clothes once in a while it felt like I was becoming one with society again after having a baby.
Even, just taking some time to stretch or do some yoga because with pregnancy and having a baby, you’re constantly hunched over, whether that’s your breastfeeding or holding your baby or doing dishes or folding laundry, you’re just always hunched. So even taking a couple of minutes to stretch out. All of that can be considered self care, and it’s just being thoughtful about your needs. Taking a couple quick moments outside of the chaos to say, Hey, I’m gonna need a second and taking that time for you and then going back into the routine, but making sure you feel whole as well.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I think that’s good because it also makes you feel whole for your baby too and you’re being able to support your baby. You mentioned earlier about the bonding and the skin to skin. As a baby massage instructor and a child care worker, I’m fully aware of how important that is and in your book, I think you had a topic on skin to skin. So I was going to ask you what are some of the benefits you’ve experienced from skin to skin time and bonding time?
Jessica Dawson: Well, just from my personal journey, skin to skin was probably some of my best moments when my daughter Harper was just a little tiny potato. Just having her on my chest for hours on end was amazing, like for us to just cuddle and snuggle and I loved it and also she smelt so good as a little baby. Amazing, but from a more medical perspective, when you’re doing skin to skin, there are hormones that are released and endorphins to really support that you’re growing with your baby. That’s not just mom to baby. That’s also partner, spouse or dad to baby too. So really having that skin to skin builds those connections.
For my husband, it was a really great way for him to bond with Harper because, I had 9 months with her in my belly where I was getting excited and I could feel her and I knew it was coming. For him, he could touch my belly and see it move, but he didn’t really get it until she came out.
Then it hit him. He’s a dad and they can start to bond. So that skin to skin time with them was an amazing way for him to catch up to where I already was in my relationship with Harper. I actually bought him a robe before she came into this world, so that way he could have easy access to skin to skin when we were just around the house so that he could, if he wanted, just open his robe and cuddle her, which was really nice.
So skin to skin also helps with baby body regulation. So they’re not able to take clothes on and off like we are, so it helps them regulate their body against ours and our body temperature will actually help them regulate theirs and then in addition to that, it can help them regulate their heartbeat, their breathing patterns, their digestion, even sleep improvements because of all that, which helps lead to their overall development and so with that, there’s just a lot of it, both medically and emotionally with baby skin to skin time.
Helen Thompson: I love that because I talk about that a lot with mums but you’ve explained it so beautifully. Having that connection is wonderful. In your book, I loved how you said, it was something to do with having a safe space for you and your baby. So many people say to me, they want to have a safe space for their baby. What does that mean to you and what would you recommend to a mum?
Jessica Dawson: So, as a mom or a family, you’re going to have to do a lot of chores and those types of things while baby’s sleeping. So, there’s the old adage that you should sleep when the baby sleeps, but a lot of times you have to get things done when the baby sleeps. So it’s important sleep spaces around the house where you can put baby down and have a quick glance to where they are, so they’re not far away, but they can sleep and rest while you’re able to do dishes or whatever that looks like. So for example, for our house, we put a bassinet in the living room, which was right next to the kitchen. So when I put Harper down for a nap, she’d be in the living room, she’d kind of hear, all the rustle and bustle around the living room, which actually helped make her into a more sound sleeper because she wasn’t woken by disturbances as often because she got used to it.
Then also I could do things around the house that I needed to do, knowing that she was in a safe sleep environment, just a glance away. So, when it comes to safe sleep, you want to make sure that the baby doesn’t have anything around them that could potentially lead to breathing issues. So for example, that could be blankets, or pillows, or anything that’s just not the sheet, the mattress, and the surround of the crib could potentially encumber them, because babies can’t lift their heads, they can’t turn themselves over, they can’t move things out of the way, so if they get into a compromising position where they’re not able to easily breathe, that could definitely lead to some issues. That’s why co sleeping is not always encouraged, which is where the baby sleeps in the bed with mom and dad, and that’s because sometimes baby could get under covers or under the pillow or stuck in between the mattress and the wall and not able to move or potentially breathe or if mom and dad accidentally rolls over on baby and covers their face, there’s those issues too. So it’s really important, make sure when you are making decisions on their sleeping environment, you’ve considered all these options or things that could happen to make sure baby is safe as possible, knowing their limitations when it comes to being able to move around and make sure that they can have the environment that they need. That’s also why babies are now encouraged to sleep on their back instead of their stomach.
If you come from generations like my mom, my mom, when I was a baby, she had bumpers, she had toys, she had blankets, and I was on my stomach, and that was just the protocol at the time. So when you’re working with your family and friends who want to take care of your child, or if they say, hey, mom, you go take a nap, and I’ll take care of baby while they sleep, or whatever, you have to also alert them to the new ways of making sure your baby’s safe and say, Hey, things are a little different than when I was a kid or last time you took care of a kid. So here’s the new way to make sure that my baby’s safe in your care so that they can be up to date. Cause we can always make assumptions that, Oh yeah, they raised me and so there’ll be fine with little baby, but they don’t always know. So it’s really important just to reset expectations for whomever’s taking care of your child as well for the environment that you want to create.
Helen Thompson: Yeah and I know you can get special cots that have all the sort of bits and pieces in them, and it’s all to do with SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), as you mentioned there. I think all those little gadgets in the cot with the temperature and everything. I’m not saying I disagree with that at all, I think it’s good, but in some ways, doing what you’ve just said, I think is probably safer than having all those gadgets, the temperature control, the breathing control, and all that. I think that would freak me out more if something happened and that went off.
Jessica Dawson: Yeah, sometimes more technology makes you have more anxiety, but I think it really just depends on the parent, right? There’s all these amazing solutions out there now for keeping kids safe and tracking this and doing that and my biggest advice to new moms, even when it comes to my book is to say, Hey, read it, absorb it, say, yes, this fits my parenting style or where I’m at, or no, this doesn’t and then do with it what you will, right? Every Parent is different in the way they want to raise their child and every child is different and so it really is take all the information that you have available and then curate it to your family and your specific needs, because it’s going to be different for everyone.
You don’t want to stress yourself out by trying to meet some expectation of someone who’s not in your position or doesn’t do anything related to what you want to do with your family. One of the biggest things that I think is important for any new mom is just to give yourself a break because there’s so much pressure from society, from Instagram, social media, to be this perfect mom, but you’re raising a new baby, you’re healing yourself, you’ve just grown a baby, now you’re probably developing its food and your breast milk.
You’re doing all these things. You don’t have to meet the societal expectations of some Instagram mom that looks beautiful on her feed, but is probably struggling just like you. So I think it’s really important to say, Hey, you know what, if the laundry doesn’t get done today, I’m still a good mom. If my dishes are piling up in the sink, I’m still a good mom. I’m loving my baby, I’m nurturing them, I’m helping them grow. I’m making sure I’m okay as well and my relationship with my partner and my friends whatever is there, as long as those things are intact and everything else is secondary. I think one thing that I took away from my experience is I really remember those times on the couch when I spent cuddling Harper for 5 hours. What I don’t remember is the piles of laundry that I didn’t do. The memories that you make are really about the time that you devote to your child and those things and again, everything else should be secondary.
Helen Thompson: I agree with that and a bedtime routine from my point of view, is very valuable, especially when you’re a new mum and you’re still learning how to get them to sleep. I always recommend to my clients to do a baby massage routine, but that may not work for everybody. What’s your thoughts on that because you mention that in your book.
Jessica Dawson: Yeah, winding down is so important for baby and for the parents. So baby massage or mom massage, either of those are a great way to start. I think the first thing is when you’re a new mom, especially in those first couple of days, there’s no routine. It’s figuring out what works best for you and then establishing that routine over time because you might say, Oh, I’ve taken these classes and my baby needs to sleep at this time and then this time I’m going to do this, but baby comes out and baby says, Oh, I don’t want to sleep at this time and then your routine is all over the place. So you have to adapt to their stages and also what works best for you and your life.
For us, it took a while for us to establish it but then we ended up having a schedule where Harper went down for bed on 6:00 – 6:30. Ryan and I, my husband would watch an episode of our favorite show and then around 9:00, we’d head to bed, we’d do another feeding or pump session or whatnot, and then we’d try and get to bed around like 9:30 to sleep because Harper was up pretty early.
So our days of going to bed at 10:00 – 10:30 were way out. I’d go to bed at like 8:00 – 8:30 after Harper some nights because I was so exhausted. So, it took some time to figure that out and then also understanding what you need by your bedside table. I, used nipple shields for Harper because she had trouble latching to me. So nipple shields kind of look like a large brimmed sun hat that go over your nipple, help the baby latch and get milk. So, sometimes women’s nipples aren’t the right shape or size or color, or the baby has a tongue tie or they have issues latching. So the shield will help get them to latch, help train your nipple to be the right size and shape and those things and then you can actively see the milk coming out to make sure that you know that they’re feeding. So I had that by my bedside, I had my pump parts, a whole bunch of burp cloths, just in case, I had nipple cream, so that way If I had cracks or dryness, I could take care of myself there and then I kept milk catchers just in case something happened, I started to leak and I didn’t want to lose any. You just stick those babies on before you get to your baby. All of that took time for me to curate and understand, Oh, this is what I need at this stage. And then moving forward and so once we got comfortable with that it became our routine and eventually you make little tweaks.
I think staying on a routine is a really great way to establish your baby’s schedule and what they expect because babies don’t know any better. They’ll only know what you do. So if you take the time to be diligent and have that routine, it’s really helpful for them in their growth and development patterns to get alongside that as well.
There are a ton of apps to help with schedules and keeping on schedules. I found it very useful for if I was, let’s say, breastfeeding every 2. 5 hours. As soon as it was done, I would tell Siri on my phone to schedule a reminder or an alarm for 2. 5 hours from now so that it would just beep when I needed to go and then I wouldn’t even have to remember it and could just forget until that time.
So using alarms on your phone, using those apps to help keep you on track is really helpful because mom brain is a thing and you will forget. So having all of those things easily accessible to keep you organized is really helpful.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, mum fog, I know, can be a tough one because you’re sometimes just so exhausted and so tired that you just don’t think straight. There’s so many good topics in your book that I could talk to you for hours. Is there any final hack or hint or support that you would give to a mum?
Jessica Dawson: Yeah, I think the last thing that’s really important is just communication with your partner or your support system going into it and then in the first couple of weeks postpartum. There’s a lot of change, you’ve got a lot of hormones that are fluctuating your body, your healing, you can get overwhelmed.
So before you have your child, setting some guidelines with your husband or your partner, whomever that is of, Hey, this is probably what I’m going to be going through, here’s how I’m thinking about the next couple of weeks of our life. Here’s the role and responsibility that maybe you should play in this versus my role and responsibility and just figuring out what that delineation is of workload or responsibility for your kids.
So, once you’re in it, you guys know how it’s operating and you don’t have to have those conversations. Obviously, things will change once you get into it, but just setting those things up front can really help on communication. Then once you are postpartum and you’re starting to take care of your child, just be really open with your thoughts and check in with your spouse and partner too because you’re both going through it together. you’re both trying to raise this kid, so it goes both ways. So just make sure you check in with mental health, whether it be every night, just being like, Hey, where are you today, what are you struggling with or how is your energy level or I really need a nap and some time for myself, can you take that on now and then I’ll get you back later. Communicating your way through it is really important to set you guys up for success because it is a challenging time and so building that foundation now and then being really open going into postpartum is going to help you tremendously during that time.
Helen Thompson: It’s very important that you incorporate the partner as well, because from my experience from talking to mums and also my childcare experience, I noticed that a lot of dads feel left out. A lot of dads feel unsupported and uncared for because it’s mom, mom, mom, mom, and baby, baby, mom, baby, mom and the dads are going, well, hang on a moment, you know, what about me? I helped produce this baby as well and I’m sort of being left out. I’m the one that has to go to work and when I come home, my partner dumps the baby on me but I might be exhausted and tired as well.
So I think what you say there about discussing that up front with your partner so you both know what page you’re on, because if he’s exhausted, he can say, look, I’m exhausted right now, can we just try and get a doula or a grandparent or whatever it is to come in at that particular time so that we can both just have that time together.
Jessica Dawson: It shows that you care and you know when you’re both going through it and there’s a lot of stress just taking a second to show that you care, whether that be a touch, a squeeze of the hand, an extra hug. My husband and I do 60 second hugs where we’ll just stand there and hug each other. It takes that second out of the day or minute, but it’s really important to establishing that bond and reminding each other that you’re in this together for a reason that you’d love each other and that your partners and so that’s a big part of it.
Helen Thompson: You’re there to support the baby together.
Jessica Dawson: Exactly.
Helen Thompson: So if anybody wanted to find out about your amazing book that we’ve discussed so many different topics about, how can they go about doing that?
Jessica Dawson: Yeah, so they can go on Amazon and search for Postpartum: The Expectations and Realities of the Fourth trimester. So that’s one way. I also have a website called PostpartumMomGuide.com and social media for the same thing. So Postpartum Mom Guide on Instagram and TikTok and all those, so go there for some resources.
There’s recommendations for your registry, there’s how to get the book. If you want to chat about your experience, I’m very open to that. So I’m very much a supporter of women during their journeys and want to help empower them with insights and information and so that’s my goal and hopefully we can have that as a takeaway.
Helen Thompson: Well thank you Jessica for sharing on this podcast and that’s exactly what my goal is on First Time Mums, to inspire mums. So thank you so much, I really appreciate you being here.
Jessica Dawson: Well, Helen, it’s been a pleasure and I’m so glad we can inspire new moms together. So thank you for having me and I look forward to hopefully talking to you soon.
Helen Thompson: Jessica shared some great tips and strategies to help you during that fourth trimester postpartum period and I highly recommend checking out her book. I’ve included a link to where you can get it on Amazon, as well as Jessica’s website and social media in the show notes, which can be found at MyBabyMassage.net/podcast/148.
I’ve also included links there to some earlier episodes which will assist you further in some of the areas that Jessica and I discussed. I share each episode on the First Time Mum’s Chat Instagram page and you’ll hear me chatting live with folks I’ve interviewed from time to time. Please support me by following me and I look forward to meeting you during one of my lives.
Next week, I’ll be talking with mother of two, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), childbirth educator. author and volunteer breastfeeding counsellor, Kerry Durbin, about the potential of negative impact, routine labour interventions can have on breastfeeding and milk production.
Be sure to listen to this episode when it comes out next week and please subscribe to First Time Mum’s Chat via your favourite platform so you can get quick and easy access to all our episodes when they are live.