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I confess to not being the greatest at math, so when I heard right before I was about to have my first kid that there was a fourth trimester, I did a bit of fact-checking. I mean, I was pretty sure a nine-month pregnancy broken down by TRImesters meant I’d have only three of them: the barfy keeping-the-secret one, the one when I announce it to everyone while looking kind of cute with that bump, and the one when I’m serving eviction notices because my cervix is crying from laser zaps that fetuses can summon with their gigando heads. I was wrong.
The fourth trimester starts the day a full-term baby is born. Those adorable screaming blobs aren’t quite ready to be out of our toasty hot pockets yet, where they happily grew like crazy while making us crave tacos and bubble gum ice cream, so things are a bit weird and in-limbo for a while. We need to help them transition from womb to world, all while feeling beat-up and in desperate need of personal space, sleep, another ice pack for our undercarriage. This is why it’s good to keep your ears peeled both for cues from your baby as to what they need, and advice from experienced moms on how to get through this stage—not all of which is particularly helpful.
Here are some of the things you’ll hear during the fourth trimester
1. “Your baby’s skull has soft spots and is completely dependent on you to survive. You will remain clumsy from loose joints, swollen lady parts, and an unhealthy amount of sleep deprivation. Good luck!”
2. Cries that make your boobs leak. (Doesn’t even have to be your baby’s cries.)
3. “You have a hundred newborn diapers at home to get you through the first week, right?”
4. The thick, heavy, um-how-could-they-just-let-us-leave-with-this-baby silence as you pull away from the hospital with a tiny human being in tow.
5. “Keep your home quiet and dark, like the womb, to make the transition easier for them.”
6. The doorbell announcing the arrival of the first of a slew of chatty relatives who come all day, every day, over and over again for weeks to “keep you company,” turning on lights and televisions and FaceTime calls in every possible room.
7. A gurgle just before a rocket of baby poo sprays up into an arc onto the ceiling.
8. The plip-plop of poop dripping from the ceiling as you stand there in shock that this actually just happened.
9. “Sleep when the baby sleeps.”
10. Wide-awake coos or cries every two hours on the dot, twenty-four hours a day.
11. “Let me come over and watch the baby for you or you’ll never sleep.”
12. The gentle sounds of your best friend–and favorite person on this entire planet–singing to your baby as you fall back asleep.
13. Baby farts so loud you come running in from another room.
14. “Take them out for fresh air. Getting out of the house will do you both good.”
15. A passerby’s cough that makes you never want to take your baby out in public for the rest of their life.
16. The booming sound of a vacuum cleaner pouring out of your car’s speakers, because it’s the only way to keep your baby calm while doing errands.
17. “You should hold her all the time so she feels secure.”
18. “You shouldn’t hold her so much or she’ll get spoiled.”
19. The dreaded thunk of you hitting the door jamb with your baby’s head.
20. Your pediatrician assuring you that every parent does this to their baby, and every baby is perfectly fine after it happens.
21. “So, when are you going to start trying for another baby?”