In a lot of ways, the fourth trimester is both the most important and potentially hardest of the entire process of giving birth.

The fourth trimester – the first three months after the baby is born – is an extension of life in the womb. It is when the adventure of motherhood officially begins. You must, however, give yourself time for the parent in you to develop. Always remember, no one gets everything right, and rarely will things go as planned. There is more than one right way to do things.

That being said, the fourth trimester and the years that follow will be rewarding yet overwhelming, frustrating yet incredible, but possibly the most meaningful time of your life.

As expectant mothers, we’re led to believe that the pregnancy is the most arduous of the journey. After all, you’ve been preparing for months, sometimes longer, for the big day. Even as mothers and obstetricians, we can tell you that the pregnancy and childbirth are only the beginning. Yes you read correctly, that exhausting delivery? That wasn’t even the hard part.

We believe it’s important to view the birth itself and the events that follow soon after as a collective childbirth journey. Women often forget about the stresses and experiences that unfold immediately after the child is born.

We compare having a baby to the Super Bowl; you train for months, survive labor and finally have your baby. You’ve just scored big and the champagne is flowing. But what happens the morning after? When the adrenaline and the cheerleaders are gone and it’s just you?

You’ve only just begun this journey of a lifetime. Caring for your child includes the big picture – from figuring out who is going to help you and when you are going to sleep to managing the details of what brand of diapers is the most affordable or toys that are the safest. Big or small, these are real tests that will challenge every mother. However, we often find that couples who are well prepared for the birth are the ones most likely to be completely thrown off by the realities of what comes next…”the fourth trimester.”

In between the sleepless nights, hours upon hours of crying coupled with the long days of shopping, cooking and laundry, finding quiet, personal times will be nearly impossible for both yourself and with your partner.

After three months, towards the end of the fourth trimester things will inevitably improve. The baby’s digestive system is more regular and they sleep for longer periods of time. And though your life won’t be back to normal, these months will ease you back into somewhat of a basic and more comfortable  routine.

For eight basic but helpful recommendations for those first few days home, please read page 292 of The Mommy Docs’ Ultimate Guide To Pregnancy And Birth.