Often, new parents return to work before they’re ready to after having a baby. This causes a lot of stress and anxiety, especially for birthing moms as they’re still healing emotionally and physically.
Yet, going back to work after the baby is the normal course of action many new parents take. You can find a plethora of information about pregnancy, birth, and the immediate postpartum everywhere. But unfortunately, there’s little to be said about this phase — the fifth trimester.
What is the fifth trimester?
The fifth trimester is the time in which a new parent returns to work. Coined by author Lauren Smith Brody, the fifth trimester is when the “new normal” of your life as a parent begins. You’ve moved past the fourth trimester when your focus was entirely on learning about your baby, bonding with them, and helping them gently transition into the world.
During the fourth trimester, you may have felt you were in a protected bubble, sequestered at home with your new little bundle of joy. Now that time is up, and reality sets in. It’s true some new parents are eager to return to work, but for many, this is a difficult season to navigate.
How are parents affected by the fifth trimester?
New parents struggle to find balance and peace during the fifth trimester, as many new parents return to the workforce before they’re ready. Returning too early can cause a spike in anxiety, guilt, and depression, especially for birthing moms.
All new parents going back to work after their baby can experience a feeling of starting over, or feeling like they’re in a strange environment. You may be treated differently or feel like you’re working in a sleep-deprived haze. Your focus may not be the same as it was prior to your baby — you now keep thinking about them, wondering if they’re ok and how they’re doing.
Learning how to balance and manage your home, baby, and work can be a stressful adjustment, as well. You have less time, more duties, and you’re running off of short, interrupted sleep.
How to prepare and conquer the fifth trimester.
Inadequate maternity, paternity, and parental leave in the U.S. causes a lack of support for new parents, leaving many in the lurch as they are pushed into returning to work before they’re ready.
And while this may be your case too, there are things you can do to help make the transition into the fifth trimester smoother for you and your baby.
Find your childcare.
First, consider who will be taking care of your baby while you’re working. Will it be a family member or friend, a daycare, a babysitter, or a nanny? It’s best to start considering your options before the time to return to work is upon you.
Call around, have some interviews, visit daycares, and consider waiting lists and costs. Knowing your baby is in the best hands will alleviate some of your stress in the coming days. Finding someone you trust is crucial.
If you’re in Texas or California and would like assistance finding a caretaker, we’d love to take that off your plate. We help families find qualified caretakers tailored to their needs.
Be attentive to your emotions.
As we mentioned earlier, the fifth trimester is a challenging time for most new parents. Being sensitive to your emotions as you navigate these unchartered waters is vital.
It’s completely normal to feel unprepared and not want to leave your baby.
It’s also normal to feel thankful for some independence, alone time, and a semblance of normalcy. You may feel all these emotions in a messy bundle, and that’s ok too. Going back to work after your baby is a huge shift, and you’re going to need some time to process that. And depending on how your pregnancy, birth, or postpartum period went, you may need extra time to process.
Over time, your emotions will sort themselves and things will level out. In the meantime, allow yourself to feel it, don’t shut it down, and just accept what comes to you.
Lean on your support.
If you have a partner or spouse, lean into them. Work together to share the load, support each other, and share the struggles of the fifth trimester. If you’re both working, discuss how both of you can share in the responsibilities of the home so one of you isn’t left feeling completely exhausted.
Allow others to step in and help, too. Let your village come together for you. If there are offers of help, take them. While you may feel the urge to manage it alone, there’s no shame in allowing those who care for you to pitch in as you’re learning how to balance everything.
Consider what you can do to make your entrance into the fifth trimester easier. Anything that can be planned and prepared ahead of time… do it.
If you’re a birthing mom, consider what you might need as you return to work. Will you need to pump? If so, you’ll want to ensure there’s a place at work for you to do so comfortably and privately. Think through how to easily transport your pump and accessories and any other postpartum items you may need.
Whether you’re a mom or dad, planning ahead is the new working parent’s best friend. Have a basic plan in place for your day-to-day life to help eliminate surprises.
If you’re a parent, you understand just how little sleep new parents get. You didn’t know you could function on so little sleep until you became a parent and it was the new normal.
That being said, going back to work after your baby is a whole new ballgame, so you want to rest up as much as you can. It’s one thing to change diapers, feed a baby, and feed yourself in a zombie-like fashion, but it’s another to expect a productive workday in that state.
Exhaustion leads to an inability to focus on your job, so be sure to rest whenever you get the chance. Whether that’s during baby’s naps, when your partner is caring for the baby, or during your lunch break.
Soak up the time with your baby.
We understand the guilt you may feel leaving your baby. Almost every new parent returning to work has felt this in some way. It’s hard to leave your little one, especially when you think about how much you’ll miss them!
One way to help with these feelings is to prioritize time with your baby. Try to plan your days in such a way that when you’re home from work, you’re able to soak up those precious moments with your little one.
You got this!
Overall, your entrance into the fifth trimester might be a rocky one. It’s not for the weak, but neither is parenting. Planning ahead and utilizing a few of these tips will have you rocking the working parent world.
Ok… it might not be quite that easy, but we feel confident you’ve got this! Millions of new parents before you have returned to work anxious, exhausted, and worried and have found their place. They love their children, their job, and their independence, and they are successful in what they do.
With some time and compassion for yourself, we know you will too. And if there’s ever any way Hello, Nanny! can help, please reach out! We’d love to assist you on your journey through the fifth trimester.