[Episode 10] 4th trimester

The term 4th trimester is fairly recent and defines the first 3 months following the birth of your baby. Why do we need a term for this period? What is happening during these 3 months and how to make the most of it? 

In episode #10 of "Moms talk with a French accent", La Petite Creme co-founders Cecile and Fanny, along with NY-based Pediatrician and Holistic Health Coach, Dr Varisa Perlman tell you all the things are not often told about the 4th trimester. 

(full text transcript below the video)


Moms Talk with Dr Varisa Perlman [episode #10]: 4th trimester

Cecile: Bonjour! Hello!

Fanny: Hi, everyone.

Cecile: Hello, hello, good afternoon. Welcome to Episode number-

Fanny: 10.

Cecile: -10. Yes. Hi, Pascal. Hello. Hi, Lindsay.

Fanny: Hi, everyone.

Cecile: So happy to see you all here. Okay. We're going to get Dr. Perlman [inaudible] last weekend we got to all be together. Dr. Perlman is in New York. We're in Miami. And we went to New York to an event, and we got to meet her there. Hi, Dr. Perlman.

Fanny: Hi, Varisa.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Hi.

Cecile: Nice to see you.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Nice to see you too.

Cecile: We have a few people that are already joining. Welcome to Episode number 10 of Moms Talk with a French Accent.

Fanny: Yep.

Cecile: So we're Cecile and Fanny from La Petite Creme, founders and friends and moms and French. [laughs] So that's for all of that. And then, Varisa, you're here with us. Do you want to introduce yourself?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Hi, I'm Dr. Varisa Perlman. I am a pediatrician who's currently also working as a holistic health coach. And I met these two in Miami Beach, but I'm currently in New York, but we all have a good time wherever we are, right?

Cecile: Exactly. Once a parent, once a professional, it's with you. You take it with you wherever you are.

Fanny: Yeah.

Cecile: There is no shying away from it.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yes. I can't believe we've done 10 talks. Is that crazy?

Cecile: Exactly. That's 10 hours of talking, which, knowing the three of us, doesn't surprise me too much.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: No. [laughs] That was easy.

Cecile: So we have a few people here, and we also have pinpointed little talking points from a post that we did earlier about this week's topic, which is the 4th trimester. So do we want to first talk about this topic? Because it seems like an intriguing one, not for a change because we love to pick topics that are a little mind-boggling. But 4th trimester, what do we hear when we talk about 4th trimester?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: You know, I think it's a term that really came up for me—I heard that term brought up a little bit more towards the second 10 years of my 20-year career. It's just like this understanding about how the baby is still developing. And we also talk about the family, right? The parents are still developing. So I think that it was a term that was attempting to bring a little bit of normalcy to the feeling of adjustment that happens on the first three months after the baby is born.

Cecile: There is also a component of, as far as pregnancy is concerned, your body for the three months after the baby is out is still working a lot. [laughs]

Fanny: Yeah. Adjusting to get back to what it used to be.

Cecile: If there is such thing as getting back to what it used to be.

Fanny: There has to. [laughs] Let's be optimistic.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Are we ever? For better or for worse, right? We are changed with each time that we give birth, I would imagine, right?

Cecile: Exactly.

Fanny: I think 4th trimester is different from the whole family, for the father and for the mother, of course for the baby also. I think that's a totally different experience for family, baby, mom, and dad because dad is gonna adjust because actually meet the baby because as a woman, we can feel the baby, we can already have some feeling and connection with the baby. But for the dad, it's like the very beginning of the story. So an adjustment for dad too. And mom, I think it's the emotional and physical continuation of the pregnancy. So that's not an easy period for a new mom, I would say.

Cecile: But it's good that it's recognized. I think, as you said, maybe lately, it's been more put in the forefront. But yeah, for the longest time, after baby was out, it's like, oh, yeah, now we're full on into being a parent. But recognizing that transition, I think it's a big step for society in general to say like, "Okay, those three months are actually key," right? And they have a name for it.

Fanny: Yeah.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. I think that we don't do a very good job. I mean, I think that the beginning of the discussion, at least for me in the context of being a pediatrician, was to describe the ways that the baby, neurologically especially, but even vascularly, many elements of the baby's body was still developing, was still literally in transit. So a lot of the things that people would observe when the baby's hands and the feet would turn blue, they're like, "What is that?", right? And that was basically, the wiring is not there yet.

And it was this idea that there's still time that needs to be understood that the baby is not—You look at those pictures when the babies are first born, they always con you with getting those pictures done, right? So the first baby, you do it because everyone's doing it, whatever. And then you look back, the baby's three months old, and you're like, "Who is that alien?"

And the second baby, you're like, "I'm not gonna take the picture." And then somehow, they get you every time. The squishy-looking, bluish, weird-looking thing. And you're like, "What is this thing?" Because it looks so different by three months.

Cecile: Well, when you think about it, their skin, their first few months have been exposed to air compared to water, right? Their lungs, their stomach, everything, all of that is exposed for the first time, even though they've been inside for—

Fanny: And the light also.

Cecile: The light for the eyes.

Fanny: The eyes. And the sound, it's not filtered anymore by your belly and the liquid. So, for the baby, it's a huge, huge experience.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: We bring all this stuff up because it sounds awful, but we want to give you a little bit of hope, right? Because you look at the baby and the baby's spitting everything off. They can't stand the eyes. They're messed up. They look like little aliens that haven't been out in the world, which they haven't been. They've been sitting in your belly for the last 10 months. I say 10 months because really if you count it, it's actually 10 months. But anyways, around 10 months.

And so in many ways, the idea is that it puts everybody in the mind frame to give a little grace, to give a little bit of grace, to know that things are still moving, things that were a disaster on the first week will not even be present by the time that the baby is three months old. So allowing ourselves to understand that the immune system is still transitioning, sleep is transitioning, eating is transitioning, digestion, the reflexes, there's a moral reflex that literally is a reflex that literally is the first three months. There are a lot of places where—

Cecile: Bonding too, like the physical touch. I don't know if that's a real thing, but I really felt like the hormonal fusion or connectivity between the different players. To me, it's just something very distant. And then the first few weeks developed that little bit of a link.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Well, I think that it's a little bit—Again, you're putting it in the context of the baby. That is true. But you also have to realize that you went through a traumatic situation. You were pregnant for so long and then literally this baby is pulled out of your body. So your whole physiology needs to shift. And then you're thrown into a situation where you're probably not eating great, you're probably not sleeping great. So in many ways, connection is a two-sided situation. So not only is the baby up in arms in chaos, so are you.

Fanny: Yeah. And what I did not realize for my first one, but it is very true and nobody tells you that, is that you've been pregnant for nine months, so you are the queen, everybody is here for you, you are on top of everything. And all of a sudden, the baby is here, so you are no one. Everybody comes and say, "Oh, he's so cute." And you're like, "Hey, I'm here. [inaudible] [laughs] And nobody tell you about that, but you socially pass from the queen as a mom and your baby is the whole attention thing. So it can be, for some people, maybe a little bit hard to get that less attention.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: I guess everyone's excited to see the baby, but who's producing the milk for the baby? You. I do talk a lot, in those first couple of days, I'm like, "Listen, I know you want to be happy and everything like that, but honestly, when people come over, they should come over with food." Literally, you need to demand that everyone pay attention to you because you don't get what you need, the baby actually suffers.

And being able to say, "Yeah, okay, now everyone's excited about the baby, no one remembers about me. But honestly, I need to be taken care of for me to take care of that baby that you think is so cute. I need to be taken care of too because my body is still healing from something that is physiologically traumatic."

Cecile: And that's some of the comment that we got. I'm looking at our Instagram right now where we posted a couple of questions, or not question, but what people thought of when we brought the term 4th trimester. And Jordan mentioned, "My hard point was trying to do too much. I think that as a first-time mom, I really didn't understand the recovery aspect of it all since I felt fairly okay. Then I tripped on a walk and twisted my ankle just enough to humble me. It's okay to accept the help that's offered."

Dr. Varisa Perlman: That's it. Right? You're right. It's a two-way. Not only should you demand it, but you should accept it if people are trying to give you help. Why do we have this whole idea that, poof, we're back to normal? Literally, my kids are in college, I don't feel back to normal yet. When was I supposed to feel back to normal? What was that supposed to happen?

So the truth of it is that, that first—I always say those first two weeks, but even those first three months, there has to be a certain acceptance that we need to advocate for ourselves, we take care of ourselves to be able to take care of others. And the sooner that you take a page from that and remember that, then as you go along, life is actually better. Because there is a community ready to help you. And if there isn't, then you have to give it to yourself, not push yourself so much that you forget to eat, that you forget to rest, that you think that you're invincible.

Because, frankly, if I've learned anything in 25 years, it's how to be humbled. And I feel like there is this energy in the world that it's like, okay, if you're not gonna take a break, your body will make you take a break. The world, the energy will force the situation. There will be a reckoning. Everything comes at a price. So the sooner that we say, "Let me just be humbled by the fact that I just gave birth. I just pushed out a baby [laughs] that was growing in my body." The sooner that we can say, "You know what? I need to be able to take the community, the village that is around me, and do the best I can and not beat myself up all day long."

Cecile: Yeah. And it's not a downfall, it's not a weakness. You're freaking strong for carrying a human being. You just made a human. You made life. And no matter the birth itself, the whole carrying, giving some of your own body resources to build somebody else inside, all of that, you're already a superhero. So you don't need to show off and go running around on day three to prove the point. It's already proven. If people around you are not seeing that, change the people around you. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [laughs] Yeah. Realign. Realign everybody. Because I do think that sometimes, as women, because we're just not good at advocating for ourselves, we just carry so much on our shoulders when a lot of times, I see that there's always this strange pause, especially very type A women, and people who do it all, and we're not always so good at giving other people confidence, which means that if there's people around you that are offering to do something, but maybe they don't do it exactly the way that you want them to, that's okay because they're gonna get there. Or they'll do it a way that actually is maybe even better than the way that you thought that they should do it, right?

But you have to be patient that other people around you are not gonna do everything perfectly. And life isn't about being perfect. It's about having support and being able to offer that confidence, that like, "Yes, thank you for helping me," and "Thank you. You did a great job. That's totally gonna do it."

Cecile: And that—

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And you realize that—

Cecile: Sorry, go ahead.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah.

Cecile: I was about to say those moment where you're heavily vulnerable and you let somebody in your life, those connection and that support, that's gonna stay with you for a lifetime. Surprisingly enough, that's when I met Fanny. She fell into my life at that very moment where my life was all over my head, and she was there and see, we're still—It's been 12 years. We're hanging tight. But those relationships that you have, same thing for my doula.

I don't know if you have the same experience, but for the people that were there in that moment, that support goes years. And it even fills you when the person is not in your life anymore. You know it gives you that strength and that confidence to go in your motherhood journey.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Well, you know, they have this phrase, and I try to bring it up at least once a meeting because I do think it's a great phrase and it helps me a lot. And it's just a Chinese proverb, the idea of they're born the way they are to heal the family. And I think that if you are someone who is always used to doing it your way and you don't accept help, you always want to do everything yourself, when you have the baby, that literally goes out the window. And that's a good thing because you're right, because we all are vulnerable at certain points of our lives. And we all have to be open to allowing good energy to come to us.

If you're always that superhero that nobody can ever help, nobody can ever touch, you don't even lay the foundation for someone to feel like they're a part of your life. So this is a good thing. It beats you up so much that you have to make the village, sorry. The village has to be made. And I think that if you can take it for that, that half-full idea, then I think that we could see a lot of moments in our lives with our children that force us to be stronger than we thought we would ever be.

So that to me is the half-full, especially when I'm in the thick of something that's really so hard for me, I'm like, "I know this is for the better. I know I'm gonna come out of this stronger." And I have to remind myself, and I do because honestly, we're all lazy. We're just all lazy and so we'd rather just move along life, but children do not allow you to be lazy. They force you in a way that nothing else could ever do. They're like the super trainer. [laughs] Whether you like it or not, you are going to be forced to be a healthier person through them when you talk about the first three months.

But I'm not kidding when I say that I'm still getting used to this transition. I think that life maybe should be in three-month increments where every three months, we're like, "Oh my God, so much has happened." And it just never. stops. I have people who are pregnant, and they're like, "Wow, this chaos of having children, does it get better? Does it get better?" And I'm like, and I pause because I just don't want to answer too quickly. So I want them to think that I'm actually thinking about it. But I actually have a very fast answer. And my answer is usually like, "No, you just get used to it." [laughs] It's not even a matter that it goes away. It always is there, that feeling of transition where you feel like you're moving, you're changing, you're growing. That's because you are.

Cecile: And as you said, incremental, right? So it's not like dealing with teenage years when the baby's out in the first two weeks. So it gives you the steps, the steps to build the confidence, the communication with your partner, with your kid, and then you learn from that and you build on top of each other to a point where each new challenge is like, "Okay, now we have a whole history of—

Fanny: Foundation.

Cecile: Yeah, foundation of how we do things together, how it works in this scenario. And it gets—I don't know if better or worse is the word, but it gets enjoyable too to take the challenges and be like, "How are we gonna face it together?" And it's not so much of a me thing and more of a we.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And the reason why I say that, because you see the way that you framed that, you said, "Wow, this thing came up, and boy, how are we gonna challenge ourselves to get there?" I have a lot of people that they're with their kids and something happens, kind of dramatic, something happens, and they're like, "Oh, I thought everything was gonna be so smooth now. I thought it was gonna be so easy now. Why is it getting hard again?"

And I'm like, "It's always been." [laughs] You started pretending that it was smooth but it was just around the corner. It wasn't like it goes away, gone, like it's like, "Oh, okay They turn five. I'm done." There's always other challenge right around the corner.

Cecile: It's actually positive because there are new challenges because you took care of the other one. Otherwise, you would be stuck to challenge number one for 20 years and you don't want that.

Fanny: Kind of boring.

Cecile: You don't want to go through potty training for 20 years. You want to move on to other things. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: I was at a conference once and they were showing this thing moving through the brain and they're like, "What is that?" And it was actually a neuron. They were actually showing your brain, as you go through things, you actually build neurons. They go to different parts of your brain. It's amazing. It's like growing an arm. It's amazing that your body does that. But it can hurt if your body is growing.

So a lot of times they would say if people are going through things and they're like, "Oh, it's so hard. It hurts. How much do we have to change our life and we got to change things?" They're not lying. It actually does hurt. I'm not gonna gaslight you and say like, "It feels fantastic." It's hard. But there are moments where you come up and you're like, "Wow. Whoo!" Like, "What the hell was that? We got through it, but, whoa."

I think humor is fantastic. I am laughing every day constantly. And when I get together with friends, it's always like, "Oh my God, let me tell you this crazy thing that we went through." Because only when I laugh about it that I'm like, "Oh, that was like—" There'll be moments where I'll be going through something awful, crazy, and I'll be like, "This will be very funny in about three months." [laughs]

Fanny: Yeah, then let's wait three months. Everything works by three months. [laughs]

Cecile: Back to the question that we had on Instagram, the answer, the other two that we can maybe—I don't know if we want to combine together. The other comment that we got a lot were the lack of sleep and the difficulty to feed yourself in a healthy way when you don't have the time, which is related to the sleep. So those are the two—eating and sleeping are the two main things that are challenging during [inaudible].

Fanny: And I think we can square back with the first question, is that accept help, at least for the food. Maybe in the registry, you can put some Uber Eats card. At least you just have to order, or, as you said, if you invite friend or friends want to come to the baby, they come with food. That's part of accepting help, I think, for the food. But sleep, it's more complicated. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. I think that there is—One of the things that I find fascinating—and yes, logistically, meal prepping. If two people are around with you, either have someone watch the baby or someone meal prep for you. Literally, it has to be a constant thing so that when you're by yourself, the preparation is you throw it into something and it comes out and you eat it. That's all the prep that you can really do when you're one-on-one with the baby. So that's great.

Have a basket. I always tell people, have a basket of all kinds of easy-to-reach foods. More of those are actually coming out more that are aimed towards women who are lactating or women who are postpartum. And so the idea is that while you're feeding the baby and you're literally stationary because without the baby, you're running to do the laundry, you're running to clean this up, but you're literally trapped under that baby who's feeding on you, or you're even feeding with the bottle. Have a basket of food that you're literally eating. It's like a vending machine. Whatever gets taken out needs to be replaced. Out, in. That's all we're talking about.

And even if you're not the one breastfeeding, you need to put food into you to be able to be alert, for you to be able to be thinking clearly and not get crazy anxious because anxiety is like having a cut on your arm, having an abrasion on your arm. We don't think of our brain as this physical thing, but that's all that anxiety is, is that we're just a little bit raw. Things are hitting us a little bit more, people are saying things and they don't sound that nice right now. We don't have the energy to be able to come home and listen to people and not get upset.

That's a big marker to me when I have someone who's like, "I can talk to you," and they're spinning. They're spinning and I'm like, "When is the last time you ate and when's the last time you slept?" Because you don't do—

Cecile: And even if you're not breastfeeding, you just need food to recover. Your body has been depleted of a lot of good stuff. So you need to refill that, regardless of even the baby. You just need to build that up. So you need all the vitamins. You need all the water, all the fluids because you're drying out. You just have to refill yourself, replenish your body so that you can move on to sleeping. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. I think that the idea—I think the reason why I say all these things to almost legitimize this because I cannot even tell you how many mothers come in and they may be breastfeeding or not, and literally, the baby is out of it, she's out of it, and she goes, "I just haven't had time to eat." And the fact that there was no line that was drawn between your energy level, the baby's energy level, and your eating, the fact that you don't see that as a one-to-one equation is a real flaw in the way that we've really talked about this.

I'm going to blame modern world because you look at any cultures that have taken care of postpartum women and all of them do a better job. It's really in this generation. You can tell me a little bit about French, but I know the Asians, it's all about feeding her. Literally, that person is sitting and there's three people trying to feed her at the same time. Literally, they have special soups for the women who are—I mean, literally, it's all about the food. That to me never made a lot of sense. It was a weird thing.

In France, I don't know, how do they think about food and postpartum?

Cecile: Well, in the modern world, I think we got caught up with being quick, but the food is so much part of the French culture anyway, that we have food before pregnancy, during pregnancy, after pregnancy, when we're happy, when we're sad. It's just very food-focused anyway. So I think women understand the importance of eating and eating well.

The one thing that French women have over American is time off. So the maternity leave and the social system there is very generous, and that makes those three months, that removes that anxiety of financial burden, keeping your job, the medical expenses, all of that, all worries that get out of the way that help you focus on eating and sleeping and caring for baby, because that's also another big burden that we notice that is here in America that we never expected when we were back in France.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. I think that there is a lot when society says, "No, you have to heal for three months." And I think that people are like, "I feed the baby with a formula, why do I have to eat more? I wanna get thin." I have a couple people say, "I wanna get thin, so I don't wanna—" and I'm like, "You need to heal."

And I think that one of the things that we talk about a lot on this app, just because I think a lot of people don't talk about it, again, going to the mental wellness. There's a lot of anxiety in these first three months. It's not a coincidence. It's not just the fact that there are more issues. It's also because you are not healthy. You are not healed. And one of the first places to go when you are not well is your sanity. And so that's the reason why.

And it's a little bit of a taboo when we try to name it, postpartum depression, I think everybody is off. I don't think that we need a big heavy diagnosis before we can recognize the fact that emotionally, mentally—you were talking, Cecile, a little bit about the bonding. When you're exhausted, you're just trying to survive. So now I'm like, "Oh, then you should bond and then make sure that you do this and make sure that you do that." And it's like, "I am just trying to make it so that my [inaudible]." You're completely disoriented.

Cecile: And the lack of sleep, I don't know I knew what lack of sleep meant until I was in postpartum because we've all experienced in our young days one sleepless night where you're like, "Oh, I'm tired." And then you feel cloudy the next day, but then you're fine. The lack of sleep is debilitating. It's really something where your brain cannot function. And until you go through it and then you feel like, "Oh my goodness, I'm losing it." And you're like, "I'm never gonna be the same again."

When we talk about pregnancy brain or mommy brain, it's just that not everything has enough power to work. And that is both scary and also, it makes you feel like you're dumb. Like, "What's going on with me?", when that absence of sleep for a repeated number of times—it's not just the first week. The first week, you're like, "I'm tired," but your body knows how to cope with that. The two weeks, three weeks, two months, and then it's like—

Fanny: After two months, it really gets to you. It's very hard on you because you don't have any reserve on this sleep. Your reserve are done. So that's very hard after two, three months.

Cecile: And sometimes we feel like it's gonna be only a week or two. That's why, like this comment that said, "I felt okay, so I overdid it." That's because we feel like, "Oh, it's just the first few weeks." But that's why this third trimester is three months. And cutting it short to two or to one, I think it's a mistake because we don't realize that it's adding up—the lack of eating, the lack of sleeping, the lack of mental wellness, the lack of hygiene, all of that is what—it takes a couple of months to actually show some bad effect.

So usually, it's not surprising. For me, as you said, two months is when I was hit by a wall because before that, I had support, people were coming, giving me food, but all of that vanishes-

Fanny: At some point. You're on your own.

Cecile: -and you're by yourself. [laughs] And then you're like, "Oh my goodness. I'm tired."

Fanny: No fuel on the tank, alone on the highway. [laughs] We have a newborn.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: You just hear the crickets, right? And you're like, "Where the hell—where is everybody?"

Fanny: Exactly.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And I think that's the reason why I like working with you guys is because we are just, in the medical community, trying to give you data that says you are not crazy, you are not being hysterical, you're not being too sensitive. Show you the data that actually tells you that physiologically, this is what's going on. So we are just starting.

So one of the studies, which I don't know why I know, but I've read, I read a long time ago, when they do torture, which sounds terrible, but what does it take for someone to break? If you have less than four hours of uninterrupted sleep, you start to go clinically insane. So when they do torture, they'll wake you up once an hour. That sounds like what a baby does.

Fanny: That sounds like a newborn. [laughs] That totally sounds like a newborn.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: In total, I got 10 hours of sleep, but I was up every hour feeding the baby.

Cecile: And sometimes you're not even up because you have this mommy instinct that every time it quakes, you're like, you have this half a second of you're awake and that enough I'm sure gets you out of sleep because your instinct is like something is happening with my baby. That's why there are all those memes around of dad sleeping like a rock and mom being like, "Something is happening." That's because we have that-

Fanny: Sense.

Cecile: -primal instinct of like a bird. We're like, "Okay," we're up. Not necessarily up, we're out of our deep sleep.

Fanny: Yeah, the sleep is interrupted.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. Just to give you, again, more science, it's actually the estrogen levels in our body. It's actually our hormones that actually don't allow us to reach that deeper sleep. Listen, everything was made for a reason, frankly. So in the end of the day, if you have a newborn baby, somebody's gotta wake up if the baby cries. And I love my husband, but it's not gonna be him. [laughs]

There were times that honestly, I would just sit up, the baby wasn't even crying and my husband would take a pillow and then push me back down. [laughs] And I didn't remember. I didn't remember it all, but it was just this—So it's hormonal, it's primal, it's essential. It's made for a reason. Somebody's gotta make up. So that's how we were tagged. So, again, it's not because we're trying not to sleep. It's just the way that it's working, and it works for a reason like that.

Cecile: But people need to hear that because, as you said, sometimes, if you have a kid who sleeps through the night fairly fast, it doesn't mean that you have those four hours of uninterrupted sleep and it feels like, "Okay, I slept eight hours," but you did not.

Fanny: Yeah, you didn't.

Cecile: But then fast forward if you—I don't know, a friend come over and you say, "I went to bed 10:00 at night, woke up at 8:00," then it feels like you had a freaking—like you slept in for half the day when in truth you have to understand that when you say that out loud, the other person is not allowed to think that you slept. So it's okay to still take one, two, three naps during the day if you need to. And it's not going to be something where you have to feel less of yourself.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: No. Again, we're all talking about things that are physiologically programmed and normal as opposed to something that you're doing wrong. And, again, we're just trying to change the narrative because we're just trying to survive and be able to do that. And all of that angst about like, "I'm doing something wrong. I'm a terrible person. I am not doing what I should do," is just wasted energy. So the more we can pull that away, the better that we do. We do better.

And I think that that's part of the reason I spend a lot of time in my visits when I would have babies that age, literally, the whole time was like a freaking pep talk. I should have worn a cheerleader outfit because the whole time, I was like, "You can do it. You're doing it. You're right." I just had to try to push against this weight of anxiety and guilt. And I knew that was partially physiologic because they were feeling so vulnerable at that moment because when it gets into your head, you really have a hard time having the energy to fight it.

So the more positive stuff where people are giving you that space, that grace, to say, "You know what? I know I slept all night, but I don't feel rested. I'm exhausted still." That's legitimate. You're not making that up. That's real.

Another thing that they found is that they did a study on new parents, men and women this time, which is great because why are we not including the men? This is a new thing. They go through a lot too. And they did DSM category, doing questions to see where everybody was in terms of their mental wellness. 80% of parents were clinically depressed.

Cecile: Wow.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: So talk about trauma. And that's a six-month study. That's not three months. That's six months. Because there's so many things that happen that snowball. You don't eat well, you don't feel well, you're getting anxious. You might get into fights with people because—

Cecile: You don't connect to one another. You don't necessarily have—That relationship is shaken too.

Fanny: You lose that time that you have too.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And so all of a sudden, you look up, and you're like, "It's six months, and I feel like shit. You feel like shit. Are we going to ever get out?" I mean, you really start to feel like, "Am I going to get out of this?" That's because through all the stuff that you're going through, you're probably developing some depression. You're not seeing your friends as much. You feel really isolated. We all got a taste of it in COVID. We all got a taste of what that looks like.

And I think in many ways, you—Again, normalizing this and saying, "Yeah, this is what we're all going through." That wasn't a 10%. That was 80%, way more than half of the people were just not in a good space. And everyone's like, "Oh my God, you must be so happy. You have a baby. You're so happy, right?" And you're like, "I don't know what day is it today. I don't know when was the last time I took a shower. I don't know. Am I happy? Is this happy?" You just don't know what to say.

So this is what it is. Having a baby and having children has great moments. I am not saying that there aren't, but it is hard. And if you say, "Let me get the village. Let me give myself a little bit of grace. Let me not expect everything is gonna go perfect. Let me not need everything to be perfect. Let me let go of whatever I could let go." Let's go with the bare minimum. You find a certain humility. You find a certain amount of happiness at just basic things being good. That's better. That's better. You have a much better chance.

Cecile: Lowering the bar of expectation for the baby, for your friends, for everything. Just be content with little. But I think in our society, it's very hard to be content with little because society is throwing so many things that now we're used to having so much that having little is becoming like it's not enough anymore.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: I'll take it to another level. Again, I always bring up this concept of performative parenting in our space of social media. Everyone wants that big picture with the baby. Ah, great days. I'm so happy. The baby's so happy. We're being told to be like that. And then once the camera's off, we're lost. We're like, "But what is the reality? Where am I actually?"

You talked a little bit about mommy brain, which is what it is. I remember my husband, we were just talking about, we're celebrating a big reunion—not a reunion, anniversary. And so we're gonna go back to Martha's Vineyard, and one of the first times I went to Martha's Vineyard, I went with the kids. I remember about two years after that trip, he asked me, he goes, "Oh my gosh, do you remember? You remember that you went to that restaurant on the third day and you ordered the steak, and it was so good?" It wasn't even his meal, I don't even know why he remembers these things.

And I remember I turned to him, and I was like, "Did I enjoy it?" And he goes, "What do you mean? What do you mean? Do you not remember? Don't you remember we went?" I go, "I remember packing for the trip, but I don't remember while we were there, what did we do? Was it nice?" Really, I was blank. I think I was so stressed about packing the kids' stuff, making sure that they were good on the boat, and making sure they were okay, I don't remember really being there. [laughs]

Cecile: Your mommy instinct went for what was critical and left out everything secondary like enjoying. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And so there was a study—Again, I love these studies because sometimes I just find studies to make me feel good. And literally what happened was that the study said that stress decreases the brain's ability to remember. And I was like, "Oh. Yes." And I realized at that moment that multiple times in my life where I was the most stressed, and I think it's God's grace, honestly, because I don't think I need to remember every stressful time in my life. Just delete it. Just go ahead and just delete that. I think God's like, "Just forget it."

But the idea of it is that being able to, again, have grace with yourself and say, "You know, I was stressed out that time." I will say that that has motivated me to decrease my stress. Knowing myself and knowing what I do and sometimes the way that I process things when I'm with my kids or I'm doing something and I'm getting caught up in making sure everything is perfect. I literally will try to stop that because I know that it's going to decrease the memory of it. I know that I'm going to be trying to overmanage everything that I'm just going to end up going into that stress mode and maybe not being present, maybe not being able to appreciate the moment.

Because I remember that study and I know what those years were like and how I just would forget what was going on. And I think that being present for my kids, when you really ask me, why, what are the things I really regret or the things I would have worked more at, that I wish someone was coaching me to do, was to just be more present. We work, we run around, we try to do everything as women, and it is what it is. But in the end of the day, A, we don't have to do everything.

If you're gonna take home a point from anything, all three of us in our hindsight are like, "Let people help you." Ask for help. Accept help. Delegate. I don't care what you do, but you don't have to do it all. And you don't have to do it all perfectly. Just try to be present and let it be the way it is and roll in that, revel in that. Because—it's a cliche but—it goes by really fast.

Cecile: And I think it's also empowering for others because when you are in the present, it forces others to be there too and to notice you more and to notice more how they can help. So it's a process that keeps on giving because if you're trying to control how people help you, then they're not going to be able to explore other ways that they can help you. So if you just be there, accept what's coming, then more is going to come.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. I like to think about that. Wow, Cecile, you blew my mind on that one. [laughs] I got to think about that. So talk about that a little bit, because I really like that concept.

Cecile: I've been trying. So my kids are 10 years old now, and I'm trying to apply that principle to not jump on doing something and just sit there and just embrace the noneness, which we're getting after a while, like everybody is there. And I'm surprised that sometimes, I wouldn't say every time, sometimes something just comes up that fills that bucket of, I don't know, extending a hand where I'm like, "Oh, thank you." And my kids would be like, "Oh, mom, can I do that for you?" I'm like, "Okay."

Because I think also seeing me not doing something, maybe they're like, "Oh, now there must be something wrong with her or something." [laughs] I'm not sure. But it is opening a door for them to be like, "Mom, do you want a glass of water?" I'm like, "Sure, I'll take that. I didn't know I needed one, but—" It's because I stopped. And when I stopped, then other people started walking. Otherwise, if I'm running around—

Fanny: It allows them to enter in your space too.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. I really love that because, again, this is something that I feel like one of my take-home lessons with my kids now in their 20s or so, and we've really seen that in the field of pediatrics, unfortunately. We've talked about this in other talks, about allowing kids to get bored so they can fill—Again, I love that concept of the idea of something else coming in to fill the space.

So when you allow them to have empty space, empty time, then their own interests come in, the things they get obsessed with and they wanna fill it with something, their own self-initiated knowledge, which is one of the best predictors of success, that self-initiated want. But it doesn't happen if they're completely scheduled. It doesn't happen if everything is all lined up and they really don't have that time that's empty, almost like a vacuum or a void that allows something to be filled.

But I really love the fact that you are practicing this when your kids are this age. And the reason why I tell you this, and one day you'll hear me when I say this, when my kids are upset—I'm not very good when someone's upset and there's that silence. I'm just terrible. I want to talk. That's my fault. Talk first, ask later. Just say you want to talk first. I'm the worst.

When I was very young, you go on a date, you sit at the table with this person you don't know, and they don't talk. Oh my God. I mean, my voice would be so hoarse within a half an hour. Talk, talk, talk. Because I was so nervous, the other person's not talking. I freaking had to talk.

One of the ways I knew my husband was the person that I was going to marry was that we sat down and he started talking. And I didn't have to talk. I was so happy. I was like, "I don't have to talk? You're going to talk? We're going to have a conversation? Oh, this is fantastic. I don't have to interview like I'm in Oprah or something. You could actually talk." So that was a good sign for me.

But I will tell you that adolescents, they're adjusting their rhythm. Again, we're talking about the 4th trimester. Sorry, ladies, it keeps going. Adolescence is a whole nother adjustment. Again, getting used to this idea of challenges and adjustments. And adolescents, I find a lot of times it's because they're trying to mature their inner voice of what they want to do. So they'll come to you as parents and they'll say something and you're like, "Oh my God, what the hell did you just say?" And I would add to it and then we would try to fight and they would be like—there would be this whole escalation of emotion. And then my husband would just jump in and would be like, "What's up? That's it. Sucks." [laughs] He wouldn't say anything.

Cecile: Don't get caught into the emotion, yeah.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And then my kid would just calm down. And so what I started doing—and it was hard for me but I'm so glad that you're doing this now—is that if I came up to them and something was going on and they were saying things, I would just give that space, just let it. I would be present, clearly listen to them. But I paused. And a lot of times, I would pause and you hear them almost like—it comes out what they're really feeling. They're working it out almost in front of you. They don't need you to even say anything. They just want you to—they do want you to be there, but they don't need you to be pushing in. They want space to breathe and let it air out, whatever they were thinking. And some of this stuff is foolish and crazy and whatever, but they just want to air it out.

And we feel sometimes, especially as parents and mothers, especially type A, we want to be fixers. We want to fix it or arrange it or do something. And sometimes, they just need time to breathe.

Cecile: And it's the same thing on those first three months is I feel like there is also an overstimulation of what we feel we need to be doing with that baby. Most of what they need is just time to do nothing.

Fanny: Sleep and eat.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah.

Cecile: Besides that, they don't have to be stimulated. It's just being there. If you hold them in your arm, as we said, dealing with the light, the sounds, the stomach, there's a lot going on for them, so they don't need the extra toy around their face and walking around 20 different areas and meeting thousands of people. And we do need to also remind ourselves that less is more at that time for mom, but also for baby. Leave it alone. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: I had this mom, she was like, "The baby has reflux. They're always spitting out whatever I'm feeding." And she's talking like this. [laughs] "The baby just spits up and I'm trying to do this. I can't." She had two other kids. "I'm just doing all this. The baby's—" And then at one point, she had to leave the room, so I walk back in. So she's got a baby in here, she's feeding the baby. I don't know what other arm or hand she had. She's on her phone. And literally, she's holding and she's on her phone.

And I'm like, I walked in and the baby's spitting up. [laughs] I'm like, "Hold on. Wait, stop. What are you doing?" And she's like, "I'm trying to feed the baby. The baby's spitting up." I go, "No, what are you doing with your phone?" She goes, "Oh, I'm trying to book up a Disney trip for the whole family. I'm trying to book the Disney trip." And I'm like, "No."

Fanny: It's too much.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: I go, "No, stop. Put the phone down, put the phone down. Let's just-

Cecile: Breathe. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: -take a deep breath. [laughs] Hold the baby. Don't shove the bottle. Look at the baby. Is the baby hungry? Let's just see if the baby's even hungry. She was so out of step with that moment and the baby is so empathic. They're like little sponges. So they're just absorbing that stress. "Spit the food out. We gotta go to Disney." [laughs] They don't know what's going on.

So I mean, in many ways, again, they're born to heal the family. If you were really type A and you're hearing us and you're hearing us tell you in those first three months, if you're gonna remember anything, in those first three months, I think that is totally it. Literally, less is more. The more that you can just have other people do things.

Fanny: Yes.

Cecile: You are achieving something by doing what you feel is nothing. I had a hard time with that when my babies were born. I felt like I was at home, my husband would go to work, I would have the baby in my hand, in my arm, he would walk out, he would walk back in the afternoon, I would be in the exact same position. From an external standpoint, nothing would have changed, but I would not have stopped all day to feed, and then you know, the diaper, all that stuff. And I felt miserable because I felt like I wasn't producing anything. I wasn't adding value.

And then he's the one who stopped me down and said, "Hey, you're growing, you are maintaining, again, a human being and you are the sole reason why this human being is making it another day. So in that, there is value. I don't need you to be painting the house or whatever. I see that. I see that you're sustaining something." And that relieved a lot of my pressure to be overachieving.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And I think that there is some value—and this is something that we talk about for ourselves, we talk about our families, this is a modern-day problem, is that we are so disconnected from primal rhythms. Again, we're talking about basic stuff here—eating, sleeping, stress, these are just primal things. And in so many ways, you should honor those moments that you get to just ride the rhythm. Eat, sleep, poop, eat, sleep. If anyone has an opportunity, this is an incredible opportunity to reconnect, replug in to basic primal needs. And when you do that, you realize the rest, all this other stuff that literally consumes our energy and our thoughts is just so unnecessary.

Cecile: Yeah. And at some point, you'll be managing this rhythm and you would have rebuilt yourself and replenished your tank, as you said, that you're going to be able to look at other things and be like, "Oh," and it won't look as hard to do. You'll be like, "Sure, I'll do the dishes."

Fanny: There would be the right moment.

Cecile: "Sure, I'll take a shower." It's not going to be imposed. It's going to be like, "Oh, that makes sense. I can fit that in." But as you said, you're already riding that wave. You know the rhythm, you know what's coming.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Back with that rhythm again.

Cecile: But three months is not too much for that. And I know it feels like a lot of time when we say it now, but whoever is listening, three months is three months. Just like pregnancy is nine months for a reason, you can't stop it at five and say, "Okay, I think I've done the most of it." Nine months is nine months, three months is three months. You have to take that time and carve it into your calendar today and mark that day of three months after you have your baby as being a special time.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And I'd like to think being half full that when you really learn—because you're forced to in a really primal way—to take care of yourself again, to take care of your baby, that those habits that you build in those first three months are just going to continue. You may take care of yourself better after those three months than you did even before you were pregnant.

So many people won't do things for themselves, but if I tell them, "You need to eat so that the baby can be fed." They're like, "Okay, I'll eat." But if I just said, "You need to eat to help take care of yourself." They're like, "Whatever." [laughs] And I'm like, "Okay, I don't understand how you don't see that it goes together. Even if you're not making the milk, if you are getting anxious and angry and you're exhausted, sometimes you're exhausted because you didn't eat all day, you cannot be a parent to this baby that you would want to be.

So what we can physically do, what we can emotionally do is, we ask so much of ourselves, just take care of the eating, the sleeping, and the stress. And like you said, Cecile, the other things will come—the bonding, the feelings of being able to be present and joyful. But we always like focus on like, "Are you bleeding? Is there an infection?", all these things, but we don't really talk about like, are you present with your baby? Are you able to get past your anxieties that you can actually say, "Okay, wow, look, I'm with this baby. This has been a very productive day. I've gotten the baby to be able to grow and live. Wow. That was a good day." Versus like, "I did 35 things." How about just like, "I was able to be present with this baby." Check that off the box. Day is over. Perfect.

Cecile: And it's a double win because what you just said is you will remember this moment. While most of us, we went through that moment of our life and we only remember if something traumatic or very hard happened. But remembering those days, it's harder. So if you want to remember those days and cherish those, whether it's your first kid, second kid, fourth kid, that's your key there, to just be there and lower down every expectation.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [Inaudible] with that.

Cecile: So we'll close it there. I think there is a lot of things that we'll think about, like always with those episodes. And then we're meeting next time and we're going to talk about baby number two. That's another—

Dr. Varisa Perlman: By the way, I love that people send questions. So fun, right? It's really exciting for us to get that feedback.

Cecile: Yes, so send more. We want questions for next time. The topic is going to be baby number two. What do you think? Are you expecting your baby number two? Are you anxious? Did you just have your baby number two? How was it different compared to the first one? We want to hear from you and we'll be happy to see you in our next episode of Moms Talk with a French Accent.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And if they joined late, they can also find you guys on YouTube, right?

Cecile: We are on YouTube. And all the videos, we put them on YouTube, so we'll see you there as well.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [Inaudible] enjoy it.

Fanny: Thank you.

Cecile: Bye, Varisa.

Fanny: Bye.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Bye.

Cecile: Bye, everyone.


Watch other episodes here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1dpfz3OiZoOwHuST-GmH9sTD0TfF3rIp

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