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Author | Photo Jae & daughter Junip

4 Trimesters Fall Conference Aims To Empower New & Expectant Parents

4 Trimesters Fall Conference (October 28th) is for new and expectant parents – from trying-to-conceive to about six months postpartum. Attendees can check out workshops based on where they’re at in their reproductive journey. Plus, there’s a healthful catered lunch and a keynote on Building Your Village.

We chatted with 4 Trimesters founder Jae Steele to find out more. 

SDTC: You always hear about the first 3 trimesters – the fourth is often overlooked, but it my experience, it was by far the most intense (and unprepared for). Why do you think that is?

JS: Getting pregnant, and preparing to have a tiny human on your hands forevermore, is a lot to digest. The excited anticipation in pregnancy is the entry point to a whole new phase of our lives, so of course it gets all sorts of attention. It’s our announcement to the world that we’re ready to enter a new (more selfless, less well-rested) stage of our lives.

The fourth trimester – some say the first few months after baby is born, others look at the whole first year – is more private territory. Carving out what parenthood looks like for ourselves is a pretty personal thing that stems from our values, our needs, and the needs of our baby and other family members. All these developments happen in the private sphere – the infant feeding (it takes a while to get a handle on whipping out your boob just anywhere when your baby squawks its request), the healing from the delivery, the things we do to try to get Baby to sleep…

Partners go back to work, friends and family have full days of their own, and then it might just be you and this tiny person you made. It’s intense.

Our modern way of life has us divorced from our tribe in a lot of ways, doing the whole motherhood thing in isolation. Do you think that this is problematic?

I’m definitely concerned about new mothers feeling lonely. We generally live farther from our families than new parents did a couple generations ago. Some of us feel better in our adult lives distancing ourselves from our family of origin, though in providing midwifery services to a diverse clientele, I often found the new parents who had quite a bit of family around, family who expected to be needed to help in this time, seemed to have more of a sense of stability.

If we don’t have family around, unless we can afford a lot of hired help, we really need our friends to step up, to help look after us so we can look after Baby; however, the problem with friends can be that the ones who don’t have kids (yet) don’t necessarily get it, and the ones who get it because they do have kids – their kids likely still need their time, too. It’s tricky.

There’s no easy solution for the isolation of new parenthood, and I suspect social internet culture and Netflix can make it worse. We need to get out of the house and our comfort zone to meet our new “village” – the other parents going through the same things at the same time as us. Drop-in play groups and classes can be great for this.

What are the biggest misconceptions/mistaken beliefs that you are hearing from soon-to-be or new parents that you’d like to dispel?

That breastfeeding is easy and we will just intuitively know how to do it. We’re coming out of an era where formula was seen as better than breastmilk. This means we haven’t seen enough people breastfeeding newborns to have a good sense of how it’s done, and our moms and aunties might not know either. Same goes for parenting – it’s hard to separate intuition from the parenting that was modelled in our own childhoods.

It’s good to keep your baby close as much as you can. You won’t spoil them. It’s very normal to have huge emotions, this might be your heart opening to your new baby, and/or your serious lack of sleep. Whatever’s going on, it’s good to ask for help, and it’s okay to be direct. You need people around you to buoy you up when you’re doing round-the-clock baby care.

What can new or soon-to-be parents expect to take away from this conference?

This day is going to be really rich. For me, it’s really about empowering expectant and new parents to feel more aware and confident in this new chapter of their lives, to lessen the sense of isolation. It’s about connecting with local perinatal and health experts – workshopping with them that day, and knowing where to go when you need help in the future.

There are sixteen workshops going on, with the opportunity for everyone to go to four. I’ve organized them into “trimester” streams based on where people are at: trying-to-conceive and early pregnancy where we look at healthy steps to prepare for baby growing; mid-pregnancy is about early preparation for birth through physical and mental practice and creating your dream care team; for those in late pregnancy, we’re mostly looking to help people prep for the postpartum – normal expectations for infant feeding, sleep, babywearing and parental mental well-being; and for parents in the first postpartum year, they can tap into their parenting expectations, recharge their body with a traditional Chinese medicine approach, begin to process their birth story and consider what sex, pleasure and intimacy look like after having a baby.

I love feeding people good food, so I’m having Earth + City cater lunch, and we’ve got stunning swag bags packed with stuff you’d easily lay down $150 for at a health food store.

The goal is to hold the event twice a year in Toronto, so my hope is that people will come back in a later trimester and maintain the relationships they build on this day.

4 Trimesters Fall Conference is coming up on Saturday October 28 at the Annex CSI (720 Bathurst St). Workshop facilitators include naturopathic doctors, doulas, infant sleep educators, breastfeeding educators, perinatal therapists, nutritionists, yoga and Pilates instructors, an osteopath, an acupuncturist, a sex counsellor and an eco-health expert! It promises to be a rich day of learning and an opportunity to connect with your local community. For more information, go here.

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