With my first pregnancy when it was time to break the news to the co-founders of my company I started with the one whose office was next to mine. I walked in with a mix of nervousness and excitement. I strung together some combination of words to convey that I was with child. He congratulated me with sincere happiness and genuine excitement.
When I called the other I was met with the same supportive reaction. Except he added one sentence at the end: Libby, whatever you decide to do when that baby comes – I fully support it. I laughed, What do you mean? Are you suggesting I won’t want to come back? Of course, I’m coming back!!!!
That sentence and my reaction sticks with me. I clearly remember standing in my third floor office, facing out my window glancing down at the trees. In the distance I could see the Charlotte skyline. One hand was holding my phone and the other was cradling my belly like I was already holding the baby growing inside.
All the while so clueless about what was ahead. What this tiny human would bring me and how the first six months would be a complete sea-change (why not use a business cliche while talking about work plus baby).
The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom’s Guide to Style, Sanity, & Big Success After Baby tackles that time: when maternity leaves ends and it’s time to return to work. If you’ve read Dr. Harvey Karp’s book, The Happiest Baby on the Block (one of the easiest baby reads), you’re familiar with the idea of The Fourth Trimester. That human babies need another trimester and recreating the womb experience for them will help them sleep.
That concept helped spur Lauren Smith Brody’s idea for The Fifth Trimester. It suggests that physically and mentally (supported by studies) mamas aren’t ready to return until six months postpartum. But American maternity leave policies can range from 6 weeks (often only partially paid through short-term disability) to 12 weeks (FMLA’s guarantee that your job will be there) to 16+ weeks (the most generous policies). Meaning most new moms are heading back to work before this 6 month milestone.
The book is built on over 800 interviews of working moms and a multitude of studies. Combining advice for every aspect of working mom life post-baby. All with the goal of preparing moms to successfully transition out of maternity leave.
If you just thought: time for me to stop reading – I’m past that stage, you’re making a mistake. With babies at ages 2, 3 and 4, you could say I’m past the fifth trimester (under this math with my youngest we are technically in the 17th trimester), but I wasn’t. The tips, insight and pure validation are invaluable.
Back to my boss’s words (can I add how comforting those words were. Knowing I had that support): he was right. I had moments. I had moments on both sides. I had moments during maternity leave: can I go back to work yet, please? I know what I’m doing there! I’m good at that. And I had moments after maternity leave was over. Do I have to leave this precious baby and go back to work?
This book is like sharing a glass of wine with your big sister’s best friend while she helps you navigate those moments and the myriad of other things that happen post baby: from your body (see Chapters 4 and 5: On Looking Human Again), to your relationship (Chapter 9), to your identity (Chapter 2), to a thorough list of pros and cons for all childcare options (Chapter 1).
It was such good stuff, I took notes at the end of each chapter to highlight my favorites. Those notes range from “eat a frog” to “wear lipstick” (maybe not at the same time) to “redefine compromise = everybody wins!”
Read this book and then keep being awesome (see the affirmation on pg. 176 and 177: “If you’re reading [this book]…you really care about your work…you’re a planner…and that probably makes you pretty darn good at your job.”)
That brings me to one more point: the author! Our mom’s group was lucky enough to have her Skype into our book club meeting on Sunday morning. Not only did she take time out of her Sunday to chat with us but she chatted with us for nearly an hour and a half – giving real, thoughtful, and useful advice.
She practices what she preaches – supporting moms, women and families everywhere. At the core, that’s what this book is about. Get it now. You won’t regret it.
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