writing this, I am currently almost 32 weeks pregnant, and I am now preparing my home for the fourth trimester, or the newborn stage of my sixth baby.
the fourth trimester is a time of three months or more, where you need to prepare yourself, your home and your mindset for this time.
I am full of nesting energy and taking advantage to clean and organise my home, something which has eluded me this pregnancy so far.
Having my 6th baby, I know a lot more about what I will need in the weeks and months of the newborn season, and where to best use my energy to prepare.
In this post is to share what I have learned over five babies, and what I am implementing with my sixth.
I think if you prepare your home and mindset for the fourth trimester, you can enjoy and make the best of the short newborn stage and not be overwhelmed by caring for your home and trying to keep up with old systems and expectations.
there are five crucial areas I think you should take the time to prepare, especially if you have other young children so that you can allow yourself to slow down in the newborn stage rather than try and carry on as usual.
A NOTE TO POSTPARTUM
I find, that in today’s society, we do not put enough emphasis on slowing down during the postpartum season, which should rightly be called the fourth trimester.
postpartum is like a trimester of pregnancy, it is at least 3 months long, and both you and your baby change immensely during this time.
there is a huge fluctuation of hormones for us as mothers, as well as healing after birth and getting to know a new life.
Your baby will grow, get fat and change week by week. just like they would in pregnancy.
We see images of mums with messy buns, stained t-shirts and children clinging to their legs, sleep-deprived and exhausted, and the image can have us dread rather than look forward to having another newborn in the home.
Now, as a mum of five, I am not at all saying that you don’t have days where you look precisely as the image portrays.
But what is most important in the newborn/postpartum stage is that you are busy doing the right things.
I live from experience, with my last baby I hosted Christmas breakfast and lunch at my home, to two sets of families, three weeks postpartum.
I look back and cringe.
I thought I was coping fine, but looking back, I realise I was so busy I struggled to connect to my newborn.
I breastfed him, stayed up half the night with him and got through the days with him, but he was quickly just THERE.
I didn’t appreciate his newness, I didn’t slow down and let myself be absorbed in him as I should have, instead I gave birth and pressed on.
Once I hosted Christmas I did slow down, and it was nice, but knowing what I know about hormones and how they play a role in those first few weeks, I know I would have been better of to choose to slow down, shut out the outside world for a week or two (or four) and connect with my baby.
I don’t know why I didn’t choose that.
this time around I am preparing for it, and enjoying the fact that is coming.
I am choosing the hard things to continue doing, like cooking for my children and keeping a relatively tidy home and I will TRY to keep my veggie garden alive.
I will not be hosting anyone or leaving the house until I feel ready, I will not put pressure on myself to have a clean home, or to be dressed before noon. I will not think about my weight, or my activity, and if the children watch too much tv, so be it.
the fourth trimester is for, healing, connecting and slowing.
It is not to bounce back, lose weight or prove to anyone that you are capable of having a baby and getting your life together within a week.
CHOOSE YOUR HARD
I think many of us have heard this saying, and it is true in any aspect of change, goal setting or growth.
when it comes to the newborn stage, choosing your hard is crucial to have the best postpartum experience.
postpartum depression, anxiety and poor health after having children are getting more and more common, in a society that deems that snapping back physically, getting back to work or having a clean home is succeeding when it comes to having a new baby.
Mothers are directed and told what to do and not to do through each stage of pregnancy by doctors, and then when it comes to postpartum very little is said to prepare them and help them succeed at this crucial stage.
You are faced with choices of whether to breastfeed or not, co-sleep or cot, sleep train or intuitive sleeping schedule, when you can start exercising, and when you can resume your “life” as it was before.
Not many mothers are taught how to cope with hormones and sleep deprivation, how to handle the endless days of feeling overwhelmed, and how to exercise correctly to heal and prevent complications later down the track.
Many don’t understand how the choices they make when it comes to birthing, breastfeeding and sleeping affect their ability to connect with their baby and function through the postpartum phase.
hormones both after pregnancy, during birth, and during the weeks after giving birth are affected by your choices on how you will feed your baby, the sleeping cycle you choose and the time you spend with your baby.
these hormones, regulate our body’s ability to relax, sleep, connect and our ability to get through the fatigue that comes with a newborn.
when it comes to having a baby, think of the postpartum phase as a fourth trimester, with growth, healing and hormones that will come into play drastically.
You need to choose what you will take on during this time, and if you want to succeed you need to take on the right things.
You shouldn’t take on in the fourth trimester:
- anything extracurricular
- outside of the home
- set exercise goals
- diet goals
- worry about a clean home
- or worry about socialising beyond short stress-free trips.
You should take on in the fourth trimester:
- preparing good healthy food
- getting enough cleaning and washing done to get by
- getting sunshine and fresh air
- long feeding sessions
- setting water drinking goals
- limiting screen time
Take time to reset the expectations you have for your home
The most important thing you can do for yourself during the fourth trimester is reset your expectations.
what we are capable of before baby and after is drastically different, especially if you have other children.
I know many know this and assume this going in.
but still, we can assume we will be ready to get back to normal before we really are.
and then when we can’t get back to normal or we attempt to, you and struggle it can lead to unnecessary stress.
instead, I like to prepare systems in my home.
cull things I need to do, and create areas that are easy to maintain.
This allows me to save time and effort doing the daily chores so that I can feel in control of my life while resting and taking it slower.
- You won’t have a clean home as often.
- your washing piles will get bigger
- your bed won’t get made every day
- you won’t look as put together leaving the house
- your meals may not always be the best effort
- And extra things like gardening, sorting, putting washing away and getting your kids bathed every day can completely fall to the wayside, and trust me, this is FINE!
What you can do, is create systems around things that you do daily.
so that you can minimise cleaning time, take the stress out of cooking, and create for yourself ways of coping through the bad days so you can ultimately enjoy the fourth trimester.
take the time to reset your mindset, be okay with getting less done, and if you have a day where you plan to get something done, and then you can’t don’t let it make you feel like you are failing.
The fourth trimester is for healing, resting and connecting with your family.
1: preparing healthy meals
Taking on your Diet is crucial!
diet is so important when it comes to feeling good in the fourth trimester.
Here in the western world, we think and prepare very little when it comes to our food during this time, in other cultures, the fourth-trimester menu is A BIG DEAL!
I will dedicate another post to eating during the fourth trimester but ultimately, you should be prepared to eat good food and a lot of it.
You need to eat to feed another human if you are breastfeeding.
you need to eat to heal.
to regulate your hormones.
to get quality sleep.
and sometimes when you aren’t having a good day, you are going to want to eat to nourish your emotions and that’s okay.
In order to prepare yourself diet-wise for the fourth trimester, especially if you have children and a husband to feed once he is back at work, then you need to think long-term.
once my baby is a month old I will venture out of the house to a small grocery shop. until then it is click and collect or my hubby is getting to shops for me.
so, when it comes to what I need, I like to have a pantry and freezer stockpile. so that the shopping in the first months is limited as possible.
Foods you need to eat when postpartum
healthy fats & protein.
Fatty Meats, salmon, avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, eggs, homemade mayo and dairy (if you can tolerate it)
fatty meat is easy for me, fatty cuts of meat are perfect in the slow cooker, you can cook them a million different ways, and serve them with anything you like.
they are filled with collagen and enzymes that are fantastic for healing bodies.
I like to bag meat up, things like chuck steak, chin beef, pork shoulder, and chicken thighs, with the spices it will be cooked in, pre-cut and ready to go, then chuck it in the freezer.
I hate preparing pre-cooked freezer meals, I find it stressful to undertake, and I don’t enjoy eating most of them.
I prefer to prepare my proteins in advance and have once a week stock up of fresh in-season veggies to serve with them, as well as rice, mashed potatoes and roasted whole sweet potatoes for a healthy carb option.
things like avocados, oils, and fruits, I like to eat in salads and smoothies.
I spend time prepping my meats, and I rotate the same meals each week, so when I am prepping I don’t have to make a hundred different things. I just make 4 batches of each meal to last a month.
smoothies I like for lunch, as they are refreshing, filling without being overfilling or giving me a case of post-lunch fatigue.
to prep for this, I stock up on organic berries, avocado chunks, bananas and egg whites to freeze as well as plenty of protein powder. collagen, chia seeds and good-quality peanut butter.
this is nutrient-dense, protein and healthy carb-rich takes 3 minutes to prepare and is consumable anywhere.
perfect for midday busyness and gets you away from eating something that isn’t nutrient dense in the middle of the day.
which is something I have learned is a big no-no if you are breastfeeding, as it means your milk supply will drop by 7-9 pm later that night, right when you are desperate for the day to end and to get some sleep.
I am keen to get that baby weight off as soon as possible I am not going to deny it, yes it may not be a healthy mindset and I am sure I should embrace the weight gain, but a few weeks into the fourth trimester and looking into the mirror can be a little depressing.
While I don’t Diet at all, I do try and avoid excess sugar.
This helps my mindset, it helps me to know I can choose this hard, I choose to prepare something in advance to satisfy my sweet cravings, rather than eat something that doesn’t help me or my baby and will actually make me feel worse in the long run.
I like to have some sweet treats ready to go because when you are tired you crave SUGAR.
These treats are calorie-rich for sure, so it’s not like I am munching them down every day, but I like to know that my sweets treats are rich in nutrients and that sweet hit.
from homemade sugar-free chocolate slices and cookies to decedent snickers slices filled with dates, homemade chocolate and peanut butter, these are things I like to try and have a little of in the freezer.
so when it’s 3 pm, I am exhausted and I know I won’t even get a power nap that day, I can pour myself a cuppa and enjoy a slice of something sweet and at least mood-boosting without worrying about sugar and empty calories.
Water is crucial for postpartum.
you need to have good quality water and have a few sources of your water around the home.
get yourself more than one water bottle, and have them where you feed your baby. when you feed, you drink and aim to drink the entire bottle.
If you are breastfeeding, this is crucial to keeping up your milk supply.
get yourself 2-3 water bottles, and if you like you can add some flavourings, naturally sweetened cordials or the fruit-based teabags for cold water or just add some lemon, lime or strawberries, and mint or some iced tea.
aim to drink 2-3 litres a day, especially during the warmer months.
Not having enough water is going to affect your milk supply so if there is anything you are going to be strict about, make it water!
tips for preparing food in the fourth trimester
if you are a freezer meal gal then go for it.
Make ahead as many as you can and then enjoy plopping them in the oven for a super easy meal.
Me, I am just not that woman.
I struggle to find time to prepare enough to last even a week, and then you have to store them right and even when I try my hardest, most of them taste freezery.
Instead, I prepare a set menu for at least the first four weeks of the fourth trimester.
so I cook the same meals each week, for four weeks, a little boring yes, but stress-free.
I prepare the protein for that menu, and because it is a set menu, I repeat the same meals four times over.
So I know how much I need and I can just make a big batch of protein, and freeze it uncooked.
I focus on either bbq’d meats (hubby cooks these) or slow-cooked meats in those first four weeks, so I can prepare the evening meal in the morning and not when I am tired in the afternoon.
this way, I know I can just buy a heap of a few different types of meat, prepare them to be cooked and then divide them into portions in freezer bags.
Sides are always simple, roasted potatoes, rice, salad or steamed veg.
Breakfast and lunches.
each week I stock up on bread and salad stuff for salad sandwiches, as well as smoothy ingredients.
I make the same things almost every day. with slight variations.
Breakfasts during the fourth trimester are a slow affair, and I don’t mind it.
We make pancakes, porridge or eggs, (when I say we, my boys can cook, if you are doing all the cooking I suggest a breakfast you can whip up in ten and one-handed if need be)
I don’t worry about being on time, especially since this baby is a spring baby and I am looking forward to warming breezy days and the kids playing outside.
I will also have a stock of muesli and cereal for the hectic mornings.
2: work on your home’s stress zones to prepare your home for the fourth trimester
a stress zone in my home is a zone that the family spends a lot of time in.
it can be where a lot of stuff seems to accumulate
or when you walk by and see the mess and chaos in a room or area, and feel stressed.
To prepare your home for the fourth trimester you want to know the areas in your home that make you stressed
- the living areas
- the bathrooms
- the bedrooms
we can all ignore certain areas more than others.
yours may be the living areas, the kitchen, the laundry or the bathroom.
Mine is the toilet and bathroom and the large dining room that we use as only an entertaining dining room a few times a year, but as it is near the back door of the home, the door we most frequently use, it becomes a drop zone.
It stresses me out!
living on a dusty and when rainy, very muddy property, means the floor in this dining room is always dirty, the 12-seater dining table is always covered in clutter no matter how hard I try and keep it off, and the array of odd socks and dirty boots scattered in the walkways of the back door drives me mad.
another for me is the kid’s bathroom and toilet.
it is always a little bit wet, and the toilet always smells, no matter what I do, I walk past on the way through my home and it hits me.
and I immediately feel overwhelmed.
It might seem silly to others, and that’s fine, perhaps your red zone is something that I can have no problem with.
another red zone is my laundry, BIG TIME! I live in an old farmhouse, and while the home is nice and I enjoy living in it, the laundry is straight out of a man’s five-minute thought process.
it is situated outside, and you have to exit the back door to get to it, the dust and dirt constantly blow into the small room, with a concrete floor, one large laundry tub that has a double sink but only a tap for one sink? and no cupboards or storage to speak of.
Now, when you are preparing your home for the fourth trimester, you need to know in advance where you will most likely get stressed and overwhelmed.
being able to predict and then hopefully fix or at least tweak those areas to help yourself is important.
what is helpful in the weeks prior to the birth of your new baby is if you can find ways to create less stress around these zones.
for me, it was creating a bathroom cleaning caddy, with homemade sprays that smell nice, getting an essential oil aroma into the bathrooms, and buying a surplus of cleaning cloths, so that when I do walk by I can do something in a minute or two to fix the bathroom.
My dining room, well it made me realize I need to cull the clutter in my home, and that has helped a lot.
I have instilled new shoe rules in the family and changed the way we store our shoes, I have invested in better door rugs, and I have made the storage in that dining room, easy to maintain, looks good and effective for our drop zone needs.
My laundry, is still a work in progress, the biggest things I can do for myself are culling my kid’s clothes for less washing during the fourth trimester, create a laundry cleaning system so I can keep it tidy in a jiffy and try and get myself a better laundry routine.
the systems you create need to be
- Easy to maintain
- Based on your current habits
- And easy to implement for both you and others
if you try and fix a problem with a solution that doesn’t tick all three boxes, I can guarantee it won’t stick
here are some ways you can add some helpful systems to prepare your home for the fourth trimester:
- create cleaning caddies or baskets for the kitchen and living, and one for each bathroom. a caddy should include a spray, and cloths, for whatever you are cleaning in that area.
- cull your kid’s clothes and toys by at least half, even if it is for the fourth trimester only, it will save you a lot of stress.
- spend 20 minutes a day culling, or sorting an area of your home in the months and weeks leading up to birth, this helps you to stay on top of things, while also preparing your home to work well with less for you to think about and maintain.
- cull your kitchen dishes, don’t have too many plates and bowls and cups. opt for one per person per item. you may have to rinse dishes, but with less to wash overall or load into the dishwasher, it means those kitchen cleaning times during the day are a lot more efficient.
- get your living areas to a place where you can clean them in five minutes. if you have young kids, you want to be able to whiz through the living areas and get them tidy in ten minutes tops. cull the clutter and toys, and just have the bare minimum.
3: create a portable baby caddy
I am pretty sure since baby number two I have given up on setting up a baby’s room.
Not because I don’t find it fun, exciting or aesthetically pleasing, but because I never used it.
My baby sleeping crip has always been a portable Moses basket, during the day I place the baby where it’s warm and quiet, which changes throughout the day.
As a breastfeeding mamma, I would often feed the baby in bed, or sit in the warm living areas with dim lighting to feed at night.
And during the busy days, I am taking baby where I need to be, and change, burp, feed and dress where I am working and being with other children.
Something that is compact, light and portable to keep the baby essentials is a must.
The baby’s room would become a place that I had to clean and maintain, as babies washed things would be dumped in there, but I would barely use that room until the baby was sleeping through the night in a cot.
Now, I only have two main items of baby furniture for the first six months.
A baby Moses basket and a portable basket or trolley with everything I need.
My baby caddy contains.
- a bath towel
- nappy changing cloths (I don’t use disposable wipes)
- nappy cream ( I use farmhouse on Boone’s recipe!)
- bonds suits and singlets. (always look for the ones with the collar for newborns)
- burping cloths (cloth nappies)
- homemade baby bath soap
- coconut oil in an essential oil roller to roll onto baby’s bottom at nappy changes.
Newborn extra which are must have:
waterproof baby bassinet sheets. trust me, you will need them! I keep four on hand with two on the bassinet so that when a leak occurs, I can pull off the top sheet and still have another ready to go on the bottom.
a portable trolley cart is what I use to store my baby essentials. I also use them to make my bathroom and cleaning caddies.
these are all I use, after five babies and buying fancy creams, brushes, and dressy clothing (usually made of polyester which I stay clear of) and never using them I now know what is needed to keep baby happy and healthy.
Keep your baby caddy simple, easy to move with you around the home, and only with what you use every day.
4: Detox your home for the fourth trimester
most expecting mothers, are going to go through the nesting stage of pregnancy.
Nesting is that urge to get your home in order, you usually have more energy and more drive to clean and organise your home, energy which since I have a baby every 2 -3 years, is welcomed with gusto.
Now I have been fairly natural-minded most of my adult life, but it has definitely been a process of growth as I switch out more and more chemical products in my home, for natural (not just eco or green but homemade)
your baby has been in a chemical-free environment its entire life.
When you bring your baby home, it’s best to start off with fresh air, chemical-free clothing (as much as possible) and surfaces.
Ditch the Dettol, it is so bad for you and baby!
filled with carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals and perfumes, it irritates the lungs and skin of anyone who isn’t used to it, and that means your baby.
don’t find the most fragrant clothing detergents for your baby’s clothes, instead use soap flakes from the box or you can buy an organic detergent or make your own laundry soap.
ditch the fragrance sprays and candles in your home, you can switch them out for essential oils, (I use these banksia pod diffusers around my home) with lavender oil.
Anything you use in your home, from dishwashing liquid to toilet cleaner is filled with chemicals and fragrances. of which cause lung and skin irritation and later in life cancer.
now, I am not saying ditch all of these, and as a matter of fact, I still use conventional dish liquid and dishwasher powder, and I am on and off with laundry detergent as I am going through the process of finding a recipe that really works.
I encourage you however to ditch:
- bench top sprays
- air purifying sprays
- scented candles
- bug sprays
- strong toilet bleaches and fragrances
- don’t wash your babies clothes in your normal laundry liquid or powder (use soap flakes)
5: reset your expectations
Your expectations are huge when it comes to how much you will enjoy the newborn phase.
The days can vary from day to day, as well as your hormones and sleep patterns, which can lead to your being more emotional than usual.
this means that days that really aren’t that bad, can feel really bad.
and good days don’t feel that good.
It all depends on what you expect of yourself during the fourth trimester.
Don’t make set-in-stone plans to leave the house
while getting out and getting fresh air and sunshine is important when in the fourth trimester, you need to also set limits on yourself and other people when it comes to leaving the house as you used to.
sure, pushing yourself once in a while to maybe go and get a coffee with a friend, is fine, as long as you acknowledge that if it takes leaving a dirty home and cooking a quick dinner later on, that IT IS FINE.
You set your expectations to get out and get that coffee or lunch date, and you achieved it, that day went well.
Don’t think you can add that to your itinerary, and still get the house clean, the meal on time and the baby settled just like usual.
Maybe you will.
Maybe you won’t.
Set your expectations to be for the latter, and you will enjoy your day out, and be able to reconcile a little more chaos in your home for it.
I like to keep it flexible, I may arrange to leave the house, only to get no sleep the night before and feel utterly exhausted.
I know that I won’t be mentally or emotionally capable of reconciling the extra chaos with five kids and a newborn to get out, not today.
In the 12 weeks of the first trimester, get out, and get some sun, but don’t do it to the detriment of your mental and physical well-being in the long run.
be okay with not taking on what you want to, just for a time.
allow yourself grace as a homemaker
Homemaking on my Instagram home feed is inspiring.
On other days, the beautiful images and women in soft linens with garden-cut flowers and perfect table settings can be discontenting.
I am big on contentment.
Learning how to be content is a skill and one that is honed and perfected the more you practice it.
being content with old shabby kitchens, dirty farmhouse laundry, old carpets, mismatched wall colours, and gardens that spill over with weeds more than flowers.
during the last months of pregnancy, I find my ability to be as content as I usually am is lessened as my instincts begin to hone in on my home and its faults.
I want to fix things, paint things and change and perfect my home, my little place of peace and rest.
thing is, when you are discontent in your home, it is not a place of peace and rest.
It is a place of frustration and discouragement at your current circumstances.
this can last well and truly into the fourth trimester.
As we desire to get our home back into the same working order as before we birthed out babies.
The dirty floors, the dusty furniture, the shabby walls and windows, they can really get to you.
As you feed more, sleep less, eat more, and begin the process of healing and getting to know the new addition to your family, your home takes a back step, at least it should.
This though is always harder on the mind than the body.
in fact, your body will be glad of it, but your mind will be frustrated, and sometimes even angry at the fact that your desire to exist in a clean home cannot be met by your ability.
things you can do to prepare your home for the fourth trimester.
cull your family’s clothing. your washing will increase with baby suits, cloths, blankets and bedding, plus your own clothing, milk stained and thrown up on.
do yourself a favour and get some storage bags or 60-litre tubs, and dedicate one or two to each room and fill them up. you can store them away or donate, either way, I can guarantee you, you will not miss them.
spring clean the areas in your home that stress you out. laundry, linen cupboards, the plastic container cupboard in your kitchen and anywhere, you have in your home that you hate to look at.
again you can cull, you can reorganise, and make more aesthetically pleasing with baskets or tubs
to minimize the items in your living areas (loungeroom, dining room, entrance area) so that you can clean them in five minutes.
this usually means not having toys, or at least too many,
Having a minimalist approach to these areas, when you have young children this is a good idea anyway, you want to have control of these areas, and when they are untidy, you know you can clean them up and relax in them in mere minutes.
preparing your mind for the fourth trimester
Mndset is not an easy thing to give advice on, as we all have different ideals about the postpartum season as well as different circumstances and abilities.
the amount and age of children you have will affect your ability to rest.
the amount of help you have.
the season of life you are in.
what I can say is that you need to think of the fourth trimester, as a serious, and undeniable stage of life, that requires, attention, preparation and acknowledgment.
However you prepare, yourself, your home and your family, you need to have a few things in mind when the season actually arrived and your baby is born.
- Having a new baby is exciting, and a birth of some sort is going to take place in order to see and hold your baby.
Your birth may not go as planned, you may not be the woman you envisioned when planning for this trimester, you may need even more help and rest, or the opposite, just be sure to encourage yourself to plan but understand that your plan does not ensure it will occur.
the drive you have now to clean and organise as a nesting third-trimester mamma may disappear! I like to get as much done in this season, the third trimester because I know, that when the baby is born and the days are blurry with no sleep and lots of feeding, I won’t have the go-get-it attitude I have now.
to be honest, there is no prep for this, there is a learning and development of the ability to relax into the fourth trimester, see the chaos sometimes and the times of constant untidiness, and know that your role isn’t what it was a few weeks/months ago.
I find the more babies you have the easier this gets to embrace.
don’t allow expectations to rob you of your fourth-trimester experience
when you are feeling it, the fatigue, the soreness and you feel like it will never end, there is no light at the end of the postpartum tunnel.
I like to take action in a few small steps.
- I clean a small area of my home, where I want to spend time at that moment.
- I make myself a cup of tea or a cold drink to sip on.
- I sit, and I look out the window with some music or just silence.
I am often feeding a baby, using this moment to eat because haven’t had time, or have other children to talk to.
But I do not think of all that, I do the steps, I sit and watch the sun or the night sky and I take a moment. if I have kids around me I put an audiobook on and encourage them to play with something at my feet.
I don’t let overwhelm rob me of the fourth trimester.
If I have things to do then these feelings overcome me. I slow down, I make a list of five small things to get done, and I won’t stop until they are done. (your baby can cry for five minutes!)
this is how I pull myself out of the feeling of overwhelm. you need to take steps when it arrives, if you ignore it, and let yourself sink into it, you can spend days, feeling frustrated and angry because you feel incapable.
you are not incapable, in fact, you are very capable of thing that is most important right now.
getting through a trying season, not with a perfect home and Instagram-worthy baby pictures.
But with the right mindset, embracing temporary changes, and encouraging rest over productivity.
so, that is how I am preparing my home and my mindset for caring for my home for my 6th baby!
It’s a process that I have learned and adapted over time, and one that while full of challenges, I am looking forward to this time around.
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