Thursday, March 01, 2007

the fourth trimester

Yesterday someone described the first six weeks after the birth of a child as the fourth trimester. The comment has been turning over in my mind as I find more and more resonance with it.

I gave birth to my baby son, Wil nearly three weeks ago. It was two days ahead of plan, but his exit was surgical nonetheless. And since then I have been in that strange freefall where I find it hard to connect thoughts or maintain a conversation or write coherently. I feel mildly divorced from the reality that other people inhabit and locked in a little bubble for two.

This was what I was talking about when my friend made the fourth trimester comment. Because while Wil is now on the outside, he's still connected to me in a way that is so close, so physical and exclusive, it's almost like he's still on the inside. Of course I had forgotten the intensity of this bit.

A good deal of my mind is occupied by him whenever I am awake, and not in a way I can control. He quite literally inhabits my mind, invades my thoughts, grabs my attention. His needs are my needs, his pain is my pain, his hunger is my hunger (I had forgotten how hungry and thirsty breastfeeding makes you!).

It made perfect sense to me when I read that brain scans of new mothers taken while their babies cry show the same neural patterns as when they experience their own physical pain. Like my body hasn't quite worked out that we're separate beings yet.

Breastfeeding makes it all so much more so. The hours I spend on the couch, gritting my teeth while Wil's too small mouth gives me yet another nipple blister, the instinct that propels me out of bed at each and every cry before I'm even awake, the look D and I exchange as he hands an unsettled Wil over to me. The boob is it, the cure all, the panacea, the replacement for the umbilical cord that kept us together for 9 months. There isn't anything D can offer that comes close.

So I just wanted to say hello to all you out there in the regular world. I know you're out there but right now you feel a long way away.

6 Comments:

Blogger littlesnoring said...

Wow, I love the clarity of your thoughts. My baby boy is four weeks old today and I have been feeling many similar things but just not able to put it into words.

It still seems amazing to me that just a mere 10 months ago my baby was one of my tinsy tiny eggs and now, not that long later, a living breathing burping baby.

I can completely relate to 'fourth trimester' observation, it makes perfect sense that it takes us a while for our bodies to feel actually separated from our babies. I wonder why that never occurred to me before. Thanks for the wonderful post.

8:46 pm  
Anonymous dani (pyglet) said...

fourth trimester sounds right to me but the experiences you describe so well seem to be extending further than 6 weeks. My baby girl is 10 weeks and that feeling of being "divorced from the reality that other people inhabit and locked in a little bubble" is still quite strong.

I understand that "long way away" place and appreciate the insight that your explanation has given me.

thanks :)

1:04 pm  
Anonymous tiel s-k said...

the 4th trimester is long gone for me but I do like this terminology and will tell my friends who are about to spit another out that this is an appropriate phrase they can use.

like the 1st, 2nd and 3rd, it will end you will soon taouch base with the real world again! :)

7:50 pm  
Blogger Iris said...

I loved this post. I rang true in so many ways and brought me right back to those early weeks after my son was born. He is almost seven months old now, but sometimes it still feels like this, strangely despite the fact that he is starting to be a bit more independent. Him going to a childminder for a few hours a week feels like a cutting of yet another umbilical chord.

Thank you for this wonderful post.

9:42 pm  
Blogger katie said...

I love this post - it sums up so exactly what i try to tell parents to be in my antenatal classes - I am a midwife and in charge of all the teaching in our large hospital - I will use this phrase - the fourth trimester and summarise your words when i talk about this time to first time - excited - parents who have no real understanding of the thing you are talking about so eloquently here - Thank you so much for this, and good luck with your wonderful relationship

7:28 am  
Blogger The Fowlers said...

The regular world sure does feel a long way away sometimes! Our 6 month old daughter has been quite an unsettled baby & my husband & I would exchange that look too as he handed her to me. The boobs certainly are the 'cure all'. Funny how fast that 4th trimester can pass in a blur of broken sleep and feeding.

9:14 am  

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