A friend of mine shared this post with me last week, encouraging me with these words: "In your arms is right where that baby belongs. Those moments pass entirely too quickly. Cherish them while you can. Don't resent their need for bonding. Revel in it". I read each word as River napped on my chest, his skin next to mine, his rosebud lips pressed close to my heart. It was the perfect post at the perfect time, a mama and a baby learning each other and navigating through the haze of infancy. Each day stretching before us in a series of two hour cycles, nursing and rocking and swaying, a baby protesting every single time I try to put him down. His swing and boppy pillow and bassinet go unused as he has found great comfort and permanent residency in my arms. He's my third baby, most likely my last, and this article had me nodding my head in agreement, solidifying what I've been experiencing these last few weeks. I've stopped trying to put my baby down, I've surrendered to his need to be next to me. River and I: we are enjoying every minute of our fourth trimester together.
"The concept of the fourth trimester helps us to understand the transition a newborn must make over their first few weeks earthside and once we understand we find so many ways we can help – but to me the most important facet of the fourth trimester is parental understanding and empathy, once that exists everything else will flow naturally".
Sarah Ockwell-Smith (Mother to Four, Parenting Author and Founder ofBabyCalm Ltd)
The fourth trimester: an idea that encourages parents to practice empathy with our infants, to understand that the reason they cry when we attempt to put them down or leave them alone is not because they are difficult or challenging but because they are adjusting to life outside the womb. Babies go through an extremely disorienting time as they leave the warm, dark, confined in utero space and become part of the outside world, suddenly bombarded with light and noise and an unlimited amount of space that their reflexes can't quite handle yet. Those days that we've all experienced, when the baby refuses to be anywhere but our arms: this article encourages us to embrace them and revel in our baby's need to bond. It reminds us to practice patience as our babies find their way into life on the outside.
The idea of the fourth trimester is a concept I find so beautiful and real, an idea that rings true to our family. I have held my son and rocked him, worn him, nursed him and slept next to him from the moment he was born. Learning from my mothering successes and failures with the girls, I've stopped worrying about time and all the pressure it carries with it. My only concern for the time being is to be completely in the moment, to love my infant in the way that he needs to be loved. And right now, in this phase of his life, his primary love language and basic instincts revolve around physical touch.
In reality, our fourth trimester will evolve as I leave the nest in a couple of months to head back to work. I will no longer have the luxury of spending every waking second with my baby, I will be forced to entrust him in someone else's care as I resume my job as a nurse. Maybe that's why I jump into this role so wholeheartedly, maybe that's why I'm able to look at this crazy and exhausting phase in such a positive light. This is my time, my time to be everything to this little boy, to hold him and soak him in. When friends and family urge me to put him down, warning me that I might "spoil" him if I hold him "too much", I shake it off and hold him even tighter. Soon enough, our fourth trimester will come to a close. For now, I'm going to live it up to its fullest. I learned very quickly with my older children that this infant phase is over before you can blink and it should be enjoyed for everything that it is, even the hard days. This is our time, River Scott, and as long as you'll have me, I'll be there.