The 4th Trimester.
Most pregnant mothers will attest that three are more than plenty! But...have you ever thought about a newborn and all that they experience as they enter into our world?
Imagine being in a dark, warm, quiet environment. You recognize the scents, sounds, and subtle movements of one person -- the one in whose uterus you call home. You recognize her muffled voice and the voices of family. The taste of your mom's diet flavors the amniotic fluid you swallow.Your mommy's movement during the day lulls you to sleep, and her stillness at night wakes you.
This is the life.
But then, as soon as you notice that your living quarters really are getting cramped, you start to experience new feelings as your home for all these months seems to be, well.....expelling you. As your body is propelled by overwhelming muscular contractions, you find yourself trying to maneuver your body out of this safe home that is all you have ever known.
You take your first breath and instantly your entire circulatory system transitions from the fetal circulation that has kept you alive to adult circulation. It's your first transition and it is literally life-altering.
You are laid upon warm skin, and.....wait a minute...
You know that smell. You think you hear, faintly at first, but growing louder as you shuffle and scoot your way toward the familiar sound of mom's heartbeat. The amniotic fluid on your hands grasp and grope to help you as you continue to move to a familiar scent. Your blurred vision can faintly make out something dark and round --where the familiar scent is coming from --it's like a bullseye. Your hands continue to move, grasping and searching...leading the way to the smell. Your head begins to bob and your feet push your body up and over, until.....
You reach mama's breast. The glands around her areola have been secreting a substance to lead you there. You begin to lick and taste the colostrum that is caked on her nipple, and that, combined with the other substances at work, lead you to latch onto her breast....the thick, sticky substance tastes familiar. The warmth and smell of her skin, the taste of her milk....it all makes you realize that it's going to be OK.
Why are you dressing me? I like being skin to skin. We are exchanging important sensory information. I am being colonized by your bacteria. Your body temperature rises and lowers to keep MY temp perfect. My vital signs stabilize and my blood sugar normalizes when I'm skin to skin. Your prolactin and oxytocin levels rise when we stay in close contact like this...skin to skin.
It's not that I don't love Grandma, Aunt Jane, or the neighbor. It's just....well, I need YOU. I know you're tired and sore. But I feel a little anxious. I'm scared and overwhelmed. Please don't lay me in that cold, hard bassinet.
This is NOTHING like my old home.
Babies are 100% dependent on someone else. They don't stand a chance of survival without someone caring for them. Think about that for a minute. How vulnerable and helpless infants are...which is why they behave certain ways -- to ensure their survival.
Babies prefer to stay close -- preferably skin to skin or at least in a carrier -- so they are close to their food source. The world over, every baby behaves similarly. How we respond is what sets us apart.
We place a high value on independence, yet independence is not a characteristic of a healthy relationship or society. That would be interdependence.
The 4th Trimester is a critical time to ease a child into the world. It is a time to keep baby close, meet his/her needs, which will help the child develop trust. A baby whose needs are met consistently and quickly learn quickly that they don't have to cry to get attention --so they cry less.
Babies are incapable of "self-soothing" for at least six months. "Training" a child to self soothe or sleep alone only teaches them to stop crying because no one is going to respond to them. They just eventually give up.
The 4th Trimester is a time for the family to learn a new normal. It doesn't matter whether this is your first or 14th child......every mother and baby needs this precious time to adapt to the new dynamics of the family, to adjust to breastfeeding, to cope with less sleep, and most importantly, to rest and hibernate and just get to know your new baby.
If you find that you need help adjusting to this new phase, help is available. Don't hesitate to reach out.
And next time you're up at 3:00 am nursing for the 719th time, look at your baby. Think about the journey that he took to get here safely. Consider his vulnerability. And then -- THEN-- look at how he looks at you. He is in love with you. You are his life as well as his lifeline.
So hold him close.
Feed him when he's hungry.
Let him sleep near you.
Enjoy your 4th trimester.