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Adoption Blog: Improv Mom
Discovering the Fourth Trimester
I honestly don't remember much about life with a newborn, in those months after adopting our daughter, Beth, domestically. I can't tell you when Beth gave up the bottle, how old she was when she started sleeping through the night, or when she first said dada. (I do recall that "dada" came months before "mama.") However, I vividly remember discovering the idea of the "fourth trimester," and that it gave me a special sense of contentment.
If you don't know, the fourth trimester is the first three months after a baby is born, according to Dr. Harvey Karp of The Happiest Baby on the Block fame. He says that babies are born three or four months before they're really ready to blossom, so this is the time to care for them as if they were still in the womb. Now, there's a turn of phrase that perked up my ears and comforted my soul. As I watched Dr. Karp's DVD, "still in the womb" said to me, "It's still within reach! I can still have a pregnancy-esque experience!"
OK, here comes my disclaimer: I didn't have to carry and give birth to my baby to feel like she was my baby. After that first sleepless night in the hospital (I vividly remember that, too), you betcha she was my baby. Yet, as I assume most women do, I always thought I would make it past the first trimester. So, being able to consciously recreate this intimate time between mother and child through swaddling, rocking, skin-to-skin contact, and running the vacuum (which definitely comes in handy in its own right), did my heart good.
Of course, many parents adopt their children long, and not so long, after the fourth trimester. Does that mean they missed their chance for a special bonding experience with their children? The answer, of course, is a resounding no. I'm finding bondable moments at every turn with my now-three-year-old daughter, albeit some more heartwarming than others. Like the other night, when toothbrushing became a rough-and-tumble contact sport.
It started innocently enough, with a negotiated five squeezes of toddler toothpaste, giving me just the right amount of time to wash Beth's face and brush through her hair. Then it turned ugly, fast.
"Just three more squeezes, Mom."
"No, we said five—"
"Five more squeezes."
"No more squeezes, Hon. Let's get going— "
One defiant, massive, pink, fruity flavored squeeze later, I was wrestling the tube out of her hands as she dug her nails into me, which reminded me that I really needed to cut those things and add Bacitracin to my shopping list.
"You know what?" (my battle cry for I mean business), "Out of the bathroom!" I yelled over her crying, as I half dragged her of the bathroom.
"It's not OK to hurt Mommy! I'm setting the timer for three minutes. Now take a break and calm down!" I exclaimed, none too calmly.
"I want Daddy!" she wailed as she lay spread eagle on the floor.
"I want Daddy, too!" I wailed right back.
So we both took our time-out, breathing deeply. Then mid- breath, we caught each other's eye and began to laugh. Then we talked. And hugged. Apologies were given and accepted. Who knew that moments of anger and intense frustration, on both our parts, at times, could serve as an opportunity to deepen our relationship? Thankfully, we can continue to bond with our children over a lifetime. I'm just hoping the "Mom, you're a poop head. Go away!" phase of parent-child bonding will pass soon.
Did you know about the fourth trimester? If you brought your child home as a toddler or older, what were some of your bonding experiences? Please share your bonding wisdom!
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Barbara HerelNew York
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