Monday, May 13, 2013

Pseudo-Vlog: The Fourth Trimester (That Wouldn't End)

So how was your Mother's Day weekend?

Mine was... challenging.

Wearing my big kid in our woven WC ring sling.
He's crying, which is why I turned him away
from the camera. (This photo was taken
in chilly January, but you get the idea.)
It was one of those weekends where Jaymz and I had many moments of looking at each other and remembering (again) that in some ways, our sweet, nearly three-year-old Daniel is still in a much younger stage developmentally.

At some point this weekend—between Daniel's screaming, tears, lack of sleep, various potty issues, and intensive babywearing (preschooler-wearing?) on our parts—I remembered a video I recorded a while back of Jaymz wearing and bouncing Daniel on the ball while we chatted and joked about Daniel's (seemingly endless) fourth trimester. If you're not familiar with the concept of the fourth trimester, this article explains the theory which has been popularized by Dr. Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block.

Essentially, the fourth trimester is the first three months after birth, when an infant's nervous system isn't yet mature enough to effectively and efficiently soothe himself without help from a caregiver (a co-regulator.) The baby is most comfortable in situations which mimic the environment in utero: being tightly swaddled (or worn in a supportive baby carrier), being rocked or bounced (which mimics the motion of mama walking), hearing the sound of someone else's heart beat, suckling, etc.

Back in November, I captured this video of Daniel requiring fourth-trimester-esque soothing, as has become a routine and expected part of our life. I asked Jaymz why we should record it (because it's such a frequent occurrence for us), and his answer started our conversation:

Here's a transcript of the video, if you need it (a couple parts are quiet):

This is our life.
Amy: Yeah.
J: We're documenting it for posterity.
A: That's true. ... So Jaymz and I were just talking about how, even though Daniel is two-and-a-half, he [still] seems to like being in a uterus. Look! Jaymz—
J: And since I don't have a uterus—
A: Jaymz has his own uterus!
J: Strap-on.
J: Daniel, how are you feeling? Very good?
A: What did he say? "Very good?"
J: Yeah. You doing OK in there?
A: A couple minutes ago, Jaymz asked Daniel if he wanted to [stop bouncing and] go downstairs, and he said no, he just wanted to bounce in Momma's room. So that's what they're doing.
J: Middle of November, 2012. ... Yeah...
A: The air was cold. But the uterus was warm. ...And bouncy.
J: The good news is, I'm getting my workout in for the day.
A: I wonder how many hours you've done that?
J: Oh... I could probably estimate.
A: You think?
J: Yeah, I mean like: rough, back-of-the-napkin sort of thing.
A: Back of the napkin? Is that a thing?
J: Yeah, that's a thing: back-of-the-napkin calculation? Never heard of that one?
A: No.
J: Just me?
A: Yeah. Just you. ... Did you hear of that, Daniel? ...Have you heard of that? No? OK.
J: No? You haven't heard of a back-of-the-napkin calculation? Well...
A: See? Daniel and I agree. And he's pretty— pretty worldly, so...

J: What, with all the uteri he's lived in!
A: Yes. Both of them.
A: How you feeling, Daniel? ... Very good!

Here's Jaymz's conservative, back-of-the-napkin (I'm still not sure he didn't make that up ;) estimation of time spent bouncing on the ball, from Daniel's birth through the time this video was recorded:

2,160,000 bounces
540 hours ≈ 22.5 solid days of bouncing

I'm tempted to try to estimate the number of hours I have spent holding Daniel while he cried (screamed, thrashed—more often lately while kicking and/or hitting me), but... I think I'm better off solidly in the dark on that one.


  1. I could see "back of the napkin" being a thing, but I don't think I've ever specifically heard of it.

    I find myself wondering about developmental delays in Spencer... like I feel clueless as to whether or which things are delayed. If his communication would catch up, I might have a better idea.

    Clear as mud?

    1. I totally understand, Jorje! It's hard for me to tell, too, but mostly because this is just what we're SO used to. But when we're around other children Daniel's age, certain differences become very clear to us. =/

  2. My empathy mama. It is tough to parent the way the child needs you to parent.

    1. Thank you. <3

      It can be very tough, but I think the hardest part for me is when people criticize or (excessively, skeptically) question our methods. Those are the moments when I wish I could say, "No, of course I haven't tried those 100 easier/simpler/more main-stream strategies you mentioned. I just wanted to make it difficult on myself." Sigh.

  3. I think I have heard of "back of a napkin" thing. ;) Anyhow, I think age is a hard thing. How should a 3 year old act, or a 4 year old? My almost 4 year old isn't potty trained and is hard to understand (as she's learning two languages.) I'm actually often embarrassed of my daughter. I cringe as I write that. But it's true. I loved and loathed taking her to preschool. I loved seeing her improvement. I was embarrassed that she wasn't talking as much (or couldn't tell me in detail what she did) all while a part of her diaper was showing above her pants for all the other parents and teachers to see. But I think the embarrassment is contained within me- that I'm not a good enough parent.

    Hope the 4th trimester ends for you soon... best wishes!

    1. The more I say (type) "back of the napkin," the more I believe it really is a thing. ;)

      Those are totally valid questions and concerns. Of course there are a lot of "normal" variations to typical development, but when a kiddo is different from other kids and a parent notices... that can be really hard.

      Thanks for sharing your story!

  4. Thanks for posting the 4th tri link. It was something I naturally did, without really knowing the term. If more parents knew about the concept I'm sure easing into parenthood would be less stressful.

    1. You're welcome! I totally agree. There's something really freeing about having "experts" validate something that comes instinctively to many parents.

  5. Aren't the front and back of a napkin usually the same? ;p

    Daniel is fortunate to have such incredibly loving parents who are willing to give him (millions of) bounces, and whatever else he needs to feel 'very good'.

  6. I understand! M does not do the bouncing so much, but the tight spaces/being held is a definite. I admit there are days I wish he could self-soothe better, but then I also think I'm pretty lucky to have a son who loves being held because most kids outgrow that all too fast.

    Also, I laughed out loud at the "back of the napkin" exchange. It's an engineering thing, according to Mark. He is always doing back of the napkin calculations and yes, he literally flips over the napkin rather than using the front! :)

  7. A friend and I were talking today about the attention a mother can give to her children. My friend and I were musing about how if people don't get the right kind of attention that they need when they are young, they find some way of acting it all out later in life. When teenagers or young adults, or even beyond, the consequences can be self-destruction. What a lucky guy your son is to receive all the 4th trimester love and attention he requires exactly at the time when he needs it!


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