Surviving the Fourth Trimester

Zachary Smile

It’s been said that babies don’t gestate as long as they probably should–that as we humans have evolved into upright beings, we’ve been forced to evict our children from their cozy wombs a few months early.

This, should you subscribe to this line of thought, results in newborns that aren’t quite ready to inhabit this crazy mixed-up world of ours.  This also, should the same logic apply, results in much crying, screaming, sobbing, and nights spent rocking alone in the dark sucking your thumb.  In other words…

The first few months of a child’s life are miserable.  For everyone.

I have now experienced the birth of two children.  Which, of course, means I’m an expert on them.  It also means I’ve experienced this so-called fourth trimester two times, and they’ve both gone terribly.  Audrey–my first–was quiet and wonderful for the first week or two.  All she did was sleep!  But then…


I must admit that at the time I didn’t even know what colic was.  I had never really heard the word before.  It sounded like some sort of bland vegetable.  Certainly not something that would make me consider tossing my tender offspring out the window.  But there it was, filling my ears and my brain with a swarm of searing hot needles, and my brain with terrible thoughts.

I grew frustrated by this screaming bundle of “joy” and its need to suck me dry without paying anything back in return.  “Just a smile!” I’d cry.  A smile was all I needed to know that she didn’t hate me.  A grin for hope if you will.

Two-and-a-half years later my son Zachary arrived.  And, like his older sister, the first week or so was magic.  Just nonstop peaceful sleeping.  Hooray!  Babies are easy!  And then…


History repeated itself anew.  Thoughts of baby window tossing returned.  As did the red hot pokers in my head.  And my begging for a smile.

This time, however, I didn’t have work to escape to during the daylight hours.  Instead I was mired in Colic Town.  My wife resided there too of course, being on maternity leave, but instead of making things better for my mental well-being, I fear it had the opposite effect.  I heaped pressure on myself to help her.  I did what I could to put him down for naps, feed him, get him out of the house, etc.  But instead of helping…I just drove myself crazy.  Whereas my wife could handle his crying with quiet dignity…

I became a stark raving lunatic.

But then a strange thing happened–just this past weekend.  The crying stopped.  Just stopped!  Where once there was a red-faced scream machine now lived a peaceful, quiet, alert, and–dare I say–cute baby.

And you know what else?  He smiled at me.  A big, warm, light up the room kind of smile.  A smile that said he didn’t hate me. That things would turn out okay.  That he was family.

It was exactly what I needed.


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