opinions about life, work, and spirituality

The Fourth Trimester

July 18th, 2009

If babies had it their way, we’d be pregnant for 12 months. Like elephants.

The secret about young babies, aka newborns, is that they are relentlessly demanding. I wish someone had sat me down during my pregnancy, held my hand, and told me that I was about to give birth to a little Lenin. “Give me your time, your body, your money, your life!” What was once mine was no longer mine, but my baby’s. Just like in communism, they run your life like a dictator. Welcome to the Soviet State of Infanthood.

Oh, they’re cute, there’s no doubt about it. But I bet if Lenin had looked like Johnny Depp, we’d think of him a lot more admirably. Hipsters would bike around on their retro 50’s bicycles in t-shirts with Lenin’s face on it, just like they do with sexy Che Guevera. His statues would still be in place, and young women in bikini tops and flip flops would take pictures in front of them. We claim to be a species of great intellect, but really, show us an adorable face, and we’ll trip over ourselves in subservience. That’s why God made babies with such huge, orb-like eyes, such unbelievably soft skin and such humorously huge heads; so that when we wake up for the fourth time during the night, we take one look at our helpless, adorable, funny baby and forgive her insistent screeching.

The thing about the first three months of babydom is that it’s like an internship at your favourite theatre. You just have to get through it, put up with the demanding hours, the rigorous routine and tedious tasks, and know that it will likely lead to better things. The high-pitched howling will lessen, the intermittent all night feedings will taper off, your nipples will heal, and you will once again have the time to write mediocre posts on your blog. Eventually, your little bundle of joy will respond to you, imitate you, laugh at your cruddy impersonations of people on the bus, and join you for a glass of red wine on the veranda (ok, that’s going to be quite some time from now). And just like your theatre internship, there are times of true glory in those first three months that you wouldn’t trade for a slow, quiet walk on the beach at sunset or a well paid, easy-going (ie. non-existent) job in the arts.

For me, the moment when I realized that my baby didn’t have gas, but was looking straight into my eyes and was smiling -at me- was like being shot in the heart with a bullet of sunshine. It was an explosion that started in the chest and worked its way through the rest of my body. I knew then what it was to be “full of joy”. Just the other day, my wee one grasped her rattle, which I have been flailing in her face for weeks like an aggressive salesperson with the latest cleaning product, and shook it. I swear I could have run up the stairs at the CN Tower twice over, I was so energized.

There are plenty of these kind of moments to get you through “the fourth trimester”. And the other glad thing is that once it’s over, just like that internship, you can wave your hands in the air, shimmy, and congratulate yourself on having not just survived it, but emerged out of it with deepened character, a more thorough perseverence, gratitude for small mercies, and a newfound respect for all those who have gone before you.