Archive for July 22nd, 2009

The Articulate Conception: The Fourth Trimester

By Sage Cohen 

Some call the first three months of a baby’s life the fourth trimester – one in which they benefitSage Cohen and Theo developmentally from conditions that are as contiguous with the womb as possible. Our son Theo proved this theory true; he was content only when completely contained in a wrap against my body. Bound to each other in this slightly more flexible way, Theo’s brand new face tilted up toward my own in the exalted belonging of his little baby cocoon, we settled into the communion of being that his presence demanded.
It seemed that Writing the Life Poetic was in its fourth trimester, too. With the proofing of content-in-layout complete, there was a final step I hadn’t anticipated whose logistics were far more complex and time consuming than I could have imagined: permissions. With forty poems by other poets appearing in my book’s pages, it was now time to request permission for usage from those poets and their publishers.
I was sleeping maybe two hours at a stretch. Night and day were one continuous blur of breastfeeding, diapering, rocking to sleep and making mental to-do lists that would never get done. I became a highly calibrated diagnostic machine attuned to every sound, movement and bodily function of this mysterious little sea creature posing as my son.
Theo wanted only to be with me. Too new for any agenda or activity other than relating to and being in contact with his mother,
he simply needed all of me, all the time. Having lived alone and worked alone for most of my adult life with occasional evening and weekend spurts of extroversion, my brain chemistry was completely unprepared for this recalibration of relatedness. I was euphoric and overwhelmed and desperate for time at my computer, where I could think things and write them down. I wanted to take a step back to reflect: What did it now mean to be a mother – this baby’s mother?
But I didn’t even have time to make it to the bathroom on my own terms. It became apparent in these early days that the fortress that was once my life, my identity, my sense of self had been blasted to smithereens. I had no context or language for this new vulnerability of caregiving. I had only my moment-by-moment indentured service to the life of my precious son. I did not regret the dissipation of my old way of life; I just hadn’t quite found my foothold of context in the new one yet.

My office was up a steep flight of stairs. It was doubling as a guest room for a steady stream of family who had flown in to visit and help. Recovering from c-section surgery and entirely entrenched in the play-by-play maintenance of Theo, it took me at least three weeks to make my way back up there. I remember swaying over my desk, a bit dizzy, looking out at the computer screen over the head of my sleeping child, trying to remember exactly what it is that I was supposed to do here.  


A mother finds the resources to what needs to be done. And so it was with my fourth-trimester book. One permission request at a time, I typed myself back into some semblance of writing professional. As the e-mails clicked out into the ether and the contracts for usage started arriving, I was learning step by tenuous step how to integrate who I had been into whom I was becoming. Steeped in the present tense of new motherhood and new authorhood, I tended these new babies – my multimedia twins – with a kind of enchantment laced with regret, knowing that soon enough they’d be traveling in the world without me.  
Next month: Establishing a new rhythm for three, full-time jobs: mother, business owner and book promoter.  

Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry (Writers Digest Books, 2009) and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. An award-winning poet, she writes three monthly columns about the craft and business of writing and serves as Poetry Editor for VoiceCatcher 4. Her poetry and essays appear in journals and anthologies including Cup of Comfort for Writers, The Oregonian, Oregon Literary Review, Greater Good and VoiceCatcher. Sage holds an MA in creative writing from New York University, co-hosts a monthly reading series at Barnes & Noble and teaches the online class Poetry for the People. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and awarded a Soapstone residency. To learn more, visit

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