It was maybe not the best to vanish for two weeks after a post about the difficulties of new parenthood. But I didn’t stop writing because I was miserable; rather, I started to feel better. During much of pregnancy it seemed possible to accomplish only one or two things a day — “things” being anything requiring much physical, mental, or social energy — and it turns out the postpartum period is the same way. Going for a walk counts as a thing, and baking cookies or making dinner, and seeing people. In the days since my last post I’ve done all of these, and so I haven’t had time for that other thing: writing blog posts. But I’ve been jotting down enough notes to make some record of weeks four and five.
We took our first walk as a family in the middle of Owl’s second week. Just up and down the block. I admit I might not have left the house so soon if I hadn’t felt vaguely shamed into getting more exercise… but the walk was good, and we have tried to keep it up as a more-or-less daily practice. By now I am up to walks of about a mile, and I can go faster and more easily than before, though I appreciate being able to come home and lie down afterward! A nice thing about our neighborhood is there are a lot of errands we can do on foot (post office, groceries, drugstore, copy shop, bakery, even the notary for Owl’s birth certificate order form), and we sometimes run into friends and neighbors too. I have a definite feeling of sleepwalking whenever I have to make conversation — be it with an acquaintance or a shop cashier — but these encounters rejuvenate and drain in roughly equal measure. At this time when we have retreated so much into our own world and the new world of Owl, it’s helped to maintain these small connections with the rest of the world!
before going out on a walk
My family came over one weekend to celebrate Owl’s first month. It was going to be a bigger gathering, with extended family and fancier food, but we were not feeling up to that. Instead we ordered good pizza and cake and sat around enjoying the babies (Owl and of course her cousin, who is now nine months!). It’s a bit tiring hosting everyone, I have to confess, not because they’re so much trouble but because after so many days on our own it’s kind of overwhelming having noisy and talkative people around, filling the space with words that require responses!! (And I say this as someone who is generally noisy and talkative myself!) But it’s much nicer having them come here than having to make the hourlong drive to the South Bay to see them. I look forward to their every visit, but it’s like the sleepwalking feeling when we go out; I’m left equal parts glad and shellshocked.
photos by my sister and brother-in-law
Two days after the month celebration, the three of us ventured out for the ten-minute drive to the salon so I could have my hair trimmed. My last cut was a couple of weeks before Owl’s arrival and my bangs were getting so long they were annoying me. Since we’ve been walking for all our errands (except when Erik goes for quick solo trips to the store, bank, etc), this was only Owl’s third car ride (the first two were her ride home from the hospital, and her one-month doctor appointment). It was a short outing, maybe an hour max, but even with a well-behaved baby there is always uncertainty: will she need her diaper changed? Will she get hungry? Of course it’s possible, and maybe not difficult, to change a diaper or breastfeed in public spaces, but we’ve never done it and that makes the prospect slightly intimidating (especially in our sleep-deprived state). But Owl slept through the whole trip… and now my hair is presentable once more.
The day after that, we mostly stayed in and rested, though I had a little triumph in the morning. Erik needed a nap, so I decided to put Owl in a wrap carrier because she usually sleeps well in it. She’s too heavy for me to carry for long periods, and I need to refine my tying technique, but it’s a great tool to have. Not only did I manage to get her into the carrier without help, but when she started fussing, I changed her diaper, fed her while sitting up, changed her again, and fed her on the other side, all without Erik’s assistance. I’d never done any of that before (except for the diaper changes), and had mostly been feeding her lying down, so all this was a big deal for me. I felt very proud of myself for caring for Owl on my own for two hours, and letting Erik get some rest! (Of course, I was exhausted after!)
Emboldened by my morning success, by evening we felt ready to tackle another challenge: going out to dinner. Her late-afternoon feeding came at just the right time for us to be able to make it to the corner sushi spot around opening time (they get very busy during the main rush and we wanted to avoid that), so I bundled her into the wrap and we walked to the restaurant. The wrap was a nice option for this short outing, since it’s so minimal — no bulky stroller or unwieldy carrier. I was a bit tense for the whole dinner but I enjoyed my sushi, and the elderly lady at the next table enjoyed looking at Owl!
(Owl should be carried a bit higher in the wrap, but like I said, I need to improve my technique.)
The next day was a big outing, to a well-loved ice cream parlor. We were meeting several other couples and babies from our birth preparation class, and most of us had not yet had a friend meetup of this sort.
waiting for the restaurant to open
It went very well. There were seven of us adults, and four babies: seven weeks old, five weeks (that was Owl), three weeks, and eleven days! We ate lunch and ice cream and talked about our birth experiences, postpartum life, care of our newborns, and their funny little quirks. The babies mostly slept. It was really interesting hearing how everyone else was doing; even though we have a Facebook group, it’s different to talk things over in-person. It struck me how very individual everyone’s recovery has been — the mom of the eleven-day-old, for instance, had driven herself there (her partner had to be someplace else), something I would absolutely not have been ready to do at that stage! It was a really enjoyable and affirming get-together… and then we all went home and took naps!
we got the monthly special sundae, because why not?
(photo by our friend Monica, who commented the sundae is bigger than Owl’s head!)
I started reading a new book that night too. It’s the first non-baby-related new book I’ve picked up since Owl was born — with everything so unfamiliar, I’ve been reluctant to put anything else in my head! But this (a romance novel) felt doable. (It’s also worth noting that I’ve gone back to rereading previously-read novels after this, but I look forward to trying another new book soon.)
We had a rough night after that — Owl going through her week five developmental leap — and spent the next day in, recovering, but the day after that my youngest sister and her boyfriend came to visit. Then the day after that, Erik and I took Owl to the farmers’ market and a popular donut shop. And then we came home and again vegged out all day.
I don’t know if all this sounds like a lot; I have no perspective on this anymore. But it feels like a lot for us at this stage. At our birth group gathering some of the other parents talked of their eagerness to get out of the house, but I’ve been pretty comfortable with all our hunkering down — maybe because I needed the physical recovery time, maybe because I’m just more used to being home in general. Who knows; everyone’s different; other moms have told me they didn’t leave the house for months. At any rate all our little outings are no more than an hour long and often shorter, and then we take as much downtime as needed in between. It’s working well so far.