Babies change really fast. When I was getting physical therapy last year, the therapist told me that very young babies’ physical development can be measured by the day, not by the week or month. And when I was pregnant and visiting my sister and her baby every week, I saw this for myself.
Now that we have our own baby, I find that living with this pace of change is both exhilarating and disorienting. On the adult level, our lives probably appear very boring. We leave the house for at most two hours each day, and the rest disappears into baby care, laundry, eating (there has been a lot of takeout), and doing dishes. We have been doing this for the seven weeks since Owl emerged; in adult terms, that’s about a month and a half of practically the same routine every day while almost housebound. You would think it would grate.
And yet… it doesn’t quite, because there is Owl. Every day she seems almost like a different baby, and since we’ve passed the five-week mark, those subtle changes have become more pronounced. Clothes that fit her last week are, apparently without warning, now too tight.
This is the hat she came home from the hospital in!
Yesterday we woke up and suddenly she was responding to our interactions with big, open-mouthed smiles and a sort of proto-laughter. Overnight!! That leap in communication is so profound that it boggles my adult mind to realize it happened within 24 hours (really more like 10 hours); it’s as if I went to bed and woke up with the ability to read Braille. There is something truly miraculous about being able to witness this kind of growth, and to realize we are helping it happen.
In mundane terms, there are shifts in her habits as well. Her feeding sessions have become shorter and more efficient, and she sleeps for longer periods at night. The first time she slept for nearly six hours, just over a week ago, my poor breasts weren’t ready for it and they hurt, having made enough milk to feed her twice during that time! Last night she actually slept for eight hours, which is the first time we’ve had that long of a stretch since the night of March 7. (To be honest, I didn’t sleep through it last night, either; I woke about halfway through, expecting to need to nurse her! The breasts were a little less upset this time, but still, I was glad for the morning feedings.) Her poop pattern has changed, she’s more alert and awake during the day, her neck is stronger, and she actually kicked herself off Erik’s lap the other day (fortunately landing on the bed, but we were all shocked nevertheless).
There are changes in Erik and me, too. Even though Owl sleeps longer at night, some days we feel even more tired than we did a month ago, probably because our reserves are running low and all this lost sleep is catching up to us. On the other hand, the acute stage of my bodily recovery is complete — a good feeling — and anything that’s left is going to happen only over the long term. While energy and stamina are still an issue, my muscles feel strong again (I carried the stroller up a flight of stairs! I did some yoga!), and I can feel my eating habits shifting out of the all-hands-on-deck urgency of those first few weeks postpartum.* In other words, instead of feeling like some weird, weaker version of myself, I now feel just like myself only on way less sleep and several weeks’ inactivity, and with some new wonky things happening in my body. It’s a welcome transformation from the weeks before.
As for the parts of our lives not immediately concerned with Owl and with our bodies, though — that’s different. In the first six weeks it felt as if almost everything could be put off, that nothing mattered but being with Owl and healing myself. These days, while Owl is still central and self-care is still crucial, we’ve hit a turning point. It’s true that most things can still be put off, but ultimately I’m going to have to decide what can and what can’t, and that’s the part that is not quite yet — but may soon become — overwhelming.
How does one rearrange a life? (I’m lucky to have the space to do so, to be able to think about it rather than just having to plunge back in.) I wrote previously of slow re-entry; now re-entry feels slightly more accelerated. Before, it was a triumph just to go out at all, to see anyone, to do anything. Now I feel the need to move on from that, if not now, then soon. How to start dealing with the clutter that has built up in the last six weeks? How to start shopping and cooking again? How to exercise and build strength, how to see people, how to feel a sense of my work again — when everything has changed: my body, my time, my energy, my hierarchy of priorities? I suspect the answer is the same as it nearly always is: one thing at a time. But there are a lot of “things” and not a huge lot of time. We do have a grace period; Erik doesn’t go back to work for another nine weeks yet. But the time is coming, and I am starting to feel it.
*My doctor was concerned, at my six-week checkup, that I haven’t lost any weight from before Owl’s birth. I understand her concern but don’t share it, because pregnancy restricted my appetite in a way that — well, I would say it didn’t feel natural, except that it did at the time. But once Owl came out I was constantly ravenous and eager to eat a lot of high-fat foods and rich treats. Now that my food cravings are back to normal, and I’m starting to move around more, I expect that weight will decrease organically in the coming months.↩