Becoming a parent entails many adjustments, some huge, many miniscule. One of my smallish ones is that I doubt I’ll be able, most of the time, to continue to write the lengthy and long-thought-out blog posts that I used to do. I have started many of those in the past weeks and none of them have reached anything even close to completion. As I said last time, I so rarely have enough minutes in a row now where I have sufficient mental energy and the use of both hands. So, conceding to my new reality, this post is going to be in bullet points.
- Owl turns five months old in four days!
- She is so much fun so much of the time. She’s getting a lot closer to both sitting and crawling, and she wants to explore and interact constantly. She has an enormous, and expressive, vocabulary of babble.
- I feel quite comfortable taking care of her on my own now, while Erik is working.
- Breastfeeding is much, much more seamless now. It’s still a bit of a contact sport (especially as Owl gets stronger), and it’s harder to do in public now that she’s more distractible. But Owl and I are a great team.
- I’m getting more regular activity and building up my physical strength. Earlier this week I carried Owl to my Pilates session (0.3 mi each way). Carried, yes, in arms, not in any kind of apparatus. That made me feel really capable.
- My short-term memory is improving, as is my ability to concentrate. I’ve read several books in the past month (and they aren’t all romances or light graphic novels)!
- I’ve restarted events with my Meetup group, so that’s another way I get out with Owl every week.
- We’ve gotten quite adept at schlepping ourselves and Owl and all our stuff (mostly her stuff, not ours… Erik has one backpack and I have a slim purse and one furoshiki and Owl has a bouncer seat and three bags) down to San Jose for a couple of nights each week.
- I’m finding at least some time each week for cooking and cleaning. That may sound rather housewifey but it’s actually about regaining (a semblance of) control over my life: over what I eat and how it’s sourced and prepared, and the appearance and functionality of my living environment.
THE BAD (OR, AT LEAST, THE MAKES-LIFE-MORE-COMPLICATED)
- More interactive, exploring Owl means she gets bored super easily. If no one is actively engaging her — and I do mean actively, not, like, waving a hand at her while checking Facebook with the other, or talking at her while folding the laundry — she complains. Urgently. I don’t want to call it whining because whining implies she has no reason to complain. But… it is like whining, yes. It is a sound to set the teeth on edge.
- Sometime in the next month we will have to start feeding her solid food, which means thinking about nutrition! Equipment! Shopping! Logistics!
- Sometime in the next week we will have to transition her from her bassinet to a crib (or something crib-equivalent, which was my original preference, but I think for ease of setup it’s probably going to end up being a crib). Which means measuring! Shopping! Assembling! A big piece of furniture in an already crowded room!
- There may be teeth soon.
- I’m getting stronger, but taking care of her is increasingly a heavily physical activity. I just read that lactation consumes 30% of a mother’s resting energy, which is more than the heart or the brain. So there’s that… and then there’s the effort of carrying the baby, the ergonomic disaster that is feeding her for hours each day, the work of getting up and down to the floor to entertain her, and the continued lower baseline for sleep. There is always something that hurts. In the morning it’s often my hands/wrists and feet/ankles; by evening it’s usually my back and shoulders. I suppose this is the natural feeling of building strength (and, I hope, flexibility), but in the meantime, everything aches.
- Plus, it’s just such a 24-7 job. On most days there’s no one thing that’s exhausting, but taken all together… with the fact that there’s no vacation… I do often find myself fantasizing about just going to sleep for two weeks, which is not a thing I have ever done before!!!
- Going down to San Jose every week is a challenge. There is as much good about it (family time, more hands on deck) as there is difficulty (unsolicited parenting advice, more chaos, it’s not my own home), but it does mean there’s upheaval built into every week, and of course that makes things harder.
- Owl has begun screaming in the car. Not all the time. Not even most of the time. But when it happens, it is awful. I would rather go through labor again, no exaggeration. She screams until she throws up and when I’m finally able to tend to her she looks at me with the most heart-rending expression of anguish and confusion and terror and trust. We don’t know what to do. We bought a fancy new car seat on a friend’s recommendation, but since our current seat goes with the stroller, if we use the new seat we’ll have to get a new stroller as well… and she’s only cried once in the car since we ordered the seat, so we can’t decide whether to install it. Every time I get in the car with her alone, it’s like: will she or won’t she?! Will this be a pleasant easy ride or will it be a repeat of that nightmare when I tried to take her to yoga and we spent an hour pulling over and soothing and trying again, finally giving up, coming home, and collapsing?
- My back is still weird. I can do things but it’s super tight. My Pilates trainer looked at me the other day while I was doing spinal articulation exercises and her face took on a look of pity and she said simply, “I really feel for you.” I hadn’t even been complaining. Every day I wonder if it’s going to give out again, or whether it’s going to transfer to injuries in my hips or elsewhere. There is only so much rest I can get; stretching and exercise make me better but so slowly.
- The rest of me is super tight too, probably even more than I realize. A few weeks ago my friend who’s a massage therapist started working on my right hand and almost as soon as she felt it she made the kind of pained, sympathetic noise you do when someone is telling you about the absolutely terrible week they had. In fact, my wrist was telling her everything, I suppose, and she has the training to understand it. She didn’t have time to work on my whole body (she was only in town briefly and her schedule didn’t line up with my Owl-care schedule) but I suspect it’s the same thing all over. This isn’t sustainable and I only hope I can get better faster than I can injure myself.
There’s all that, and perhaps you notice I haven’t said anything about my creative work or my sense of self. I’ve decided to just go with things as they unfold, and not overthink the possibilities. I was remembering that blog post I wrote in Iceland, when we’d been traveling for almost five months*, about it being a struggle for me to enjoy what we were doing because I was worrying too much about what we weren’t getting to. I think now that that’s probably just my natural reaction to a major change in lifestyle; that’s me clinging desperately to some notion of how things “should” be because it’s just so confusing to take in everything as it is. I don’t want to do that this time around — it’s stressful and it’s ultimately wasted effort because I always find my stride again eventually, just not before I’m ready. So I’m going to try to remember that, this time: this is just how I react to change. It will get better.