Six is the magic number. Suddenly, at six weeks post-Cesarean, I feel like I could go to the gym. My incision doesn't pull uncomfortably deep inside anymore when I walk. I can walk close to my pre-pregnancy impatient-brisk pace. I can stand fully upright when I walk. My abs feel stronger. I think I might try a gentle spin class this week.
Nursing also rather suddenly got a lot easier at six weeks. The Books said it would, but I didn't believe Them, since They lied about lots of other things. I still wouldn't call it "feeling good" and but it's tolerable to neutral, and no longer at all painful. Take note, ladies: it could indeed take a full six weeks for this milk cow gig to be a heck of a lot easier. It was a progression - getting gradually easier day by day after the first two weeks, but....Yeah. Keep that lactation consultant and your nursing/have nursed mom friends on speed dial.
At six weeks, the baby also started sleeping most nights in stretches of up to six hours at night. Amazing. And lucky! Six full hours, plus another couple of hours after an early morning feeding make me feel practically like a regular human. (Of course, the first time it happens everyone wakes up in a panic, because they are impossibly well rested! Something is terribly terribly wrong with the baby!)
I could say that I am six pounds from pre-pregnancy weight, but I don't know if that's strictly true. I will say that in a surprising development, a second pair of pre-pregnancy jeans went on, zipped and buttoned today. A new pair of jeans for the baby to poop on! I also need to reintroduce myself to The Belt. I haven't worn one for almost a year, and I'm recalling that that particular accessory prevents unsightly need to hitch up pants and the more unsightly sliding down of pants to produce plumber butt or Monica thong.
We have at least six ridiculous nicknames for Helene. In utero, she was "Little Fish." We've now moved on to such endearing terms as "Little Barracuda," "Little Piranha" (enthusiastic eater, is this baby), "Little Pterodactyl" and "Baby Bird" (based on the funny reptilian squawks and pecking motions she makes when hungry or frustrated), and "Beast" (as in, "I hear The Beast stirring). We do call her "Sweetheart" and "Sweet Baby" occasionally too, but hey, we don't want her to think we adore her unconditionally or anything - keep her guessing.
When she finally sleeps during the day, I rush around, vacillating unproductively between six thousand possible things I could be doing. Shower? Laundry? Dry hair? E-mail? Read a book? Download photos? Take the 600th photo of cute baby sleeping? Install new Photoshop software to make cute baby photos even cuter? Call and speak to another adult? Eat? I tend to start one thing, and then abandon it halfway through, as some unwashed dishes catch my eye, or I have to rock the bassinet for a few minutes or re-install a pacifier, and I end the day with a lot of half-done things, and occasionally completed things and a lot of undone things. Somehow, e-mail and Facebook always get checked. Sometimes at the expense of say, personal hygiene or actual clothing. Priorities, y'all.
Sometimes I try to go somewhere with Helene like a regular human, and end up taking an hour to leave the house due to multiple poop episodes and diaper/clothing changes for all involved, and because I can't find the one warm hat I have in this apartment (all others are somewhere in the house, covered with a thick coat of drywall dust) (but I can find all 278 of the baby's warm hats - too bad they don't fit me), and I can't figure out how the stupid stroller frame thingy folds. And then I get out, and feel horribly self-conscious and kind of lonely among the crowds of well-dressed Hill staffers walking to and from lunch on Pennsylvania Avenue, because I don't see one other baby stroller in sight. I decide not to go into Firehook for lunch because there is a huge step at the door, and I'm intimidated by trying to get the stroller over it. I also avoid Cosi because of the cramped quarters. Burrito Brothers is uncrowded, and with no giant steps at the door, so I get lunch there, and victorious in my hunting/gathering, take the long way home through Bartholdi Park. When I get home, the baby wakes, and I nurse her, and then sit on the floor with her, scarfing my (hard-earned) burrito as I play with her. She seems entertained and perplexed by the act of eating.
And I am grateful that I am able to take six months of leave from work. Much of it unpaid, but we tried to plan for it financially, even amid the house renovation wallet suck. I can't even fathom going back to work now, or even in a few more weeks. I'm already slightly anxious about going back in late May, as planned. Because I still don't have an identity as a mother here. I'm still floundering in this transitional time. I was pregnant for what felt like an eternity, and suddenly, oh hey! Not pregnant anymore, and fully, overly occupied with the overwhelming delights and frustrations of baby-rearing. I sure don't miss actually working, though I do kind of miss dressing up and looking nice every day. I can work on that - it will help when I am back living with the full contents of my closet. I don't have a lot of "mom friends" here yet - my closest friends with children live far away. Figuring out where to breastfeed and change diapers outside of my own home can put me to the edge of panic, because mah babee has needs, damn you inadequate cramped grungy public bathrooms and disapproving boob bigots! (Not that I have actually encountered any breastfeeding negativity yet, but I imagine and fear it.) In other words, I feel kind of like my old self, but I'm not my old self, and I don't know what my new self is or what the "new normal" is. This new life requires a bit more planning, yet a bit more flying by the seat of the pants. And it's even all going to change again when we (hopefully soon) get to move back into our real home. There will be a lot more stairs, for one thing. But a better kitchen, and a lot more rooms to bounce the baby through when she's fussy.
It's just a lot of change. And there will be forever more, as Helene seems to change and grow before our eyes each minute. I'd better take a deep breath and hold on.
The theme of this post was actually just an excuse for six gratuitous photos of Helene.