Six weeks, they say, is the time it takes to recover from a c-section: the time it takes for muscle and skin to knit together again, the time before the patient can “resume normal activity”.
Today, six hours and three minutes from the time that I’m typing these words, marks six weeks since Bingo was born. Six weeks during which I’ve been allowed to lift nothing heavier than the baby, six weeks of relearning children’s songs, six weeks of becoming a parent. I’m sitting here with the baby, who has just finished nursing, sprawled across my lap. I’m rocking her gently in the same white wooden chair where my mother once rocked me. Beneath the baby, I imagine my muscle and skin still slowly knitting back together. Strong enough to resume normal activity, perhaps, but also still in the process of reforming. I wonder what “normal activity” even means in this context, anyways: is there even a normal to return to after something that feels so (and I’m only being slightly hyperbolic) cataclysmic?
Though I’m not sure about a return to normal, I do know that a lot has changed over the past six weeks. A lot has also changed since that first week: for me, for Bingo, for our little family of three.
Me: As anybody who has read two entries back knows, the first week postpartum was hard for me- really hard. Being physically unable to move after the c-section, having to literally drag myself up by the bars of the hospital bed to even sit or turn over, really threw me. As did the extreme lack of sleep that resulted from a combination of our hospital stay and initial breastfeeding challenges. I was also in the midst of a hormonal crash that left me teary and panicked. Thankfully, so thankfully, at the beginning of the second week things began to feel a lot easier. As my hormones levelled out the constant crying stopped. I began to sleep again. I started to feel physically stronger. At some point, without thinking about it, I was able to roll over without too much effort. And then sit up. At the end of the first week, determined to impress/entertain my mother-in-law, I began to go for short walks. I spent a lot of time hobbling behind my walking companions, begging them to slow down. Then, sometime around week 3, I caught up. Six weeks later, I still feel weaker and softer than I did at nine months pregnant, but I think this is more an effect of the imposed recovery time/restrictions in movement than of the surgery/birth itself. I gained very little weight while pregnant. A week after Bingo’s birth I was ten pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight and back in my own clothes. The strange side effect of this fact is that I’m constantly being told how healthy and great and fit I look, despite the previously mentioned fact that I feel much worse than before.
One part of me that does feel much, much better than it did a month ago is my chest. While I still don’t love breastfeeding, it stopped hurting after two weeks or so. Reading so many of your stories, I am thankful for this at least. And amazed that this child can grow fat and round off of nothing other than my body.
Beyond these facts, I am exhausted but mostly happy. And so in love with Bingo.
Bingo: Sometimes I look at Bingo and wonder at how tiny she is. At other times I look at her and am shocked by how huge she seems. She’s undoubtedly bigger than she was: I find proof of this in the weekly photos that Sea takes, chronicling how our daughter has changed. She is also more alert every day. She stares at toys, bold patterns, our faces. She smiled, really smiled, for the first time at three weeks as Sea and I stood cooing over her trying to get a good photo. We now get to see her big smiles every day, and are perfectly willing to act like high-pitched murbling fools in order to solicit them.
Bingo’s likes include bright or colorful lights, a particular jingling toy (really anything that jingles), songs with a good beat (particularly early-90s rap), eating, her Vitamin D drops, the Ergo carrier, being bounced, and having her diaper changed. Her dislikes include hats, mornings, the nasal aspirator of doom, being still, baths, sleeping at night, and tummy time. She is excellent at cooing and “talking”, and terrible at lifting up her head.
Bingo was born with long legs and a big head, and both features are still present. She just grew out of her newborn onesies, 0-3 month pants and sleepers are often too short, hats are all 6+ months. The light brown hair that she was born with is falling out, leaving only a ring at the back. Combined with her worry lines, she looks like an old man. I find this ridiculously endearing.
She is changing and growing faster than I can track or believe.
Our little family: Today it took us until 5:00pm to get out of the house and buy groceries, but I don’t think that should be taken as a measure of our success in parenting. In general, I think we’re all doing well. Sea and I are learning who we are as parents. We are figuring out our strengths and where we need support. We are treating each other well more often than we’re not. Sea reads, sings and talks to the baby like she’s been doing it forever. Given that I often find our baby a difficult conversation partner (what am I supposed to say?!), I love Sea even more for these moments.
Both of our families have met Bingo. These family visits deserve their own post, which they probably won’t get. I’ll just say that Bingo seems to amplify both the individual neuroses and uncomfortable dynamics that exist within every family, but also the extreme love that our families feel for both us and our child.
Our friends have been amazing supports. They’ve brought us cupcakes no fewer than four times in six weeks. More importantly, they listen as we talk about baby poo, they agree when we comment on how smart/beautiful/perfect Bingo is, they hold her and let us shower, and they remind us that adult conversation is a thing that exists. More importantly still, they are providing a loving community for Bingo to grow up in: they are becoming her family too.
Beyond this? Our cats hate the new hairless kitten, but are adjusting. Our only houseplant has died, presumably because I forgot to water it for over a month. Our kitchen is messier than it has ever been.
It was Friday morning when I began this post, it’s Saturday night now. The baby, who has just finished nursing, is again sprawled across my lap. It has now been more than six weeks since my c-section. Six weeks since everything was pulled apart and began to come together again. Medically, this marks the end point of recovery and the resumption of normal activity. In reality, there is no marked difference between yesterday and today: no normal to resume. Instead, we’ll all continue to reshape and grow: even though in this moment- in our quiet living room- everything feels so perfectly still.