It’s not just me. Random people in elevators, behind counters, on sidewalks stop and gasp at how beautiful this baby is. Her lips and eyelashes and giant mood-ring eyes (which range from fawn-brown to dark jade green but can’t seem to pick a color and stick with it) are unequaled even among the cutest babies I see in advertisements for baby products. Her hair, rather than disappear like Natalie’s did, seems to be thickening and may well be reddish in its ultimate instantiation. We’ll see. In the meantime this kid is a knockout, drop dead gorgeous, and her gummy grins, thigh ripples, wrist chub and knuckle dimples (15 lb 8 oz/25.5 inches, steady at the 60th percentile) are all the evidence one needs that she is happy and healthy to boot.

So I’m still pumping. Dr. Warfield gave me permission to wean Genevieve at four months, but I didn’t, and now she’s five months and we’re still running with the herd. It doesn’t not suck, but it’s no longer a firewalk. As with pretty much any aspect of my return to work (the agony of dropping her off at daycare, the misery of being back at the office, the ordeal of pumping thrice-daily at my desk), what started out as an unbearably awful thing first went numb, then became ordinary. Now I hustle both girls into the car by 8 AM and shlep ’em downtown without batting an eyelash. (Got your raisins? Good girl! Please don’t take your shoes off.) And at 10, 1:15 and 5, I shut the office door, whip out a different pair of girls, slather ’em up with lanolin (there are always new blisters anyway, but fewer now, at least) and set the pump to thrumming while I check my voicemail. On a good day we can get up to eight ounces of pumped Liquid Gold(tm). (On a slow day, closer to six.) I drop the botbots off in the daycare fridge when I pick up the girls, shunt Genevieve into her Snap-N-Go, and manage to pilot it the block-and-a-half to the parking garage with one hand while I corral a roving Natalie with the other. And so it goes. This, I guess, is how people train for marathons.

When people say that it gets easier, what they really mean is that you get better at dealing with it. The force of habit eventually erodes the sharp edges off of any onerous undertaking. It will actually get easier once Genevieve starts sleeping through the night, or when she cuts a tooth and provides me with the pretext for an honorable discharge from the corps de lactation. In the meantime, things may seem to be going more and more smoothly, but really it’s just a matter of our skills improving with practice.

It helps that Natalie is so bonded to her daddy. She always has been; it’s his name she calls when she wakes up in the morning, and in a roomful of people, he’s the one she wants to play with. This leaves me with plenty of time to cuddle Genevieve…and note with increasing wistfulness how insistently squirmy she’s becoming. How close she is to sitting up unassisted. How, having mastered the roll-over about two weeks ago, she is so clearly itching to crawl. She won’t sit still to nurse. She won’t sit still if she can avoid it, period. She’s just about outgrown her lap-baby phase, which means that now it’s my turn to outgrow the need to hold her, constantly, every minute I can.

Because by the time we get good at this, it’ll be over. Before we know it.