Two more sleeps!

Rhinebeck is so soon, and I am so excited to go! I don’t think I’ve ever needed a vacation more, and even though it’s just a long weekend it’s going to be a great way to escape everyday life. And the Fiasco is coming this time! He’ll finally understand what I mean when I talk about it like the holy-friggin’-grail of the knitting world (maybe). And of course, my Hatchling will be there, too.

I’ve abandoned all plans to finish spinning that pink yarn and knitting a pussyhat with it. For one, I’m out of time. But also, the weather is supposed to be gorgeous! At 70 degrees and sunny, I’m not going to need to wear a bulky weight hat. So instead, I’m hoping to finish the projects I’m currently knitting for my little boy.

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Flax Sweater in Malabrigo Rios, colorway Hojas

I’m nearly done with this great little Flax sweater designed by tincanknits. The pattern is easy peasy and a pleasure to knit. My progress was slightly delayed when I couldn’t find my size 6 DPNs for the cuffs. I realized that I probably hadn’t used those needles in over 2 years and had no earthly idea where they might be. Rather than face the pile of WIPs to try to figure out where they were hiding, I just bought another set. These bamboo needles are ridiculously cheap ($14 for 12 sets of needles!) on amazon and have decently sharp points and last forever (as long as you don’t lose them). I don’t knit with DPNs often enough to care if they’re fancy, I just need them to be there when I want them.

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Dino-Roar! hat with Malabrigo Rios, colorways Hojas and Apple Green

The knitting for this dinosaur hat (designed by Kate Oates) has been done for a while but as with my last project, I’ve been procrastinating the finishing. I finally got around to blocking it and now need to work up the nerve to sew the wee spikes onto the top of the hat *shudder*. I really have no idea how to approach this. The top of the hat swirls around as you decrease, so I can’t even follow a column of stitches to make sure they’re attached in a straight line and that’s as far as I’ve gotten in trying to sort this out. I don’t want them to be wonky! How do I attach these to best guarantee non-wonkiness?

With a little luck, in a few days you’ll see me wandering the fairgrounds with an overheating toddler in his brand new hat and sweater, made by Mama.

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Hello Again, Friends

It has been three months since I last posted. I think that’s the longest I’ve gone yet, and I’ve missed writing here. Life has been so full and so busy and other things have been so urgent, that I’ve not often had leftover creative energy or time to post. For the readers who still come to visit, thank you, and I hope I can come back more often now.

To summarize the past three months:

  • My wee Hatchling is now one year old. He walks! He communicates amazingly well through a combination of grunts, points, yells, babbled words, and baby signs. He wiggles his little hips to dance and absolutely loves music. He charms me every day and he’s growing like a weed.
  • So far this summer we’ve thrown a big party, spent our first night camping with a toddler, attended three weddings, and gone to one funeral (for a dear great aunt, she lived a good full life and died in her sleep). There have been many road trips to Connecticut and Long Island. Many weekends away seeing lots of family and friends. And a couple more to go before this summer is done.
  • The Fiasco and I are feeling like we’re really falling into a good groove with this parenting thing. We’re much more comfortable in our roles and are being better partners for each other than we were a year ago and I am so grateful for that.
  • There have been some pretty major changes at my job which have resulted in my workload and level of responsibility essentially doubling. This has been really exciting for me (I love a good challenge), but also really exhausting as I’ve been scrambling to balance the extra work with the summer activities and quality time with my son. #workingmomproblems

Because of all that, I have done NOTHING crafty. No projects. No spinning. No knit night. No spinner’s guild. Nada, zilch, zero. I’ve been two rows away from finishing a cowl and one button away from finishing a hat and stalled out on the heels of a pair of socks since April, but these things all take mental energy I haven’t had the space to find.

However, my goal in these last weeks of summer is to seek out time for myself. Even if it’s a few minutes here, another few there, even if I’m tired and feeling lazy, instead of reaching for my phone or puttering away the time, I’ll re-train myself to use it creatively. It used to be second nature, to pick up the needles in every spare moment, but being pregnant and giving birth sucked all that motivation out of me. I don’t think it’s anything a little extra effort and mindfulness can’t fix, though, and as my baby is getting more busy and independent, my hands won’t be quite as full as they have been.

 

 

On Mother’s Day

May is apparently postpartum depression (PPD) awareness month, and that’s an important thing to talk about. You may hear about it, but you might not realize how prevalent it is or how many different forms it can take until you have a child yourself. I didn’t know that untreated PPD is “the number one complication of pregnancy” or that in some places, 1 in 4 mothers (that’s 25%) experience it. It’s serious business, and it doesn’t always manifest in obvious ways or at expected times.

The “baby blues” commonly occurs during a period of really heightened emotions from hormonal surges in the weeks directly after childbirth. Similar predictable emotional periods occur during “hormone dumps” that can happen at a few specific times: 3 days after birth, when your milk comes in, when your milk supply establishes, when your period starts again, when you stop breastfeeding or pumping. And then there’s more pervasive depression or anxiety that may ebb and flow, or get worse with time instead of better. I didn’t get treatment for PPD until 4 months postpartum and I didn’t begin any medication until 6 months because I wasn’t sure I “needed” it. I wasn’t incapable of getting out of bed, or afraid to leave the house, or having thoughts of harming myself or my baby, or hearing or seeing things that aren’t there, which is how PPD is usually described. I loved my baby and I was happy most of the time. But I was also wracked with indecision, every emotion was heightened, every argument with the Fiasco felt desperate, I had trouble sleeping even though I was exhausted, I was very quick to anger (unusual for me), and was often on the edge of tears (not that unusual). I regularly had “intrusive thoughts” which were (for me) horrible, gory, detailed waking nightmares of the baby accidentally getting hurt in many ways, most of which involved me falling while holding him or dropping him. When I began medication, I was amazed at how much more energy I had. I hadn’t realized how hard everything had been before until it was suddenly much easier. And that’s how insidious depression can be.

And let’s not forget: fathers can experience PPD, too. There are studies that show that hormones change for new fathers as well, and regardless of hormones, it’s a huge life event combined with sleep deprivation, figuring out new roles, changing relationships, having little time to clean or cook or eat, juggling job pressures, and a tiny crying ticking time bomb who will need things from you at any given moment in a more urgent and complete way than anybody has ever needed you before. That’s a lot of stress, and for some fathers it can trigger depression or other latent mental health issues just as with mothers.

So this Mother’s Day, hug a parent. Ask a new mom how she’s holding up, feed her some dinner, hold her baby while she showers, tell her she’s doing a great job, tell her everything will be ok, tell her to trust her instincts, help her find other new mom friends, send her to her doctor, suggest therapy if she can’t fall asleep when the baby sleeps, and check in with her over and over again. Ask a new dad, too. Tell him he’s doing just fine. Tell him the roles will sort themselves out, and if they don’t, counseling can help. Tell him he is loved and needed. Be there, listen, and ask questions. People don’t always ask for help when they need it most, so let them know you’ve got help to offer.

This went deeper than I expected it to, but there you have it. I’ll end on a lighter note, with a poem I wrote that was inspired by my beautiful boy and by a quote that I’ve heard many times but read most recently on the Yarn Harlot’s blog.

Oh Walking Heart

“Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.” – Elizabeth Stone

this is so true and because it’s so true i must proclaim in all caps that THIS IS SO TRUE and it’s something i hadn’t realized before. oh my god you tiny perfect incredible being you are my heart, my soul, my love made visible and tangible and vulnerable as the wee bundle of cells you once were in my uterus but now you’re outside, a crawling babbling kissing loving dancing growing galaxy of cells with your own wants and opinions and needs and likes and it is incredible so incredible to see your world develop to see you learn and watch you watch me watch you become a toddling little boy, child, teenager, man. to know that one day you will sometimes hate me and hurt me and probably leave me when right now i hold you and soothe you and rock you is so scary and so normal and so much a part of the deal along with fear, the insidious undercurrent in this ocean of love. because now, after our first mother’s day and before your first birthday, your first steps, your first words, your first day of school, your first test, your first fight, your first car, your first graduation, your first wedding dance, your first day of fatherhood– now, when you’re about to learn how to literally walk away from me carrying all of my desperate love and fervent hopes with you, now i can proclaim that THIS IS SO TRUE while i keep singing lullabies to soothe the glittering remnants of my old yearning heart.

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The Best Rainbow Sweater

I have no idea how 29 days have passed since the triumphant return of my WIP Wednesday posts. I blinked and a month disappeared! Not ok, Universe, not ok. I originally wanted to write this post after I had measured the finished object so I could report the juicy knitterly details but let’s be real: if we wait for that, we’ll be waiting forever. Plus, we just took some family portraits for our little Hatchling’s 6 month milestone, and the sweater played a supporting role, so I have to show it off. With no further ado, I give you The Best Rainbow Sweater Ever Made.

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That’s his “Oooh, shiny object, can I have it?!” face.

LOOK AT THAT BEAUTIFUL THING, AMIRIGHT? The sweater’s nice, too. 😉 I used the Babycakes pattern designed by Laura Aylor. I modified the length of the arms and body a bit to make the stripes work out how I wanted, but otherwise followed the pattern for the 6 month size. It fit well when my kid turned 4 months old, and is still wearable now, although I find myself wishing that the armholes were just a little deeper as he’s getting bigger. Warning: if you decide to stripe like I did, you will have 42 ends to weave in. FORTY-TWO. It’s worth it, though, because he’s worn this thing all over the place.

The pattern is simple but customizable and I really like the square neckline and asymmetrical fronts. I opted against the scalloped edge and added buttonholes. The buttons are adorable little turtles from Katrinkles. I think I tried 4 different ways of embroidering them before Katy herself suggested doubling up the embroidery floss and doing a simple backstitch at knit night. Doubling up the floss made the pattern stand out much better.

The yarn is a DK-weight pastel rainbow gradient from Play at Life Fiber Arts, with a some deep green Cephalopod Yarns Traveller used for the edging. This is a great weight for baby sweaters, especially if you use them for outerwear as we do (puffy jackets + car seat = no no). It is substantial and keeps him plenty warm but it’s not so thick that it looks tight or uncomfortable. In short, I love the sweater to bits, and will be so sad when he grows out of it. Also, how did my baby get to be six months old already?!?! I am flabbergasted.

What is your favorite baby sweater? I’m thinking of knitting another Newborn Vertebrae in DK-weight yarn and larger needles to upsize it, but would love to hear other suggestions.

WIPWed #124: Actual Knitting Content

As I mentioned in my come-back post last week, I’ve finally managed to work on some knitting while juggling my 5-month-old. By the by, props to the people who teach themselves to knit while they’re pregnant or after the baby arrives, I don’t know where they get the energy for that. I’m a seasoned knitter and when I was pregnant, all I wanted to do was sleep. And now that the Hatchling is here… sleep is still a hot commodity. However, he’s starting to settle into a routine and I’ve finally weaned off pumping in the evenings which means I get occasional hands-free time to dally with yarn again. Yay!

Green Gathered

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Cephalopod Yarns Traveler, colorway Wolcott . Click for project page.

This photo is something of a lie as this hat is done and has been worn already, but I haven’t had a chance to take good finished photos yet so I’m still calling it a WIP. 🙂 The pattern is Gather by tincanknits and I loved it. The stitch pattern is easy-peasy but fun to work. I knit the toddler size for my kiddo because he has a big head and it fits perfectly with some stretch for future growth.

Wine Toast:

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Verdant Gryphon Zaftig, colorways Kiss of Cabernet and Russian Something-or-Other. Click for project page.

Speaking of easy-peasy, this project couldn’t be simpler. I’m knitting the Toast armwarmers by Leslie Friend, which are basically just plain stockinette tubes knit in the round. I often wear 3/4 length sleeve sweaters to work and my arms get cold, plus I’m always warmer with my wrists covered, so these will be a big luxurious (worsted weight Merino-cashmere-nylon yarn, yum!) treat for me. I’m making them a bit longer so they go all the way to my elbow, wider to accommodate my larger forearms, and adding a thumbhole (but no actual thumb) so they can also serve as fingerless mitts when needed.

Hatchling’s Sky Blanket:

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O-Wool O-Wash Fingering in various colors. Click for project page.

I’ve been making very slow progress on my Sky Blanket (<– scroll to the bottom of that post to read the history of this particular project). In summary, I’m knitting 360 square that represent the sky each day (minus 5)  in the first year of the Hatchling’s life. That strip represents the first couple of weeks in July. HAHAHAHA I’m soooooo behind. The worst part is, I stopped recording the weather during the first couple of weeks in November, at least before that point I’d had everything written down. So now I’m going to have to get creative with the almanac or something to figure out what to knit for the missing dates. I WILL COMPLETE THIS BLANKET.

Is there a particular project you’ve been dragging your feet about? Holiday knitting, perhaps? Speaking of, check out the Knitter’s Gift Guide on the KnittedBliss blog. It’s a great collection of gift ideas, including a little shout out to my Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe sheep-shaped soaps in the stocking stuffer section (sooooo many S’s in that sentence)!

 

The Dark Side of Love

I am sorry for the long silence, friends. Last we spoke, my little Hatchling was only 7 weeks old, and he’s now tripled in age. At 21 weeks old (almost 5 months) he’s become a curious little boy who giggles, watches everything, and gives sloppy, full-face, open-mouthed kisses. He’s basically the cutest thing ever and I absolutely love being his mom.

But I’m not going to lie, parenthood hit our family like a ton of bricks. Our feeding issues (he never latched) caused a lot of stress for me, personally, and impacted my marriage as well. I won’t recount the whole sad story here but suffice it to say that we saw endless lactation consultants and doctors and had multiple incorrect diagnoses before it was finally confirmed that Oliver had a tongue tie AND a lip tie, both of which prevented him from latching on and breastfeeding successfully. We had the ties released (with lasers!) which vastly improved his ability to suck and eat from a bottle, but by the time we had the procedures done, it was too late for our nursing relationship. The little guy was too smart, he knew his food came from a bottle and there was no way we could convince him otherwise. So I pumped as much milk for him as I could and cried oceans of tears over this. It is difficult to explain to anybody who is not a mother but breastfeeding was immensely important to me and I definitely grieved the loss.

At the same time, I was dealing with some lingering postpartum complications, including hormone-driven anxiety and depression, as well as trying to get back on the same page with my dear Fiasco. Time has healed most of the postpartum complications, and new parent couples counseling has done wonders for the communication issues that the Fiasco and I were experiencing. I’m telling all this to illustrate that a whole hell of a lot changes after you have a baby, and I think it’s important that it doesn’t get glossed over and buried under the cultural narrative of cute onesies and sweet lullabies. It’s also important (to me, politically) that parenthood remains a choice. Having a baby is an incredible responsibility and it will directly (and permanently) impact your health, your finances, your relationships, and the course of your entire life. It should not be entered into lightly or because a distant politician has ideas about the autonomy of a blob of partially-divided cells.

It’s not just a ‘transformative experience’, as I’ve heard it described. I’d call it obliterative. It takes everything you think you know, and everything you are, and shakes it all down to your foundation. Then it makes you slowly pick up the pieces, rebuilding each bit with new corners and edges where the baby fits in. And through it all, there is intense, spellbinding, all-consuming joy. And pride. And fear. And doubt. And hope. And a deep, dark, breathless love.

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So much love.

Now, finally, it’s also starting to get really fun. Around three or four months old, he started interacting more and it’s wonderful to get some feedback from him. To know that he’s ok, that we’re fulfilling his needs, that he recognizes us and wants to be with us. It’s amazing to watch little pieces of his personality developing. Our boy is a wee bit demanding but also persistent, and has a somewhat low tolerance for frustration. He’s also super smart, pays attention to everything, and he thinks being surprised is the funniest thing. We’ve even developed a couple of ‘private jokes’ of a sort. He gives me a special smile whenever I sing a certain part of his favorite lullaby, and he giggles like a fiend when I say “suck suck suck!” during his suck training exercises.

All of this is to say hello again, I’ve missed you, and here’s some of what has kept me away. It’s also to say I’m here, if you are a new parent and are maybe feeling alone or like you need help. And that it gets easier. I am now back at work again, I have even been knitting a little, and am finally feeling ready to  rebuild a few more lost bits of myself. I hope you’ve all been well.

The Five S’s

In our birth class, we learned about the Five S’s for soothing a newborn: side-lying, shushing, sucking, swaddling, and swinging. Now that Oliver’s been here for nearly 7 weeks, it feels like life is settling into a whole new series of S’s.

There’s snuggling:

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Sleepy baby snuggles are the best.

Stretching:

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He loves his swing (thank goodness).

Sitting to pump:

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Darwin always wants attention when I do this!

Smooching:

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Gorgeous crocheted blanket courtesy of my mom.

And most adorably, smiling:

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This is a new skill he’s just starting to try out.

These past 7 weeks have been a whirlwind and I can’t believe how fast the little guy is growing. We still haven’t managed to breastfeed and I’m starting to accept that pumping milk for him is the only way he’ll get any milk from me. However, I also have an undersupply (can only produce 10-12 oz per day) so that has been frustrating. The only way to increase supply (besides some herbal supplements) is to sit and pump more frequently. I manage 6-8 times a day for 20-30 minutes a session… which means 3-4 hours a day hooked up to that machine. You’d think this would lead to a lot of knitting time but most of that time is spent doing breast compressions to produce more milk. I’m not sure how long I can keep up this effort, especially since the Fiasco will be returning to work soon. I’ll be solely responsible for the kiddo at that time and I doubt his naps will coincide with my pumping schedule.

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I suppose ‘super cool sunglasses’ could be another S.

That said, I’m also beginning to accept that whatever I can do is good enough. I’ve read about women with an oversupply who can pump 60 oz in a day in just 4 sittings, or women who manage to get their infants to accept the breast after several months of bottle feeding. Hearing that, it’s difficult for me to be ok with only providing 1/3 of Oliver’s needs with breastmilk, since my brain weasels immediately chime in with “if they can do it, you should be able to do it, too” and boy, are they persistent. But if I’ve learned anything from my pregnancy and labor and very beginning of motherhood, it’s that I am not actually in charge here. I don’t get to choose how all of this goes. I can try my hardest for what I think is best, but it may or may not work out that way, and as long as we’re all happy and thriving in the end, that’s ok.

In other news, I have managed a wee bit of knitting here and there. I’m re-knitting the feet of some awesome socks my Verdant Gryphon friends made for Oliver, since he’s already outgrown them! These socks match an adorable hat and cardi set, so they obviously must live on. And I’ve finally sorted out my Sky Blanket dilemmas. I had debated several ways of knitting this project, including everything from an individual stripe to represent the sky for each day of the first year of Oliver’s life, to a patchwork of month-long stripey squares. In the end, I realized the stripey squares were going to be a pain in the butt (too much untangling of multiple yarn balls to contend with) and I went with tiny mitered squares instead (as many of you suggested). These squares are a mere two inches wide so about 360 of them (15 across, 24 tall) should make a decently sized baby blanket. There will be a trillion ends to weave in, but I’m not planning to leave it all for the end. After much debate, I’ve decided on the following color combinations for different weather:

  • yellow with light blue edge = sunny, cloudless sky
  • dark grey solid = overcast sky
  • dark blue with light grey edge = thunderstorm
  • dark blue and light grey stripes = drizzle
  • white and light blue stripes = blue skies with white clouds
  • white solid = snow (not yet knit)
  • light grey solid = fog (not yet knit)

That should cover the majority of a year’s weather in New England, we’ll see if anything else pops up. I’m knitting individual diamonds as pictured above for the first row, then will join them together by picking up stitches between two of the diamonds to knit a third, following the Sock Yarn Blanket method. Just 5 more to go before I can begin joining them together! I’m hoping I can catch up on all the days I’ve missed sooner than later and get into a rhythm of kitting one square per day as this project grows.