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.

 

 

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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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Pussyhats, Ahoy!

By now, you’ve probably heard about Donald Trump’s alarming enthusiasm for grabbing women inappropriately and without their consent. It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of blatant misogyny, and the Women’s March on Washington is a demonstration against this lack of respect for women’s rights and the rights of other marginalized factions of society.

In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.

If you are unable to attend the march in D.C. for whatever reason, there are over 280 regional sister marches, as well. If you can’t make any of the marches, there’s another way to make your support known.The Pussyhat Project is aiming to collect over a million handmade pink hats as a show of solidarity and support for women’s rights. It’s even causing a pink yarn shortage.

pussyhat

As a woman who believes she matters just as much as any man, this election cycle has been ridiculously hard to watch. I’m sure for others who live in fear of half of their own countrymen and its imminent leader, it’s been even harder. Some people think that we ‘bleeding heart liberals’ should just ‘get over it’ and get behind our new president, and those people are frankly missing the point. We are not protesting our future leader because of some vaguely laid-out political plan or long-held bipartisan views. We are protesting him for his blatant lack of respect for the majority of human beings in this country. I, personally, am horrified by his lack of due diligence in understanding international and environmental affairs, his lack of level-headedness in speech and manner, and his disregard for science and the education. I am worried about the kind of damage that a scientifically illiterate person can do in a place of power at this point in our planet’s climate history. Our society’s future is nothing without a firm grasp of science and appropriate education and based on his ignorant tweets, he just doesn’t get it. Even worse, he is surrounding himself with inadequate advisors and lashing out at individuals who oppose his false statements.

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Such a meta pussyhat.

And so I knit a couple of hats. I’m demonstrating in the most personal way I know right now that I support the rights of all people, of women, of myself. I am important, in and of myself, and not through the lens of men. Much of the societal shame surrounding overweight people is a perceived lack of sexual attractiveness to men. We are told we shouldn’t take up so much space. We should look a certain way. We shouldn’t be loud. We should always seem happy. We should always look pretty. We should sit back and let the men take care of business.

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Future feminist (and maybe knitter!)

If we take up space, if we make our presence known, if we show our anger, if we ignore societal standards of beauty, we are disregarded or attacked. If we take charge and excel at our jobs, we are called ‘nasty women’. If we get pregnant, our identities shrink to fetus-carriers. We are encouraged to have those babies (no birth control, but also no abortions), and then are further marginalized once they’ve arrived (no maternity leave, no affordable child care, no health services for the poor). There are so many things wrong with society’s treatment of women, and so much of it is subtle and ingrained that it’s almost a reflex. We need to learn to recognize everyday misogyny (locker room talk), and fight it.

It’s not the only issue and it won’t solve problems on its own, but in solidarity and hope, I’m making some hats.

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.

Oliver Hatched!

I have been attempting to find time to sit at my computer and write a blog post for 3 weeks. This has not happened, so I’ve given in and am doing my best to post from my phone. The reason for my blogging delay is currently asleep on my chest, making adorable infant snuffling noises. Oliver Sam (formerly known as the Hatchling) was born at 5 am on June 28 after 30 hours of not-so-fun labor. But he’s here, he’s healthy, and he’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever made.

We’ve been struggling with breastfeeding, in that we haven’t actually managed it. Oliver refuses to latch (that’s a nice way of saying he screams bloody murder) even though we’ve spoken to every doctor and lactation consultant out there. We’re still working on it but in the meantime he’s growing well on formula and the breastmilk I’ve been able to pump. The whole feeding thing has been a lot harder than I’d expected but I’m trying to keep in mind that of all the problems we could have, this is a manageable one.

We’re a tad tired but the Fiasco and I are really making a pretty great team and are enjoying learning the ropes as new parents. We had lots of visitors in the beginning and are gearing up for lots more in the near future. Routines and all sense of time have pretty much gone out the window!

I have knit just one thing in the past 3 weeks: the crown of the green gradient hat for Oliver. I started his Sky Blanket also but didn’t love my color combination for certain weather so I’m starting over. I’ve been writing down the sky every day and I’ll probably end up just knitting my square all at once. Don’t worry, Oliver isn’t hurting for knitwear. My spinning friend Christine knit him/us a gorgeous bamboo and cotton lace blanket/shawl and generous members of the Verdant Gryphon group on Ravelry made a Newborn Vertebrae cardi and coordinating hat, socks, and mitts that fit him perfectly (blue set). Unlike my knits, where the hat and socks are way too big and the cardi is nearly already too small. I’ll have to get cracking on some more knits now that I have an actual baby to measure!


Guys, I can’t believe I’m somebody’s mom. I could just stare at his perfect little face all day (and basically do).

Riding the Waves

Oh friends, I can tell these final weeks of pregnancy are going to be a rollercoaster ride. Lately it’s been a mix of time moving super quickly, and ridiculously slowly. Of busybusy things to do and waiting, waiting, waiting. Of running around with errands and appointments and falling asleep almost immediately after work. Of feeling prepared and ready for it all and suddenly feeling anxious about labor and delivery. Of buying the remaining bits and bobs of things we need for baby and pinching pennies to cover my reduced salary over maternity leave. Of wondering about every new ache and pain to just trying to be patient and let my body do what it will. So many contrasts!

This is such a crazy time, the adventure is certainly beginning.

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Tiny bits of progress.

I have not been knitting too much lately. The cardi I finished last week is blocking and awaiting buttons, and I’ve just made a wee bit of progress on the coordinating gradient hat and socks set for Hatchling.

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Coconut Lime whipped goat milk soap

In other news, I made some delectable Coconut Lime whipped goat milk soap for a Sweet Sheep vending event and there are still a few bars left. I’ll be closing shop for the month of July so if there’s something you’ve been keeping an eye on, you should grab it now! Have no fear, though, I’ll be back in action by August. Be sure to sign up for the mailing list or follow the Sweet Sheep Facebook page to stay up-to-date with comings, goings, sales, and updates.

WIPWed #123: More Baby Things

Things have been all baby all the time around here lately, and I expect that will continue now that I’m in my FINAL MONTH OF PREGNANCY, HALLELUJAH. Over the weekend, our generous friends threw us a lovely baby shower and Hatchling received so many wonderful books, toys, and clothes… this kid is all set. We’ve gathered the last of the odds and ends we need, all new items are washed, dried, and folded, and our hospital bags are in the process of being packed. Things are getting exciting! We played a fun game at the shower where we matched up baby pics of our friends to the correct adult… it was harder than it sounds! Here are pics of the Fiasco and me as infants:

I feel like we look SO DIFFERENT as babies that I can’t really imagine what our kid will look like. I’m excited to find out soon.

Sherbet Baby:

I’m 99.9% finished with Hatchling’s 6-month size Babycakes sweater. I am so in love with it, even though it took me three evenings to weave in all 42 yarn ends. I’m pretty sure that’s a new record for me. I don’t usually care much what my finishing looks like on the wrong side of a project, I just do what needs to be done to make it look nice on the right side, but I was charmed by the neatly woven sections on the inside of this cardi. All that’s left now is a good soak and finding the right yarn for embellishing and attaching the ridiculously cute turtle buttons.

Little Green Accessories:

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Using up gradient leftovers.

I’ve started some baby booties and am planning a wee hat to match the newborn sweater I finished last week. The sweater used up more of the lightest and darkest portions of the gradient, so for the socks I’m going to use the three middle hues in a reverse colorblock style. Both socks will use the middle hue for the heel, but they’ll reverse light and dark for cuff and foot. The colors are so similar the changes will probably be barely noticeable but the plan makes me happy nonetheless. And then the hat will use all five shades.

As for reading, I just finished Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch, which is one of those ‘not sure how this ended up on my Kindle but I guess I’ll read it anyway’ types of books. It was interesting, and different. It falls in the fantasy genre (wizard on the police force set in modern-day London) and involved ghosts, river spirits, and some sort of lizard demon thing. It piqued my interest, event hough I feel like the storytelling was a little scattered. Now I’ve completely switched genre to Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood. It’s a series of short stories that have (unsurprisingly) started out both beautiful and heartbreaking. That woman is a genius with words that hit me right in the solar plexus every time. What’s your favorite Margaret Atwood book/story/poem?

Linking up with Yarnalong this week.