Friday, December 14, 2012

At Long Last

Here she is not two months old. Here she is one half hour old.
My baby, Miss Henrietta Plum, is two months old. I can't begin to explain how every piece of that sentence blows my mind, but I'm here, finally, to try. And I have so much to say about all of this--about her, and motherhood generally, and how it's changed me specifically, and stories about how we landed ourselves in Lowell, and on and on--that I don't even really know where to start. And every day I think I want to blog, that I need to blog, that I simply must find a moment to record what's happened and what's happening and this big bursting evolving love, and then it's time to feed her or make dinner or my c-section incision randomly starts bleeding and I must away to the emergency room (true story. happened yesterday. all is well, oddly.), or I'm just so exhausted that I believe Sam when he says my only job at that moment is to sit very quietly and watch television until it's bedtime.

And so we'll start with the only place it makes any good sense to start, which is the day she was born, October 9th. A birth story, of sorts, so if you are squeamish (or bored) by such things, you have my full permission to cease reading now.

Henrietta was stubbornly breech, and all efforts to turn her were fruitless. By the end I was convinced she had managed to stay in until 39 weeks against all predictions by wedging her skull in my ribcage. That was precisely how it felt. And it was with her skull in my ribcage that I got a call from Sam on the morning of October 9th, telling me they had towed my car. We'd failed to move it for street cleaning, and he'd received a friendly email from the city saying it was gone, and because he was teaching I had to call a cab and go get it. I remember very clearly how it felt to be that big, extracting myself from the back of that cab, waddling into the towing office, and then across the street to the tow lot, which felt miles and miles away with my swollen ankles and difficulty breathing and enormous belly.

I drove home with a list of errands on my mind, thinking I'd return some library books and go get cat food, but my belly felt tight and strange, and I thought maybe I'd just better go lie down for awhile. Maybe I'd feel better soon and then go run my errands. After a few hours of lying down I thought, "You know, these feel a little like contractions." And then I thought, "You know, these contractions are happening fairly regularly." I started timing them on my phone, closing my eyes and trying not to think of them between times, and low and behold, 5 minutes ish apart. They were fairly light but not exactly comfortable, so I called the hospital and they told me to come in and once Sam got home we drove downtown. We'd gone in so many times by then that Sam didn't bother to bring a single thing and I just barely decided to bring my bags, both of us thinking we'd be back that evening. Ha.

They set me up in a bed I'd been in many times in labor and delivery and tried to find the contractions with their monitor, but nothing showed up. I was still feeling them, but less sure of myself, and convinced we were probably going home soon. They checked my cervix, and wanted me to wait a few hours to see if anything had changed, so Sam and I distractedly talked about what dinner we'd get on the way home, and which house to buy in Lowell, and when the nurse came in and out, I didn't hide how badly I wanted to leave, and that I was sure it was all nothing. Those hours passed slowly.
The doctor came in around seven to check me and I was surprised when she said I was at a 4 (I had been at 3.4) and that my bag of water felt tight. She sat up, pulled her glove off, and said I was in labor, that they'd take me back for a c-section right away. "Like, when?" I asked. "Now. A half an hour, maybe. As soon as we get the room set up." She was born at 8:06.

I think about that half an hour before they took us back. I called my parents and told them and tried to mentally prepare myself, but there was no real way to prepare. We were so used to false alarms that we didn't know what to do with a real alarm, with the real thing. Mostly during that half an hour we looked at each other, half laughing, wide-eyed, shocked. After all the waiting and months of feeling on the brink of her arrival, we were actually there, on the brink of her arrival, and it wasn't at all real. I tried to pray for help or courage or something, but I couldn't focus at all.

And soon they wheeled me back to the cold operating room, the same one I'd been in when they put in the cerclage. At first that was comforting--that it was the same room and basically the same procedure: step up on this stool and sit on the edge of this table, lean into the nice nurses and try not to shiver while the man pokes your back with his fingers and then his numbing needles, feel the numb spread like tingling heat all the way down to your toes and let yourself feel heavy and helpless and half absent as they lift you and pull you into position and give you an oxygen mask and arrange all the cords connected and coming out of you. And then Sam came in and stood at my head and held my hand and it didn't feel like the cerclage anymore. It was bigger than that; she was almost here; we'd almost done it, and how could that possibly be? I asked Sam, as we waited for them to get started, whether he was sure about this, about this having a kid thing. He said it was maybe a little late to ask.  

Sam wanted to watch, and they kept suggesting that he sit down for this part, but he kept standing up, fascinated. And I was there, my abdomen open to the world, a puddle of blood, he said, and he said I'd been right, that the baby really had been up in my ribcage, that it was clear when they pulled her out.

Pause here to say that a c-section is one of the strangest things in the world. Your experience is so small in that room; it's this big big thing that's happening to you, but you're only experiencing this tiny space on the other side of the curtain. There were the anesthesia men (nice nice men) at my head, monitoring my comfort and vital signs, and Sam's hand holding mine, but all I could really see was this hospital sheet, and all I could feel was a vague tugging.

And then she was out, and crying, and it was the most shocking and distinctive sound I think I've ever heard. She had a voice, this very specific voice that was already only hers, and it made me cry to hear it, especially since hearing was all I could do. They were sewing me up and Sam was with her on the other side of the room, taking her picture and trying to describe her to me, and then holding her so I could sort of see her if I craned my neck behind me, and Sam was saying my placenta looked like a giant moldy fig.

Pleased to be on planet Earth.
None of that felt real and it still doesn't feel real. I remember the little recovery room they took us to, and shaking as I recovered from the anesthesia, and taking her picture, and sipping water very very slowly, and having her placed at my breast to start breast feeding. And I remember the days after, which were sweet but intense days, and we were very ready to go home so we wouldn't have so many well-meaning doctors and students and nurses checking on us every ten minutes.

Tiny toes.
Now she's beginning to stir in her crib, so I want to say this about those early days once we got home. I want to remember that new and delicious intimacy, and that's what it's been: the most personal, intimate thing I've ever done, and the whole of it seems like an unbelievable privilege. Okay, there have been some times that don't feel much like a privilege at all, but on the whole that's exactly what it's been. I can't hardly believe that this is happening to me, that I, of all people, am the mom, that I, of all people, am her world. In the beginning when she nursed, she would get these shifty eyes before she latched on, her eyes darting back and forth before she attached like an eager fish, and it felt like that, like we were in this together and we needed to be on the lookout, somehow, that we surely must be stealing our connection from some forbidden well of joy. And after we'd nurse I'd look down at her on my chest and she'd look up at me, and we were, of course, the only beings in the whole world, the only thing that had ever really mattered, and I couldn't believe that this moment was only ours, that she wasn't anyone else's baby and I wasn't anyone else's mom, and no one else in the whole world would really know the way she looked at me and how that felt. Am I even beginning to capture it? I feel like I'm not even beginning to capture it.

Sam says hello. Watching these two together every day? One the very best parts of this. I mean, it's really really good.

One more moment, one I've been longing to record and meaning to record since it happened. We took her home on a Saturday and I took her in for her first doctor's appointment the following Monday, and I sat in the waiting room with Henrietta and my mom, talking about her name, waiting to be called back. Soon a nurse stepped out and said, "Henrietta?" And I laughed. I laughed because it was the first time someone aside from us had really said her name, and it was if that nurse made her real. It was like someone saying the name of our imaginary friend, this being that we'd conjured out of nothing, and imagined and loved theoretically for months, and suddenly she was real enough to have a name and a doctor and to have her name be called in a waiting room. I feel like that moment solidified me, too, because I stood up as her mom, The Mom of Henrietta, and it was my job--there was no one else--to take her back and place her on the scale.   

Friday, September 28, 2012

Our Anniversary, Across the Table

Our fourth wedding anniversary was at the end of July, right around when I hit 28 weeks. And behold! A dress still fit me! 

We went out to dinner at a place we'd heard about called Craigie on Main, and it was a lovely meal. The weird part: One of their specials was pig's head. As in, the entire pig's head. We asked about it, mostly out of horror (we're both latent vegetarians, I think), and the waitress commenced telling us all about it--how they'd cut it in half for us, how everything was so tasty and we could eat all of it--the ears and the cheeks and the on an on. I think Sam held up his hand for her to stop. And we didn't order the pig's head. But we had a lovely time. Here we are, across the table from each other, clearly in love.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Nursery

I posted some Instagram pictures of the nursery on Facebook (oh gosh, I'm getting so social media-y!), and though Instragram pictures are charming, it's hard to really see what's going on in the ones I took, so here are some more, with details. I'm not done with it, but I'm more done than I thought I'd get, so here it is.

Here's a shot from (one of the) doorways. (There are three (!) doorways.) I made all of the rugs. Crocheted them from strips of fabric that I cut myself. Should I tell you more about how I did it? They took forever, but they are exactly what I had in mind, and I couldn't find anything like it in the real world.
That's the dresser we found on the side of the road. I got the knobs on clearance at Anthropologie (the top two are golden snails, the bottom ones are turquoise-y and gold. It still needs a little love, but I love it. I love that it's full of her little cupcake suits.
My dear friends came over and put the crib together. They have three new babies between them (a set of twins and a little girl) and I got to hold the babies while they did everything. It was incredibly kind of them. My fantastic mother-in-law painted the bookcase yellow for us. And can you see the moon and the monster? You've met them before.
This is the built-in, full of my newly organized crafting stuff. Did I mention that my friend Russanne is the reason why this room is at all organized and together? Her help was invaluable. People have been good to me.
I have yet to give this the position of beauty I have in mind for it, but it's an antique blessing dress I found in Brockenhurst, England--the small town my ancestors immigrated from. It's so meaningful to me. I have some ideas of how to display it better; I just haven't gotten to them yet. So for now, it stays here and makes me happy when I see it.
One more shot of the room. I still need to find a rocking chair or some sort of seating, but I'll get there. I like how much of this space shows the work I put into the room while I bed rested. I would lie awake at night, insomnia raging, and think about how I wanted this room to look. Sometimes it felt like the only thing that kept me going. I'd come up with an idea, and then wake up and work on whatever I had in mind. I'd also worry obsessively that somehow I'd put it all together and it just wouldn't work. That I'd do all of these projects and I was finally ready to put them in this space, they'd just look awful together. And though this isn't perfectly what I had in mind, it's pretty darn close. And I like it. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Moon Lamp Before+After+Cat

A year or so ago, I found this baby lamp at the thrift store. I think I paid a couple bucks for it, thinking I'd revamp it at some point since I wasn't crazy about the yellow gingham. A few weeks ago I thought I'd tackle the project, and found this stretchy turquoise lace fabric in my stash. I used modge podge and some hot glue to cover it (which was ... maybe not the best method, but it got the job done), and here's the after.

And because he hopped up right as I was taking pictures and looked so picturesque, here's Meatsock with the Moon.
Cat + Moon

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Shower the First

So, here I am, against all predictions, still pregnant. I'm 36 and a half weeks now, which just blows my mind. And she shows no sign of imminent arrival. I mean, I'm uncomfortable. Really, profoundly uncomfortable most of the time. It's a little absurd. And there have been some scares with low fluid and contractions and the like, but everything is pretty much fine now, aside from the fact that she's stubbornly breech. They're going to try to turn her next week, which will apparently be an incredibly painful procedure. But hey, if it turns her around, it's worth it, right? (Right?!!)

Anyway, way back when we were worried she wouldn't even make it 28 weeks, some dear and lovely friends (Russanne, Emily, Sarah) threw me a shower. Since I was on bed rest, they did it at my house, and the loyal Russanne came and cleaned up the place and decorated while I sat on the couch. This was only slightly awkward, since I so longed to help. But Russanne is an absolute professional at organizing and decorating. It was a marvel to witness. And didn't it turn out beautifully? It was sort of a woodland theme, with the snails and the owls. And see those big puffy things? I love them so.

The spread. Which was so fresh and summery and lovely.
There's the little lady herself, in that frame. I haven't posted any ultrasound pictures, eh? Well, there's one. 
Here I am opening a giant present. Even my toes are excited. 
My friend Sarah came up with some lovely games (and I'm generally not so keen on shower games). We all wrote the story of our own birth on a index card, then we traded them around and read them and had to guess which story belonged to whom. She also collected quotes from popular children's books and we had to identify which books they came from. Are those not brilliant ideas?

These are the three shower throwers. They are some of my favorite people in all the land.
How many pictures can I exhibit before you totally lose interest? There were such lovely lovely gifts. My friend Sarah made me a baby sling out of the most gorgeous fabric. Oh, it's so gorgeous. Russanne gave me this dress and bonnet she found at an estate sale and holy moly it's incredible. Smocking and handmade and did I mention a bonnet was included? Folks gave me an awesome activity gym and books and a little baby seat and swaddle blankets and the most charming onesies with cats wearing sunglasses and snails listening to music and and and. Generous souls, these. And since the look on my face in the picture below captures how I felt about the whole thing, I'll include this picture of a quilt that my master quilter friend Emily made. This lady knows what I love. In fact, I love it so that I haven't made the baby a quilt myself, since this one captures what I had in mind for her. Can you see that look on my face? I look like I'm going to weep. The whole day made me feel weepy, actually. How could it not? Really, how could it not?

The quilt in its glory. And it is glory, no?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Stripey Crochet Blanket

It didn't take me long, once I got put on bed rest, to realize I needed to learn to crochet. Or do something (anything!) with my hands, but crochet seemed the easiest. My friend Russanne came over one afternoon to show me the ropes (or the yarns? okay, that was a really funny joke, to me.), and I proceeded to fail miserably, over and over. I'd try to make a square shape, and somehow end up with a triangle?! Or I'd try to  make a circle and end up with a weird little mushroom shape? It was discouraging, is what it was. But I kept trying, undoing what I'd done and asking google what the heck was going on, and starting over.

And soon a big box of yarn I ordered arrived, and I proceeded to make this wee blanket for the baby girl. Okay, actually, first I failed again. I got a good way into a blanket and then realized it was so tight that it was more like a ... what? A scrubber pad or something. It was bad. So I pouted for a day, and then started over. And though, honestly, this one is a pretty pathetic attempt too (it's shape is very much less than rectangular, trust me ...), I'm happy with it. When I finished the regular stitches, I even figured out how to make this scallopy edge with a little help from youtube. I was proud of myself for that. I hate learning things from youtube, for some reason. But I watched and rewatched and rewatched until hey! I was doing it! And I did it! And now it's all done.

Before I was finished, the cats commandeered it, as they tend to do.

I added the monster in, since it amused me. I like how Meatsock matched the monster face.

All finished, scallopy border and all.

Sprouty inspects.

A close-up of the scallopy edge.

Monday, July 30, 2012

On Pregnancy and Expectation

This morning I was thinking about yoga. I was thinking about prenatal yoga, and how I had planned to do it while pregnant. I was thinking about this because my body hurt, and for an instant I thought, "Maybe I could do yoga," and then I remembered that I couldn't. Which led me to thinking, again, about the plans I had for this pregnancy, about how I thought it was going to go, and how few of those plans are actually playing out.

Here's what I had in mind originally: I had a midwife at a birth center, and I really liked her, and I was excited about a semi-granola birth, a valiant attempt at doing it "naturally." I envisioned laboring in the bathtub and in the birth center's garden. I wanted to learn hypnobirthing and find a really good birth class. Before then I would do yoga, and I would take long walks, and I would eat a lot of green healthy things and plenty of good protein and I would be lean and lovely as a pregnant lady--you know, like a q-tip with a watermelon attached, that holy social ideal of how pregnant women are "supposed" to look. And on the weekends I would drive all around town--looking q-tip-watermelony--to thrift stores and estate sales, buying unique and inexpensive and gorgeous clothes and items for the nursery. And in October--not before--she would arrive, healthy and chubby and screaming her sweet head off. And we would commence loving her forever. 

Instead, a good number of my days are like this one, which happened over the weekend: I wake up; I eat breakfast; I throw up. (Morning sickness sometimes kicks back in around 27 weeks, apparently? I'm right on schedule. Bummer.) I feel shaky; my cervix hurts; my abdomen feels pressure-y. I know enough to know this isn't labor. I know it's just going to feel like this, that it's normal for women with a cerclage, that it's going to hurt worse and worse until she arrives. (But I'm still scared. All day Sam and I talk on and off about whether to go in to labor and delivery.) I go lie down in bed and end up spending the day there. I ask Sam to bring me a bowl, since I still feel nauseous. I read 300 pages of a novel. In the afternoon, I fall asleep, and in the evening  I feel well enough to come sit on the couch. We watch Netflix episodes of Frasier. I can't imagine eating anything, but I'm starving, so Sam picks a menu from a takeout place; I find one thing that for no explainable reason looks like I might be able to eat it. It arrives, I eat a bit of it. I go to bed. Lying there, waiting for sleep, I pray that when she is ready to come, I'll know it; that I won't miss the signs. 

Not all of my days are like that, but several a week are. If it's a week day, I bring my computer and books back to my bed and work, horizontally. On a good day, I work from the chaise section of the couch, and when it's quitting time I trade my computer and books for a craft project and mindless sitcoms. People bring us dinner twice a week or so, bless their souls. Sam takes care of everything--bringing me water and meals, doing the laundry, the dishes, the cat litter cleaning. He even goes to the fabric store and buys me more supplies. He goes to the art museum a few times a week to get out of the house and I do my best not to pout. On Tuesdays friends come over for crafting; on Sundays someone brings me the sacrament. On Thursdays we have a weekly doctor's appointment and they tell me that, while every exam is alarming and indicates the baby will likely come early--30 weeks would be lucky--I'm stable in my alarmingness, and so they send me home for another week. 

And here's the surprising part: mostly, this life is okay. This pregnancy is okay. While sometimes I still get sad that I'm not having the pregnancy I planned, it mostly doesn't matter anymore. I had this shift in my thinking that happened a few weeks ago. They gave me steroids to develop the baby's lungs in case she did come early, and my body reacted by refusing to sleep on Friday or Saturday night. Those were rough days with more side effects I won't mention, but somewhere in there, I realized it just didn't matter. I would do it again. I will do it again in a few weeks if she hasn't come. And that was okay. I realized I didn't care anymore how she arrived or when she arrived or whether I spent the time before then in thrift stores hunting cool eclectic items or on my couch ordering from a take out menu and trying not to throw up. The only thing I cared about was that she'd be born safe. Working towards that was my full-time job, the center of my existence. And when I'm in labor, I'll go to the hospital, and whatever happens there will be okay with me. I'll surrender to it, because I don't have a choice. I'll trust my doctors (if you know me, you know that doesn't come easily), and if I end up with a C-section (which is common for preemies--they're often breech), or an epidural, then that's how it will be, and I'll survive it. It will be over soon enough, and, hopefully, this baby will make it and they'll help her grow in the NICU and eventually we'll take her home and she'll be small but strong, and we will commence loving her forever.

This shift in thinking was a gift. It was a gift I wasn't asking for and that I didn't know I needed, but I'm grateful for it all the same.

But this is what I want to clarify, which is something else I was thinking about this morning: I have friends who say I'm handling this well, that they're impressed; that they don't think they'd handle it this well. A few weeks back my father told me how much he marvels at the sacrifice women make to bring souls into the world. And in a way I'm grateful for this encouragement. I'm glad that from the outside this all looks noble or brave or heroic, and I'm glad to accept the positive reinforcement. But the truth is, none of this feels heroic or noble. It doesn't really feel like I'm "handling it well." I'm just handling it. It reminds me of what my grandmother used to wisely say, which is that everyone does the best they can. And that feels particularly true right now. It is the best I can do, but sometimes it looks a whole lot like nothing at all. And while I'm glad that from the outside that looks shiny and impressive, it doesn't matter all that much whether it does or not. Even if I weren't "handling it well"--and with less support I'm sure that would be true--even if I were weathering this pregnancy from a psych ward (which has felt possible sometimes), I'd still be doing fine. Because my only job is to keep this kid in me for as long as I can, and there's not much to that job, in the end. I get up and do that the same way you get up and go to work, or get your kid breakfast, or wash your hair. It's reality. I'm not making a heroic choice. I'm just doing the only thing that makes sense, and I'm grateful for the physical and spiritual help that is making it possible. She's a baby, a tiny kicking moving life inside me, and I'm trying to make sure she doesn't die. You'd do the same, whether it seems you would or not. There's not as much choice as it may seem. I'm heroic insofar as everyone who does daily difficult things (and doesn't everyone?) is heroic.

I hope I can remember this when I'm no longer pregnant. This won't always be my central task, the simplicity of working to preserve her life. But I hope what I can remember is this thing that seems central to the experience of pregnancy, this experience of being a body hosting another body, doing nothing and everything at the same time to help it arrive safely: this acceptance of my circumstances, whatever they happen to be. This conviction that I'm not in charge and don't need to be. That while I can work on changing whatever it's possible to change, worrying over what I can't change or what might of been is fruitless business; it's the least productive use of my time and my self. I want to remember that external validation, while lovely, doesn't actually reflect what matters, which is humble and simple and clear: it's doing what it makes sense to do, what I can do, and letting go of the rest.    

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Golden Snails for Baby

Sometime back I realized that those weird shelves of trashy knick-knacks in thrift stores are actually a gold mine if you have the right eyes. Almost any of the tacky little ceramic figurines you find there can be beautiful, given a little love and a coat of spray paint.

I found these three little snails awhile ago, and fell for them. They were a dollar a piece. And I knew they were meant for baby. I took them home, and eventually got around to getting a can of gold spray paint, and one evening, after a long day of bed resting, I took a very brief excursion out back to the parking lot behind our place so I could oversee the painting of the snails. I remain deeply in love with them. Someday, when this kid's nursery actually comes together, they will be a sweet addition to that space.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Monster for Baby

The only way I'm staying sane lately is to make objects for baby. At night when I can't sleep, I imagine her nursery in great detail, and then I send Sam to the fabric store (what a hero, no?) and in the evenings, after I've worked from home, I turn on Netflixed sitcoms and make whatever has struck my fancy.

One morning I woke up with the idea to make the baby a stuffed monster. Sam and I dig those Ugly Dolls. You know the ones? (I think you either get them and love them or you don't ... we love them.) And we've talked about getting her one. But it occurred to me I'd like to make her one, and this was the result. Sam loves the monster, and was soon very excited about her photo shoot. He wanted a picture of her everywhere, as you'll see. (She was loosely inspired by these monsters, which I found whilst Pinteresting, of course.)

Her mouth, eye, and hair are all felt. Her legs are orange on the back and yellow on the front. I hand-sewed the whole thing, since I couldn't sit up at the sewing machine. 

Her she is posing with baby's Emily Dickinson doll. They make a good pair, no?

And here she is perched on the door to our living room. Menacing beast.

And here she is on the top of the doors to our living room, featured with the cat we got in Mexico and the crucifix that (I think) belonged to Sam's grandfather. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A (Sort of) Maxi Dress Tutorial--EASY!

Some time back I began to experience angst about how hard it is to find modest dresses. When I got pregnant, I developed an instant aversion (okay, inability) to wear anything aside from flowy and loose dresses with leggings, and it began to just irritate me that everything I bought had to be paired with a tank-top (because it was too low-cut), a sweater (because it was sleeveless), and/or leggings (because it was too short). Quite often, I had to add all three, and I began to just be annoyed as I put on all of those layers of clothes. The point of dresses was to be easy; the point of dresses was to have nothing touching me. Wearing a dress andandand missed the point. And really, while I don't generally get indignant about this stuff, I began to wonder what is wrong with this world that I can't find a dress that doesn't expose my goodies. I mean, I confess my aim for modesty is related to my religious tradition, but it also it just seems like I'm a grown woman, you know? And I'd prefer to be able to dress like one, to have the option, for goodness sake. I don't want a dress with a teeny tiny skirt. I just don't. And there are so many many beautiful dresses out there that are just worthless to me for this very reason.

All of this to say that one evening, while walking with Sam back to our car after a lovely meal of Ethiopian food, I began to notice how simple the maxi dress I was wearing actually was. I had bought it from Target, and it was in heavy rotation in my closet, even though I needed to wear a tank-top with it. And I started to think it really couldn't be that hard to make one of my own, though the task still seemed daunting. I was determined I would figure it out.

Soon thereafter, miraculously I'd say, this tutorial popped up on Pinterest. And, also miraculously, it actually looked as easy as it professed to be. Foregoing the fabric-dying step, it would be even easier. I pulled out some knit I'd had for some time, and went to town. And boy howdy was I pleased. A dress! With sleeves! As long as I choose! A neckline I wanted! And it came together faster than I could have dreamed.

So I bought more knit! More! And I made more dresses! More! (This post is exclamation point heavy. Sorry.) And this is one of them. It's made from a lovely denim knit that was on clearance, so I got the whole lot of it for ten bucks, and it took me maybe a half an hour to make. When I wore it to church and it garnered compliments, I couldn't help but responding, "I made it! Ten bucks! Half an hour!" (Is that annoying? Oh well.) I added one detail that wasn't in the original tutorial, and that's the elastic thread waistband, since enormous wide belts are lovely, but not really an option for my increasingly pregnant self.  

I find these outfit pictures so embarrassing. That's the truth. This was the best of the lot.

Here's the elastic waistband, which is easier than it looks.

And here's a pregnant belly shot at (I think) 24 weeks, though it pains me to post it. I got this dressed up for a doctor's appointment, which is what happens when they put you on bed rest and a doctor's appointment is the only time you leave the house all week.
That tutorial is just really good, and will walk you through it just fine, but here's my mini-version, so you can see how easy it really is.

1. Get yourself 2 yards of knit. Or less. If you want it knee-length, 1.5 yards will do. I think this was 1.75 yards, but I'm short. When in doubt, hold up the fabric in the store and see how much you need.

2. Fold the entire piece of fabric, right sides together. You're going to basically make a giant pillowcase out of it, with the opening for your feet.

3. Sew two seams (just two!): think of the pillowcase--sew down one long side, and down one short side. Don't worry about arm or neck holes just yet. Since knit can be slippy and slidey, this part can be frustrating, and you'll worry you're ruining the whole thing. You're not. Don't worry. Just keep going. The dress is forgiving.

4. Now do the neck hole by folding the whole thing in half long ways, and cutting a straight line down the very center. Start with five inches or so. You can deepen it if you want to. This makes the neck, once you have it on, and the back, which is pretty. You don't need to finish any of the seams since it's knit and won't unravel.

5. On either side of the top, cut the arm holes. Nothing fancy here. You're just opening up the seam and the fold. Starting from the top, trim as close as you can to the edge for maybe 7 inches? Again, you can make the hole longer later if you decide you want to.

6. Now try it on! It will seem like a big fat sack, but you should be able to begin to envision how it's sort of dress-like. Decide whether the sleeves and neck are working for you, or whether you want to deepen them. And either put on a big wide belt, or stick a little pin where you'd like the waistband to be.

7. Here's a brief description of the waistband: I made it with elastic thread, which is super easy to work with once you figure out it only goes in the bobbin. (Trying to use it for both thread sources is disaster, which I learned the hard way.) Using a ruler and where you pinned as a marker, use more pins to mark a straight line across the dress. Then sew that line, using the elastic thread in the bobbin and a thread to match your dress as the top thread. Use the line you just sewed as a guide to do another line, and another, and another (as many as you want), and it will just naturally start to look as it looks in the picture. It's pretty sweet to see it start to cinch up.

8. And that's really it, my friends. Cut the bottom, if you need to. And you're done. And you have a new dress. And you're happy. And so am I.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Two More Baby Quilts

I made a few more modern-looking baby quilts for friends, and thought I'd share. In fact, I thought I failed to take a picture of the first one, which was a bummer because I love it, but hey! I had pictures of it all along, just waiting to be posted. Both of these were made for dear friends in my ward, whose babies have arrived now, and I'm super super pleased they have evidence of my adoration, ready-made. I'm slightly obsessed with these solid-color quilt tops. I wish wish wish I could make one for the baby I'm growing, but she'll have to settle for a similarly-themed crocheted blanket. Perhaps I'll provide a sneak-peak of that soon? We'll see. The verdict is still out as to whether I'm not totally destroying it.

And now, a bunch of pictures.

These were the colors of baby's nursery: coral, gray, and light blue. The pattern was inspired by this quilt, which I found while pinteresting

There was some discussion as to whether black was appropriate for a baby quilt. I decided to go for it, and I loved the way it helped define the space.

I was a bit stumped on what to do for binding, since what I had bought didn't seem to fit the mellowness of the quilt. I ended taking what was left of the main fabrics and making binding out of those, and I really really love how it turned out.

The fabric I used on the back was my first foray into online fabric shopping, since I knew I wanted gray and the store I was at had a dismal collection. I was not disappointed with my online fabric shopping. I will be doing more of that. 
The mama for this quilt didn't have any color requests, but I was getting a bright color vibe.  The pattern was inspired by this quilt, which I also found while pinteresting. It's basically a single giant log cabin block.

This quilt actually had a twin, which was for another friend who wasn't finding out the gender of her baby, so it was lovely and gender-neutral. But ... I forgot to photograph it before giving it away.

I got put on bed rest days after I made my quilt sandwich and before I had a chance to bind it. I stared at it for a week, sad I couldn't finish it, then pulled myself together and did it by hand. It took for-ev-er, but gosh it's a lovely effect to hand bind it. The stitching is nearly invisible. (Thought I'm very afraid it will just fall apart. I hope not.)

Wish I would have managed a closer shot of the handbinding. This is a close as I got, but you can sort of see what I mean? It was kind of cool to slow way down and experience the process in slow motion. Quilting is a beautiful process.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

On Location and Pregnancy

Me+Baby at 20 Weeks

This is basically the only pregnant picture of me that exists. At least the only belly shot. And it's sort of a pathetic belly shot anyway, right? I mean, I told you I'm not really showing. And wow, looking at it really confirms that fact that I'm just looking chubby. But hey, someday I'll be glad we took it. Perhaps. Right?

I had Sam take this right before my 20 week ultrasound, the one where they found my shortened cervix and sent me straight to bed rest, do not pass go; do not collect two hundred dollars. I worked from home that morning, finished up a memo summarizing a meeting, sent it out, and we had lunch on our way to the appointment. And part of what amuses me endlessly about this picture is that I'm actually not holding onto the baby at all. Did you know this? That babies ride much lower for most of the pregnancy? That if I actually held onto what is baby, you would think I was obscene? So here I am, clutching my smushed internal organs, laughing at the thought.

And I keep thinking lately about location, about how absolutely natural and absolutely absurd it seems that I am carrying this baby inside of me, that she's growing right here, in me. Last night I dreamed Sam and I were having twins, only I was carrying one and he was carrying the other. Though this was odd, part of me was relieved that at least one of us was carrying a baby in a body that wasn't doing all sorts of things to jeopardize the pregnancy. Here's the most depressing thought I have about this whole thing, the hardest one for me to think (and then I'll lighten up! honest!), the one that occurred to me forcefully and devastatingly while I was alone in a hospital room at 4 in the morning, waiting for a procedure that was supposed to (maybe, possibly) help keep the pregnancy. Here is the thought: by all accounts, the baby herself is just fine; healthy, strong, lovely. If she doesn't make it, it will be my body that kills her. And suddenly this seemed sort of savage what I had done, that I had created this life and through no fault of her own and against my own will, my body might end this life before it had really begun. That was a dark morning alone in a hospital room. Sitting there, waiting for Sam, praying and crying, I thought again what I've thought a few other times since I got pregnant, about how odd it seems that the only possible location for this to happen is in my body, or in the body of a woman, anyway. Thousands of years of science, and we haven't come up with a better location. I imagine her sometimes growing in the body of, say, a very responsible goat, or a really exquisitely beautiful box, and I think, why me? Why here? I've felt so inadequate to the task, and this was before I was deemed truly "incompetent."

And then I think (and this is where I lighten up, I hope), this must, apparently, be the best possible space. Now I'm running into mysterious territory, the part I can't begin to explain, but there's something about this system (this growing of babies in the bodies of women) that feels right, that does make a sort of sense. I can't tell you why, and I'm afraid I would get reductive and insipid if I tried, but there have been times when I've actually thought about Sam carrying the baby instead of me, or really thought about what it would mean if she were growing in a pretty box--about what that might be like--and I've realized it wouldn't make any sense at all. There's something about this experience of carrying her that taps into me, an essential me, a part of me that has always expected her and been preparing for her. Scientifically this is so, yes? But it's increasingly clear that it's so much more than science. I recline on my couch, for hours upon hours, switching between my iPad and the television, pretending I know how to crochet, answering text messages and emails as to my well-being, and staring out the window, battling an ever-encroaching soul-crushing boredom, and I can feel her flip and flop inside of me, and part of me doesn't know what to make of it, and the other part of me says, thank you, thank you, for reminding me why I'm here, for tying me to the world, to this living room, to your tiny beginning life.

You know what it's like? It's like a long-distance relationship. The strangest sort of long-distance relationship, since she's constantly with me, literally inside of me, physically closer than anyone has ever been in my life. But she's also millions of miles away. We send these missives to her, and she sends missives to us. Sam leans down and tells her what French parents tell their children instead of "chill out": attend (ah-tahn), which means "wait," and is deeply appropriate, considering how badly we need for her to stay put. And I play her this song on repeat and rub my belly, and sometimes I read her Emily Dickinson, but mostly I'm afraid to connect with her, for fear she'll vanish. And at night, while I sit and sit, she tells me she's still there: I feel her moving like a tiny fish.

For all the stress of this pregnancy, for how concerned I get that I'll lose it, that we'll never meet her, it also feels like I'm on the cusp of falling in love, like I'm in a relationship with someone I haven't met yet, and that soon she'll move to town, and the three of us will be collectively in love forever and ever. Oh, I hope it's so.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Less Depressing Follow-Up (or, What Bed Resting is Teaching Me)

Whew. So, was that the most depressing post ever, or what? Thank you for showing up here to read it, and for all of your really lovely and compassionate comments. I appreciate them, every one. And I think it was good for me to get all that out there, even so publicly, though as soon as hit publish I worried one just wasn't supposed to be so honest. The next morning I woke up feeling better, and mostly that's held. I still have bouts of sadness--usually once a day, to be real--but I'm able to have a bit more perspective over all, and I'm learning what's essential to my sanity.

Not long before I got put on bed rest, I heard about a Buddhist meditation practice that involves the simple question, "Who am I?" asked over and over again. It's asked not with the intention to answer it, per se, but to peel back everything that surfaces that's not really an answer. That idea has been in my head a lot lately, as I navigate this new reality. It feels like I'm enacting a tangible version of that meditation, though it doesn't always feel meditative. Who am I without blank, blank, blank, blank, and blank, which are no longer options? Who am I if all I can do is lie here? I can't tell you I know the answer yet, but thinking of it this way makes me more open to what the experience has to teach me. This seems a better place to be, this thinking of what I'm meant to learn. I once heard a Jewish religious leader talk about going through his father's death, or something equally difficult, and resolving through prayer that he would not let the experience go until he knew what it had to teach him, and he made it sound like he knew he'd really need to wrestle with it, take it between his teeth and fight until it yielded its truth. This feels a bit like that.

Shall I tell you what I suspect I'm to learn so far?

*Yielding control. I've been working on learning this for awhile anyway, but it seems like I've gotten a crash course in it over the last week or so. Very little is in my control right now. I can't control the outcome of the pregnancy; I can't control how (or if) the laundry gets done; I can't control how badly my floor needs to be vacuumed when we have visitors. Aside from the overarching worry for the baby, these are things that I fret about in my normal life, and it's been rather incredible to watch how small they become, how little they matter when they simple can't matter. I could spend a lot of time lamenting each of those items, and sometimes I do. But I feel better if I don't. It's clear how ineffectual it is to fret them. Prayer helps.

*Opening my heart. Though I really love my friends and love social interaction, there's a part of me that resists it. If given the choice, I usually prefer to be alone, or with someone I'm very comfortable with (i.e. Sam, and my cats). Most social interaction frightens me, and I've sensed in myself a sort of closed heart, a lack of willingness to really engage with people, to let myself be close or be loved or to love. I've been working on this for awhile too, but nothing has shifted it like the last few weeks. It was almost immediately clear that a day when I failed to reach out by phone and I chose not to answer when someone reached out to me, and when no one visited, I was(am) doomed to despair. My friends have overwhelmed me with their kindness over the last few weeks. They've come and sat on my couch and listened to the details of my baby worry, and then talked with me about stuff that has nothing to do with Baby at all, which is a relief. They've brought me meals and snacks and movies and magazines and books. They've called and emailed and Facebooked; they've prayed for us; they've given me blessings and brought the sacrament to my home; they've poured out love and support--more than I ever could have suspected I deserved. And still, I'll tell you, when someone first offers to visit or help, when my phone first rings, the voice in my head says, "No, I'm fine." I'm fine I'm fine I'm fine. And this experience, more than any other, has given me practice in dismissing that voice, dismissing whatever fear I have, and saying yes, please, come by, thank you so much, I would love to see you, any time, I'm here. What precious and life-saving afternoons and evenings I've spent because I've been dismissing that voice. I literally had no idea I was so loved, or even had the potential to be so loved.

*Finding What Helps. I've begun to develop a list of what I actually need to do in order to keep my sanity, and the list is small and humble. One is to talk to someone, as I explained above. Another is to shower and put makeup on and real clothes. This task always seems pointless, since I'm not going anywhere. But sitting in my stink, feeling ugly and unkempt, is a surefire way to ruin my day. The nature of my beauty-process has changed, for sure. I don't blow-dry my hair (can't stand up for so long), and all I really want to wear are unfussy (mostly knit) dresses, so I have closets of pretty clothes and jewelry and shoes that are wasting away without me right now, and a handful more of these unfussy dresses on their way from Target. Aside from that, it helps if I work on my own writing projects, if I write in my journal, if I blog, if I read my scriptures and my other meaningful books, if I read poetry. I can do those things as lethargically or half-heartedly as I please, but if I touch them, even in a small way, they help me feel better. I'm also learning it helps tremendously to have something to do with my hands. I'm hand-binding a quilt I started before all this happened, and though I can hardly sew a straight line, I'm loving getting lost in the rhythm of it, and how easy it makes it to sit for longer, and astonishing that you can actually do this thing by hand, and low and behold, it stays! I'm finding I'm  not naturally a television watcher, but sometimes I need it, and I can watch just about anything if I'm doing something with my hands. This week a friend is coming to teach me to crochet, and I'm planning a very bright and gorgeous crocheted blanket for Baby. What else helps? Prayer. A lot of praying, over here.

I think that will do for now, and forgive me for such a long post. I figured I owed it to those of you who read and were concerned to know I didn't stay there forever, though I still visit that head space more than I'd like. Thank you again for reading, and for every kind thought and word.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Scenes of A Difficult Pregnancy

The ultrasound last Friday was lovely--one of the loveliest. We saw her hands and arms, her profile, her cute nose, her brain, and the beating chambers of her heart. And the ultrasound tech showed us how confident she was that that the baby was a girl. A girl. A girl! I felt pretty and motherly, wearing a polka dot blouse and vintage skirt.

And then everything got very dramatic. The tech told me to wait there, that she needed to show something to the radiologist, that after that the midwife would probably want to speak with me. She asked if I'd had any cramping, and I remembered the evening we had spent at the MFA the night before, how I had clutched my stomach as we walked down corridors and through large, beautiful rooms, and I told her, "Yes, actually."

I waited, we waited, wondering what it could be, but not concerned yet, not really. And she came back, and invited me into an office where people were entering information into computers, talking about what they'd had for lunch, and I picked up the phone she handed me, stood in the middle of the room, and listened. A shortened cervix. Two centimeters and soft, instead of a hard 4-5 centimeter fist, as it should be at this point. This means imminent delivery, a life-threatening prospect at 20 weeks. And then we were walking up to labor and delivery, numb, disoriented. And we sat for too long alone in a room meant for women who were about to deliver live, healthy, real babies. There was a poster on the wall, advocating keeping your baby close in the first days of life, and there was a picture of a mother and baby, a brand-new baby that didn't look all that brand-new, and the caption said, "First hug," and I hated that poster, I hated it so much. I wanted to tear it from the wall. I hated the room and everything in it that assumed everything was fine, that every pregnancy led to a baby. I expected to miscarry at any moment.

A midwife came in, a nurse, and they examined me, hooked me up to a monitor to see if I was having contractions, propped me up on a covered bedpan so she could get her fingers good and deep. My motherly outfit, my polka dot blouse and vintage skirt, seemed silly then, presumptuous, awkward for examination.

And she sent me home, told me bed rest, a prospect that on certain mornings, trying to drag myself to work, had seemed rather romantic, but after about ten minutes wasn't romantic at all. All week I sat, trying to rest, but mostly anxious, calling again and again to try to get an appointment with the high risk doctors, the appointment I'd been promised, but which didn't materialize. Every time I got up to use the restroom, I worried I was putting the baby's life at risk. And sometimes I'd call the midwives to ask a question, mostly clarifying what was meant exactly by "bed rest," but I learned quickly that once you've become high risk, the midwives don't (and can't) have much to do with you. I was between things, between help, which meant I was without it.

In an afternoon, my identity seemed to vanish, or at least contract. Think of this: think of your life, without any of things that make up your life. You may not like all the details, but imagine if they vanished. Imagine it without work, without trips to the grocery store, without eating out, without church, without shopping at thrift stores, without taking walks on sunny days, without driving in your car, without meeting friends for dinner or lunch or chatting, without bringing by dinner for a friend with a new baby, without trips to plays or movies or beaches or parks or bookstores. Summer plans--trips home to Utah, to Quebec for your 30th birthday, and dozens of small excursions you'd been cooking up--now impossible. And smaller, in your house, but without access to usual orbits: no new recipes, no recipes at all really, no loads of laundry, no ability to sit at the sewing machine and finish a quilt, no love-making, no implementing visions of the baby's nursery, no real guarantee, for all the hours you sit, that there will be a baby in need of a nursery. Every time you straighten something, every time you can't help yourself and put away the crackers in the pantry, the act feels treacherous, life-threatening, dismissive of the little life you're trying to grow, a life which feels more and less real than yours at the same time.

Let's be clear: I would trade a thousand summers for this baby to make it. I'd rather mourn a summer and my small life orbit than a baby. And I'm grateful, deeply grateful, for the series of flukes that led to the discovery of my incompetent cervix (the medical term for it, I kid you not). But these days are difficult. And the frantic, tedious, harrowing days I spent in the hospital late this week even more difficult. There are sweet moments, sure. Afternoon naps with my cat at my feet. Hours next to husband on the couch, our conversations about her name turning sweet and exasperating and silly. Lovely meals he makes for me and delivers to my reclining throne on the couch. The chance to read and read and read, and write and write and write. Overwhelmingly kind visits and gifts and meals from friends. But often I'm sad, deeply deeply sad, so sad nothing seems sweet at all, and I feel no real choice but to go to bed and hope for a better tomorrow.

Four months of this, if we're lucky to keep her long enough. I'm working on a vision of a vibrant intellectual existence, a world I can build in my mind. But in the meantime, sometimes, I can't muster it, I can't even begin to smell it. And I put my head down on the couch and tell Sam, my voice breaking, "I'm very sad." And he says, "I know, Sweetheart. I know."      

Friday, June 1, 2012

On Books That Saved My (Pregnant) Life

When I got pregnant again, I began to long for stories, for people to whisper in my ear what this felt like, so I could check it against my own feeling, and open up the experience for me. I didn't exactly know I was craving this until I found these three books and felt myself relax into them, and hold them dear in a way I haven't held books dear in a long time. In case you're in the market for a pregnancy read, or really just a good book, all of these were wonderful. Magnificent even, in some spots.

*Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother by Beth Ann Fennelly.  I've read (and really loved) Beth Ann Fennelly's poetry, so I was excited to discover this book, which is a collection of letters she wrote to a young friend and former student who was pregnant and far away from family. They're loose letters, meandering through her own experiences as a mother to a young child, and her memories of becoming and being pregnant (as well as of a miscarriage). They're gorgeous letters, is what they are. Honest and brave and sweet. I have a very clear memory of sitting with Sam by the Charles river after a picnic, and reading a particularly wonderful letter, and trying to read it to him, but just crying and crying instead. (Okay, many of my clear memories of pregnancy involve crying and crying.) I also loved this glimpse of Fennelly as a writer-mom, making it work, carving out hours for herself and for her writer-husband. She helped me begin working on my own writing again. All of these books did. Oh, she also helped me process the miscarriage a bit more, by calling it a death, and by giving herself permission to grieve it as such, it helped me realize that's what I'd done (am doing) and recognizing that process has been meaningful.

*Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family by Catherine Newman. This book is funny. Scene: I am riding the express bus home, sitting next to this little old man, reading this book. I'm pregnant, but no one in the world really knows it yet, and I'm sick pretty much all the time, though slowly coming out of it. And this woman, Catherine Newman, she's newly pregnant and very sick all of the time, and I'm reading the funny things she says about it, and I can't stop laughing. I try to stop laughing, I try valiantly, since it's not all that polite to laugh hysterically on the bus. People have very important and silent things they are doing on the bus, and hearing me laugh uproariously (at how true it is that food that nauseates you while pregnant is not just gross in the moment, but gross retroactively, like you spend a lot of time wondering how you could have ever eaten rice) is not something they care to do, I am sure of it. But really I fail to control myself, and by the time I get off, I am weeping and making all of these really weird sounds, and people are watching me, and once I've crossed the street and am walking through the neighborhood on my way to my house, past the dog and cat friends I say hello to every day, I let myself laugh, loud and big and long, I laugh and laugh, and cry and laugh, and it echoes off the houses, and I am so so grateful to Catherine Newman, who released this flood of joy in me. For a moment, just one tiny moment, I feel sad I'm not sick all the time anymore, since it seems so clearly a part of it, of being pregnant, and I had wished it all away, instead of writing something really beautifully hilarious about it, as Catherine Newman did. (My own complaint about the book: it comes from blog posts, and sometimes it really felt like it came from blog posts, if you know what I mean. Repetitive, overly chatty, episodic rather than a clean run of narrative. But I forgive it. All of it. Especially when I remember the story she tells later about her toddler son and the toilet and his monkey stuffed animal. I can still laugh so hard about that story that it hurts me.)

*The Blue Jay's Dance: A Memoir of Early Motherhood, by Louise Erdrich. This is the most lyrical of the three, and it's gorgeous. Erdrich has three children, and the book doesn't try to separate them out or worry much about time or which baby is which. She just glides you through her pregnancies and her experiences as a young mother as they appear relevant. She lives in the woods, and writes across the street from her house in a little cabin, and she takes baby over and takes care of her as she writes, and she watches birds and cats and other life out her window, and you just want to melt into the woods and be pregnant and writing and nursing forever and ever, amen.

I wish there were millions of these books. I wish I could read them for all ten months. Are there more I've missed? If so, do tell.

(Also worth reading: Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott, and Birth: A Literary Companion, edited by Kristin Kovacic and Lynne Barrett)