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)