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Before my daughter's birth, I was, at best, a sporadic knitter, a dilettante in the world of fiber and needles. Every few moons I'd trek out to my local yarn shop, chit-chat with the proprietess, fondle gorgeous skeins, envision luscious sweaters, and, invariably, buy just one hank of a luxurious yarn. Then, without fail, I'd knit a hat, which would take another few months to complete. The cycle would repeat.

It was always the same basic hat that would labor off of my circular needles, a pattern that required only the knit stitch and a robust appetite for monotony. While I would put my knit stitch (and my purl, for that matter) up against the best of them, I have never been known for my attention span. Half-finished hats would languish in my knitting bag, only worked on in odd little bursts.

When my pregnancy became obvious, the second question--the first always was "boy or girl?" -- was always if I was planning to knit some booties for the babe. My answer was always negative. "I only know how to knit hats," I'd say, and while that was true, my larger fear was that I'd never finish a project before the child was in college.

In June of 2002, after a fairly uneventful delivery, Maddy arrived. Then my life wobbled off its axis.

With first babies come many surprises. Most are delightful. Who knew, for example, that such tiny toes could be so perfectly formed? Some surprises are less pleasant. No matter how much newborn experience you have, the arrival of your own can't help but pitch your life into a disordered haze of little sleep, occasional panics, and constant demands.

Most new moms wrestle with the baby blues, a brief, post-natal period of mild depression characterized by roller-coastering emotions and disturbed sleep and eating habits. The blues resolve themselves in a couple of days. Except, mine didn't. Two weeks after Maddy's birth, I had slept one hour out of the last 72, could not get through an entire sentence without crying, and was starting to fantazise about doing something awful to myself, simply so that I could get a break from my misery. When I called my OB for the tenth time that week, she urged me to go to the ER. Once Maddy was safely in her father's arms, I went. And I wouldn't get out of the hospital for five days.

Rather than a case of the mild-by-comparison baby blues, I'd sunk into a big, fat post-partum depression fugue. After a brief stay on a regular hospital floor, I was transfered up to the psych ward, a place I'd never envisioned myself landing. Previous to this, my life was wonderful, full of a supportive spouse, a satisfying career, and spirited friends. But you can't escape history, the sages say, and my own hillbilly gothic roots are riddled with emotional instability. Rather than send a layette, my family gifted me with a tendency for clinical depression.

Odd as it sounds, my stay on the psych ward was a gift. It is not a place that I'd care to return, granted, but it was the place I need to be. In addition to ready access to therapy, the ward also combatted the enemy of the depressed person--free time in which to dwell on all of life's real (and imagined) problems. The ward would sop up these idle minutes, whether it be by reassembling jigsaw puzzles, playing cards, or just talking to fellow patients.

Once sprung, I was suddenly faced with filling my mothering down time. Since I still couldn't easily sleep, naps weren't a viable option. Since Maddy prefered to nap on me, I would be pinned whenever she snoozed. My knitting bag was generally within arm's reach and my neglected hats provided the perfect panacea. Their simplicty was ideal and the monotony a moving meditation. I could pick one up and immediately know what to do without having to refer to charts or instructions. For those first few weeks, I churned out one every couple of days and took the baby for outings to the local yarn shop when my scant stash went dry. I began to feel like Dr. Seuss' Bartholomew Cubbins, knee-deep in 500 hats. I gave a few as gifts, some to charity, and one still waits for the perfect owner.

Three months later, I discovered the perfect baby sweater pattern and itched to see my child wear something I crafted. The going was easy at first, consisting of stripes in garter stitch. Then my novice skills were stretched when it was time to shape the neckline and, later, when it was time to make the sleeves. Seaming and blocking were a new adventure. The finished product was a wonder to me. Not only did it look pretty good, I'd finished it in plenty of time for Maddy to wear during her first winter. She, of course, looks adorable in it.

That first tentative step outside of my world of hats was such a rousing success that I've started another for an expectant friend's baby. As the depression further lifts and my confidence in both mothering and knitting grows, I dream of something more challenging, like some socks or an hour of giggles and smiles. As corny as it sounds, wellness really can be measured by such small things, created just one stitch at a time.


In the last six months, Adrienne has completed a two baby sweaters, one sock, and countless scarves. Currently, she's pondering how to knit an eye bag for yoga class.

In the writing world, her work can be found in Interweave Knits, where she recently wrote about camp; at, where she writes about mamahood; and where she writes about Knoxville, Tennessee.