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
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
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.