A blog about babies: the babies I lost, the babies I never had, the baby who made me a Mama.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Raveled Sleeve of Care; or, Knitting for the Nonexistent

You probably don't know this about me, but I'm a knitter. My best friend taught me in my junior year of college (so around 2001) and I started making scarves and hats and mittens and even sweaters, all of which were completely unappreciated by my family, who soon asked me to return to buying them gifts instead of making them. (Lawyer Guy never received a knitted gift in those days, as I stuck to the maxim that a woman never knits for a man until she is married. After our wedding I made him a Christmas stocking).

But I kept on knitting because I liked it and found it relaxing and engrossing and satisfying. And I kept knitting unwanted and unworn gifts, because knitting for myself never inspired me in the same way that knitting for others did. And so this state of affairs continued...until I made a happy discovery.

Baby knits!

They were the answer to all my dreams. They are cute. They are small (so they don't take as much time). Babies are always growing, so fit matters less (no guage swatching necessary). And prospective or new parents LOVE getting handknits, even imperfect ones.

Thus began my career as a knitter for babies. I made sweaters, shrugs, sweater vests, toys, booties, and hats. But my crowning achievement was the blanket I made for my niece when she was born. $500 worth of pale pink cashmere yarn in an intricate waffle pattern, with a scalloped crocheted border and a white velvet ribbon woven through the border loops. It took five months of steady work, the ripping and reknitting of countless stitches, and many lessons in crocheting, which I taught myself (I ripped out that border three times before I was satisfied). But it is beautiful and the in-laws loved it, despite Lawyer Guy's warnings that they wouldn't appreciate a handmade gift.

About a year ago, I had two close pregnant friends and plans to knit blankets for each of their babies. I bought the yarn and went to work, thinking to myself These are the last gifts I'll make before knitting for my own baby.

I never finished them. I haven't touched them since June. I bought them gifts off their registries.

When I was pregnant, I planned out a list of gender neutral knits I'd make for the m&m--I'd finish the two blankets I already started (nicely, one of them is chocolate and green, similar to the colors we've picked out for our nursery) and get to work on some sweaters and outfits for both boys and girls.

But I didn't actually start (or restart) any of these projects. I wanted to wait until I felt "secure." I wanted that strong heartbeat. Every day I thought of the things I would do to prepare for my baby, but I didn't feel comfortable enough to do them.

Now, I don't knit at all. I tell myself I don't have a lot of free time for knitting, with all the reading I have to do, but that was always the case, and I used to find time.

I just don't want to knit for other people's babies. I don't want to knit for the upcoming Niece #2, and I feel bad about that, like she's already getting the second child's familial neglect. But I just can't do it. I can't make my hands work for other people's children anymore.

I think I'm going to start knitting for my own. I've held off for a year, afraid of "getting my hopes up" or "setting myself up for disappointment." But my hopes have already been dashed and knitting can't possibly make me feel more disappointed than I already do. I no longer believe my baby will magically come if I just pretend I'm not waiting for it. I no longer believe that acting as though pregnancy is the farthest thing from my mind will help it arrive sooner.

I just want to start getting ready for my baby. I know he or she may take a very long time to get here. I've learned the lessons about counting chickens and banking on potentialities. But I like to knit. I like to knit for babies. I think this might make me happy.

Maybe I'm actually getting better at the waiting.


  1. When I was teaching myself to sew, I started with baby stuff because it was cute, small and easy to work with. It was the perfect way to get started. No one I knew was pregnant at the time, but as the years have passed, these little onesies, burp cloths, etc, have been the perfect gifts for baby showers.

    And as much as I love it, it was very difficult to make baby gifts for other people as I struggled to get pregnant. Sure, I love doing it & yes, it makes me feel good to give people a gift of my time in addition to my money, but every time I would ask, "When is it going to be my turn??!"

    I'm dying to learn how to knit-- baby hats, booties, blankets, sweaters... A friend gave me a gift certificate for a knit shop here recently and I just need to take the time to go to one of their beginners sessions. (They're on Thursday nights and I never seem to make it over there.)

    I haven't made a single thing for Baby Blakely yet-- I'm sure I will eventually. I'm going to have to learn some new tricks if this baby is a boy-- I make dresses for little girls. I've never made anything for a little boy! Going to have to get a john-john pattern or something.

    A retail store in SC will be selling some of my things when they open in the next few weeks, so I really need to do build up some inventory. Just can't seem to make the time.

    I hope that you can get back into knitting-- If it's anything like sewing is for me, it's so soothing. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. And maybe the preparing for your baby will help as you wait for it.


  2. I wonder about this too-- I spend so much of my time and mental energy trying to convince myself that I am NOT waiting for a baby, that it is OK if I don't get one, etc... and it is just this ridiculous oxymoron, or some sort of Evil Circus Feedback Loop going on in my brain, in which I chronically and consistently spend 99% of my mental energy concentrating on ignoring this situation!!! It is sort of comic, really.

    I think you are on to something here. I'm glad you had this breakthrough, and you'll have to post pictures of your knits. I'll bet they are really beautiful. The cashmere blanket sounds amazing-- make me one! :)

  3. I love this:
    "I no longer believe my baby will magically come if I just pretend I'm not waiting for it. I no longer believe that acting as though pregnancy is the farthest thing from my mind will help it arrive sooner."
    So true. And something I've been thinking about a lot lately. Throughout my life I've always set myself up for disappointment in hopes that I'll be pleasantly surprised. I used to act the same way about pregnancy - now that it's been so long there's no pretending anymore. It's all I want.
    Anyway, you are so talented and I really hope you continue to knit. Sounds like it is soothing and relaxing and just what you need.

  4. I feel you. Making a baby quilt for my best friend was tough. I tried to feel nothing but love while making it, but tears were shed. I am really hoping I don't have to make too many more quilts for other people. I think your plan to start making things for your own child is a nice one. Like you said, you're not fooling anyone by pretending not to think about it. And wow, the cashmere blanket sounds amazing!

  5. I am a huge knitter, too. I did a baby blanket for my new niece and a pair of mitts and booties for a baby born to a friend I work with, and I do have a baby blanket started for myself, but I have gotten so discouraged with TTC that I've kinda put knitting on the back burner. I'm sure once I finally get that BFP I'll get back to it.....and I'll knit stuff for your baby when he or she comes and send it to you! :)

  6. Ditto APlusB's comment. That sentence really hit home for me too. I recently started a sidebar on my blog called "Verbatim" where I'm collecting quotes that are powerful and meaningful to me. This one is going up there! It's so true...it's like, if I articulate my dreams, that some cosmic source will strike them down and say "noooo, you can't have something because you want it too much." The fact is, pregnancy will happen or not happen despite our worry, fear, obsession, hope, desire....we can't control it. I hope getting back into knitting will bring you some peace.

  7. OMG, I totally agree with what everyone is saying about that quote...LOVE IT! And it's so true, where did we all learn that pretending we didn't want it, would make it come faster? Why is it so hard to admit we want it and just believe, and really mean it? This quote is SO going to be my inspiration as I embark down the IVF road, so thank you!!!

    And that blanket you made sounds amazing, you need to post pictures when you finish your next project. I totally taught myself to knit a few years back, but then moved onto other projects. I would so to get back into it, something to put on my to do list!

  8. I just found your blog through Leslie and saw this post. I wanted to ask you something, please disregard it if you think it will just make you sad.

    Would you consider knitting for babies that don't make it? When my son was born still the hospital had a standard preemie size, white, cotton, probably made in china hat. It bugged me so much that I didn't have something handmade for him that I am now learning to knit so that won't happen again (expecting another dead baby? noooo, not me).

    There are lots of people that knit things for babies in the NICU, but not many that knit for "fetal demises". It is sad work but believe me, the parents would be grateful.

    It's just a thought - feel free to ignore it :)