Yarn Along: Unraveling
I have no beautiful images to show of my knitting progress (nope, that’s not my work to the left; my creation is looking a lot worse, actually). Nervous, antsy hands led to a mistake I could not figure out how to correct, so I’ve had to start my humble, little scarf completely over. Sigh. So this isn’t really a typical Yarn Along post. It’s more about a revelation my unraveling scarf (and wise midwife) offered me this week.
As for books, I just enjoyed a completely frivolous, fictional read, thanks to a generous friend who mailed me a new copy of The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand to gobble up during bed rest after she saw that I mentioned wanting to take Betty Beguiles up on her endorsement of novels by this author. It was nice to insert my nose into a light, enjoyable read.
Now for the meat of my Yarn Along post. Be sure to check out Ginny’s place for real knitting and reading inspiration. My own contribution is more like me publicizing an agonizing internal conversation I had with myself earlier this week.
I had a prenatal appointment on Monday. I was nervous. I thought of bringing a book but ultimately decided to take along my current knitting project – that simple, soft, sea foam green scarf – instead to distract me from my nervousness. My parents were kind enough to take on the three girls while I went on my big outing for the week (besides Mass and a recent quick date night my wonderful husband surprised me with last night). I wore a cute, Asian-inspired maternity top splashed with colorful blossoms, painted my face with my full makeup routine (something I haven’t done much lately), and slipped on some fabulous (and cheap!) pink flats embellished with big blooms (no matter that Old Navy doesn’t carry my regular 5 – 5 1/2 shoe size; I’ve found I can make their size 6 shoes work just fine, especially when they’re that cute!).
When I arrived at the office, I felt flushed and even more jittery than before I got on the road. Every time I go to see my midwife since our pre-term labor scare at just over 29 weeks, my stomach twists and turns into knots. I don’t like clinical settings period. I really don’t like them when I’m faced with wondering just how much more quickly this ticking time bomb known as a gestating mama might appear to be ticking.
In the waiting room, I pulled out my knitting needles and started to knit. But I refused to lean back on the plush couch I was sitting on. I sat rigidly straight and poised to spring forward the moment my name was called. I refused to relax.
A young, new nurse just joined the staff. She was so sweet the last time I was there and asked if I was having my first baby.
“Fourth,” I told her like I was some wise, old pro. Only every pregnancy – especially when the finish line is in sight – makes me feel like I’m doing this for the first time.
The new nurse was there on this Monday, too. She called my name, took my blood pressure, and remembered that she’s not supposed to weigh me because doing so will cause my typically low blood pressure to skyrocket. (God bless her.) Instead, I whispered my weight to her – the number that registered on my home scale that morning where I could privately see how much I’d gained without too much anxiety. Old habits die hard. (For those of you new to my blog, I suffered from a clinical eating disorder and was not so long ago a total slave to the scale.)
Pregnancy, at times, offers me respite from thinking about my weight or worrying about it at all. Other times it makes me more aware of how little control I have, and I desperately want to find my equilibrium on the scale. With one of my four pregnancies I regrettably admit that I restricted what I ate in an effort to keep the number low. I ate healthy, but I often did not eat enough.
Another pregnancy was very liberating, and I felt beautiful and fertile and didn’t worry so much about what the scale or anyone else said. This pregnancy has been somewhere in the middle. I’m trying to not focus on how much weight I’ve gained and haven’t been restrictive. I ate peach cobbler on Sunday. The warm, sugary crumble and the sweet peaches were swimming in a lake of melting vanilla ice cream. It was delicious! During the more restrictive pregnancy I swore off anything sweet and yummy, so this would have been definite dietary contraband.
Yet, not being able to exercise for over a month now has taken its toll on me emotionally and physically. I feel achy and not like myself. I miss moving my muscles. I fear this baby’s going to be humongous because I’ve been giving myself permission to taste the sweetness of dishes like creamy peach cobbler without a dollop of guilt. Despite measuring one to two weeks behind (which has been the case in all of my pregnancies and seems to be a healthy norm for me), I feel like this baby is taking up a whole lot more space than my previous little ones. (This is partly due to the fact that I regularly feel his or her head move deep down in my pelvic region – what a weird sensation to constantly feel twinges in your cervix – and then I’ll also feel a kick closer to my ribcage and think, “How long is this guy or gal?”)
Being convinced a gargantuan baby has made his or her home in my womb because I’ve allowed myself to occasionally eat desserts? Irrational? Perhaps. Old demons have a way of resurrecting themselves when you find yourself at a vulnerable place. And any type of pregnancy complication makes you feel more vulnerable.
When the nurse was taking my blood pressure, she saw my knitting stuffed into my over-sized purse/diaper bag.
“Do you knit?”
“Sort of,” I admitted.
“What are you knitting?”
A HUGE BABY! (Ha-ha. Just kidding.)
“A scarf. That’s about all I can manage.”
“I tried knitting, but I just couldn’t get the hang of it. My sister is good at it though. Her hands move quickly. She just gets it.”
I shoved the needles and yarn more deeply into my purse and wished I’d brought a book instead.
When I was waiting in the examination room for my midwife, I tried to pray, but I couldn’t focus. I had one contraction that tightly gripped my body. I felt pressure very, very low and wondered if this was it. If all my waiting and resting had brought me here and that I might be delivering a baby at 34 weeks and 3 days.
I fiddled with my iPhone because that’s what you do when you’re afraid to do anything else, when you’re afraid there’s nothing you can do.
Then I saw that skein of yarn again, the unfinished scarf taunting me from inside my opened purse. What was I waiting for? Why did I care if some nice nurse’s sister was more skilled at knitting than I? Funny how I hid my knitting away when I was threatened with being less yet completely ignored the fact that the nurse had admitted she wasn’t a knitting wizard either.
I excavated my knitting gear from the bottomless pit I call a purse. I noticed a piece of the yarn had snagged on something – probably one of the many sticks or rocks my 4-year-old had gifted me with during a past outing. My purse was in need of a purge. But, oh, how I treasure those gifts my little girl freely and frequently offers me.
Maybe I was in need of a good purging, too. I needed to get all that gunk out that was still keeping me from focusing on progress.
(We really have come a long way, Baby!)
The snag didn’t look pretty. I resigned myself. So the scarf isn’t going to be perfect. Good news is its flaw isn’t even directly my fault. Snags happen.
I began to knit again. My stomach squeezed, clenched more tightly than a furled fist. Breathe, breathe, breathe. When the tightness and crampiness and radiating pain from the back to the front takes its hold of my body, I always remember what I was taught in my first Bradley class before my oldest was born. See the contraction as an ocean wave. Don’t fight it. Let it crest, peak, and then feel it break and then fade away until it’s just lapping gently on the shore. It may sound goofy, but giving into the pain – instead of fighting it – and visualizing something as peaceful yet powerful as an ocean wave works for me.
When the contraction passed, I noticed a loose stitch – not from the accidental snag, but something that was likely the root of my own negligence and incompetence as a knitter. I counted my rows. I’d done something wrong. It looked awful.
Maybe I can hide the flaw, I thought. But it was no use. I slid the rows off the slick needles. I began to unravel the scarf. I wanted to cry. (Stupid, crazy pregnancy hormones!) But I didn’t. Not yet.
When I started to feel another contraction coming on, I stashed the scarf and the needles away. There were bigger concerns than a knitting project gone wrong.
Diane, my midwife, finally came in and was as cheerful and as comforting as ever. But I’d forgotten to zip my purse back up, and she noticed the knitting right away.
“Do you knit?”
Here we go again.
“Not well,” I said.
“What were you knitting?”
“Just a scarf,” I said.
“Can I see it?”
“Well, I messed up, so it’s unraveling now. I pulled it off the needles and will have to start over,” I admitted. I reluctantly showed her the fibrous detritus.
“I just started knitting again,” I added to help explain why it looked so awful. “I decided it was good for me since I’m not so good at it. Might help squash some of my perfectionism.” (Diane had me pegged as a control freak, perfectionist the first time I showed up at her office several years ago armed with my spiffy NFP charts, wondering why I couldn’t control when I could get pregnant with my second child.)
“The scarves I knit for my daughter are too perfect,” Diane said. “Too tightly knit. My daughter doesn’t like them. They don’t have any character.”
Then it was onto talking about the baby.
At first I put on my best smile to match my cute outfit, but inside I felt like I was unraveling, too.
I received good news. No further cervical changes. “The baby couldn’t get any lower,” my midwife said, “but your cervix opening has moved slightly to the side so there’s not as much pressure. I think the bed rest has really been working.”
I didn’t understand how a cervix could move. I said so. She explained it, but I wasn’t really listening. I was thinking about what she’d just said about her scarves being too perfect.
I started to really unravel now. I started to cry.
“This is so hard,” I said. She listened and hugged me. She’s more than a healthcare provider; she’s become a true friend. “Please understand, I don’t want to have the baby now. You know I believe in letting babies come in their own time, but I’m tired of wondering when, too. There’s just so much pressure.”
She knew I wasn’t only referring to the intense physical pressure of carrying a baby fully engaged estimated to be at about station 2+ for over a month now but also the emotional pressure, the anxiety over every twinge and contraction – contractions that can fall into a pattern and feel like the real thing, the kind of pains I’ve only experienced in previous pregnancies just before the transition stage of labor.
(I had to see a doctor in my midwife’s practice for the first time recently. He was nice enough, but he did tell me my contractions weren’t real. May I remind you he was a man who has never experienced a real or fake contraction for that matter? I know what he was getting at; the contractions were not rapidly leading to any significant cervical changes. Therefore, it wasn’t real labor. My husband and I joke that I seem to be in early labor for a few months and then immediately go into transition mode on the day I’m going to have a baby. But still. I’ve been blessed to have had three natural childbirths. I know the difference between an uncomfortable twinge or tightening and the real thing.)
Then there are those previously mentioned fears that this baby is huge because I haven’t had the kind of nausea I had with previous pregnancies, and I’ve also been trying to fatten the baby up since I have smallish babies and I thought he or she was going to come way too early.
“I’ve been struggling, Diane,” I confessed. “I hate it. I don’t know where these feelings are coming from, but I feel like this baby is huge. I’ve gained seven more pounds than I did with Mary Elizabeth.”
“You look great,” she said.
“It’s not even about how I look or how much I weigh. It’s about not being control.”
“Everything in life is about not being in control,” she said.
And everything approached in faith is about relinquishing control.
She had me get an ultrasound. I’ve never had so many ultrasounds in my life during a pregnancy. That’s what a possible placental tear, a vanishing twin, and pre-term labor will get you, I suppose. It has been nice to see my baby more frequently.
During this particular scan, the ultrasound tech said it was difficult to get an accurate measurement of the head because it was so low, but that the head looked big. Um, maybe that’s something you should keep to yourself. Or just go ahead and tell any mom who’s on the verge of going into labor that her baby’s head is very petite instead.
The baby was estimated to weigh about 5 pounds 4 ounces (the ultrasound tech said the big head might have thrown things off). I’m generally against ultrasounds to check for size because I know how inaccurate they can be and that they can send a mom into an unnecessary panic (I had a friend who was told her baby was estimated to be around 9 pounds; a few weeks later she gave birth to a 7-pounder). Yet, this ultrasound was showing my baby – except for its freakishly large noggin – was well within the healthy, normal range for his/her gestational age.
“Baby’s the perfect size,” Diane cheered.
I didn’t see it as that though.
“But Mary Elizabeth was only a few ounces over 5 pounds at 38 weeks!” I said to Diane. “What if I go another six weeks and have a monstrously large baby?”
“If you make it six weeks, I’ll buy you a house,” my midwife said, smiling. “And you don’t have monstrously large babies, but a slightly bigger baby is good thing. It just might sleep better.”
Seeing my uncertain expression, she picked up on the fact that even more sleep wasn’t a good enough incentive for me having a bigger baby.
(What is it with this lady and big babies? I thought this was a knitting post anyway, you might be wondering. Well, I’m trying to avoid going into every detail of my past pregnancies, but part of my fear about having a bigger baby stems from my first prenatal experience. With my oldest, we lived in a different town, and I saw midwives at an academic medical center. For some reason (I heard a rumor that there had recently been a very traumatic delivery involving a macrosomic baby) they were obsessed with the potential dangers of big babies and were very vigilant about my weight gain and were always reminding me that my small frame might not be cut out to have a big baby. Whereas Diane has told me my body was designed to do labor well. Pregnancy, not so much. Madeline (my oldest) was born a week early and was my heaviest baby, weighing in at a whopping 6 pounds 15 ounces. It took about 20 minutes of pushing for this small-hipped mama to get her out of my body and into my arms. Don’t hate me, but I almost gave birth to Mary Elizabeth standing up. One push, and she was out. Oh, how I’m praying I will be blessed with as beautiful of a labor experience as I had with my other children. Hopefully, the baby’s big head won’t get in the way. )
“You’re fine. The baby’s fine. It’s going to be fine,” Diane added.
I thought of the frayed wad of yarn in my purse, how I needed to not give up and either decide to fix it somehow or just start over. It wouldn’t be so bad. Humbling yourself even as a knitter and starting over teaches patience. So does bed rest and over-anxious cervixes. Maybe I need to start heeding all of these lessons being hurled in my direction.
I considered my frayed emotions, too, how for weeks I’d been handling myself and the incertitude surrounding my pregnancy and the threat of pre-term labor with aplomb and grace but how I’d recently faltered, tried to cover it up at first, but then allowed my fear and even some ghosts from my past that still come back to haunt me from time to time to be visible to a friend (and always, always to my husband and to Mom).
Diane saw the tangled mess that was me and loved me anyhow.”Thanks for the therapy session,” I joked as I was getting ready to leave.
“I wish you could see what I see,” said Diane.
What does she see? What should I see?
That I possess character because of all that I do right and because of all the things I might do wrong? That I ought to own up to my failures but share my successes, too? That I, like everyone else, was created not for perfection but to be perfectible in and through Him?
Life sometimes feels like it’s unraveling. There’s so much I can’t control. Limbo is a scary place to be. But I have true friends, an amazing family, and a loving husband to help carry me through.
I also have to believe I have a God who never wants me to settle for less than my worth, to give up trying, or to bury my mistakes or my loose ends beneath a veneer of perfection. My God is a God who invites me to surrender everything to Him and to offer my threadbare self so that He might help to knit me back together in hopes that I might be whole, if not beautifully flawed.