A life update

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Life has continued apace here, and as Mabel is still not sleeping through the night (please tell me that’s normal?!) spare time is very scarce and usually spent cleaning or knitting. *sigh* But I did want to check in here; maybe once a month is a reasonable target? I don’t know how mum bloggers find the energy – I admire them so much! I am really missing writing here, and indeed doing stuff that is worth writing about. Also, with Mabel around I am often reduced to one hand, which means using my phone rather than my laptop. Writing is much more comfortable on my laptop, though, as is commenting. I am feeling very sad that recently I’ve not been commenting on many blog posts as it seems to keep failing on my iPhone. So I’m sorry if I used to comment and seem to have stopped – there’s a good chance I’ve tried and it didn’t work. 😦

In general things have been pretty mundane (in a good way), but here’s a recap:

A trip to the U.S.IMG_2280

We had been going back and forth about when to visit my family so they could meet Mabel since she was born. I was keen to go as soon as possible, while R wanted to wait. In the end, my grandmother’s death was the push we needed to get us to go sooner rather than later. Sadly we couldn’t organize the trip quickly enough to attend the funeral, but nonetheless we thought a visit would cheer up my dad (who also lost his partner of over 20 years earlier this year). It certainly did the trick! He was thrilled to meet Mabel. So were my sister, nieces, and mom. Mabel was on her best behavior and impressed everyone, hooray! She even did really well on the flight, which involved 2 layovers, and on a nearly 6 hour train trip between St. Louis and Chicago. Hopefully this means she’ll grow up to be a traveller. πŸ™‚ It was also nice to be home and see my mom’s garden.

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In front of our family tree, which Mom planted as a wedding gift.

A slow return to hobbies

Mabel is now sleeping well enough that I can stay up for an hour or two after she’s in bed, which means I’ve been able to think about other things. I’ve done a tiny bit of reading and a tiny bit of knitting (more on that soon, hopefully) and thought about projects. The tricky part will be deciding which projects to pursue – which ones are actually manageable.

Spring & the allotment

Isn’t life so much better when it’s warm outside? I am so glad I don’t have to wear a jacket every day now. The sunshine makes me so happy, too. And the flowers, and the blue skies…I know it will rain a lot and be quite grey over the next few months, because England is even in the summer, so I am doing my best to revel in it while I can. News about the allotment is unfortunately less positive. I have not managed to keep up since having Mabel and it is now a properly overgrown wilderness. I have only managed to plant two rows of potatoes all year! This is mainly because Mabel hates the allotment. Really hates it! She screams every time we go, so I can’t leave her to play and do digging like I planned. It’s such a shame, but I think that might mean it’s time for me to give it up. We shall see.

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Mabel turned 6 months old today! I can’t believe it. There have been concerns about her weight since she was only a couple of months old, and unfortunately those are continuing as she is still dropping percentiles. She is still exclusively breastfeeding, so of course about 90% of the time I am convinced it is my fault. We’ll see what the pediatrician says when we see him in a couple of weeks. We’ll have introduced solids by then so fingers crossed that helps. In spite of this, though, Mabel is the most active of all the babies I know. She wriggles and rolls and tries to stand, though she is rubbish at sitting. She is also super curious and reaches out for anything within range. She seems particularly fond of paper, and keeping her from eating it is already a challenge as it tears if I try to take it out of her hands. She also finally enjoys playing with other babies, which is super cute.

BPSW8957On a personal level, I am now actively enjoying being a mom. I finished my CBT a couple of weeks ago and something has definitely clicked. I still don’t really know what I’m doing, but I am starting to feel more confident. This is probably in part because Mabel is generally a content baby now. Not working feels much more normal than I anticipated, too. I have also finally started to make real new friends; luckily I met a group of people who I have more in common with than being a mom. In particular, we’re all fond of charity shopping, hooray! I think this has made everything feel a lot more manageable. At least socially…not going to lie, I have definitely still not gotten the hang of doing housework while looking after her. The next hurdle is starting to think about going back to work. The plan is that I will go back to one of my jobs earlier than the other. But the truth is that I think I may struggle with going back to work 4 days a week as I initially thought; I am going to miss her so much. She is also already showing signs of separation anxiety and often cries if I leave the room or if anyone, occasionally even her dad, holds her. It’s exhausting, but at least it means I know she loves me; I have to cling on to that because most days I still feel like a failure at least once.

So that’s my life in a nutshell. What have you been up to?

 

5 happy things – early spring edition

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Hooray, it’s finally spring! There may have been snow a few weeks ago, but flowers are blooming, BST has started, and I haven’t had to wear a hat every day, so in my book winter has now passed. Thank goodness for that. I’ve noticed a distinct improvement in my mood recently, so I thought I’d share a few of the things that are standing out, just to help me get back into the swing of blogging (if Mabel allows me to carry on!).

CBT

When discussing my PPD with doctors/health visitors, I decided to opt for CBT rather than medication. Medication can be really helpful, but for me it was always going to be a last resort rather than first. I had a feeling it wouldn’t take too long to get myself sorted out, and I think I’ve been fortunate enough to be right. While I still struggle with nights sometimes, overall I think the CBT is helping me cope better. I’m finding the counselor’s recommendation of analyzing the emotions that accompany or trigger particular thoughts particularly helpful, and I think it is helping me pause/reflect more during my bad moments.

Sling

I am still not especially confident with using Mabel’s sling, but I have to say having the option of using it is amazing. A few hours out without a pram is a real treat. Before I had her, I remember that I couldn’t imagine myself pushing a pram, and one of my few regrets is that I didn’t learn more about babywearing before having her or sooner after she was born. My pram is bright and fun and really convenient, but I have to say I hate feeling like I’m in everyone’s way. Also, do you know how many charity shops you can get into with a pram? Not many! Good for my wallet, yes, but it makes me a little sad to be missing out on potential treasures.

Plans for making

Does spring make anyone else feel more creative? Almost as soon as the days started getting longer, ideas finally started pouring back into my head. Obviously I am aware it’s not realistic for me to assume I’ll actually find the time and/or hands to do everything, but some are probably achievable. Plus, it’s so nice to think about something related to my pre-Mabel identity. So far potential plans include a wrap nursing dress, the embroidery sampler for my friends (a belated wedding present), and a baby cardigan for my jobshare partner who is due to have her baby any day now!

Cooking

Busyness is now the new normal, and I think I’m finally starting to (slowly) adjust. In the past couple of weeks I’ve actually been able to cook proper meals again. Today, for example, I made scones. Bliss! I love being in the kitchen again.

Flowers

Nothing says spring like flowers. πŸ™‚ It is so nice to see a friendly bloom when walking down the street, whether that be in a garden or at the local flower stand.

I know this is brief, but I would love to hear what’s made you happy recently, too.

Recent reads, February

img_1459I am so happy that I managed to read a couple of books this month! I am really missing my hobbies, and it feels like a big accomplishment to have learned to read one-handed while feeding Mabel. Finishing a book feels even more amazing! Both of my reads this month (okay, since November) are popular recent (by my standards) titles centering around women’s relationships and roles in society.

Women and Power: A Manifesto, Mary Beard

I’ve not read anything by Beard before, but was looking forward to this after a friend recommended it. In the end, though, I gave it only 3 stars on Goodreads. The subtitle of this book is <em>A Manifesto</em> and for me that’s where it fell short. To be fair, this book is based on a series of oral lectures, and I find this often doesn’t translate well into written books. The intention/purpose is different, and so inherently are the means used to achieve those. More on this later in the post. The upshot is, I judged this book as a manifesto and to me, it wasn’t a good one.

Beard is a classicist, so I guess it’s no surprise that the parallels she drew between Greek and Roman civilization/literature and today’s society were compelling. It was frankly depressing to read about how the same stereotypes about women that were established so long ago continue, though – think the Medusa figure, women speaking in public being shrill, etc. I found these discussions fascinating, but to me the book never really went further than this into the territory of being a manifesto. Beard does pose questions about what we can do to change the situation and says the only way to change things is to change the structure and how society perceives what power is. The ideas were interesting but I found them underdeveloped; I would have loved to see Beard cite some modern feminist theory, perhaps. I think this is where the lecture/book difference comes in. For me it’s acceptable for lectures/speeches to be a little off the cuff and have fewer sources in a way that I’m not happy for books to be. The notes/bibliography at the end were great, though! Overall I’m glad I read it; I would recommend it to others, and it was thought-provoking at the time. I’m not yet convinced that I’ll find it memorable or worth rereading yet, though. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante

This novel is much acclaimed, both critically and amongst my friends, so it’s another one I was looking forward to reading. It tells the story of two girls growing up in a poor part of Sicily and is set in the 1950s; it’s also the first in a quartet. I really enjoyed it! I’m not sure it 100% lived up to the hype, but it was an excellent, engrossing book that I would probably read again. I am a sucker for <em>bildungsroman</em>, and this novel is pretty good as an example of the genre. The writing is clear and precise, and the character development is excellent. I also found it a realistic portrayal of childhood &amp; often made me think of moments from my own. I wasn’t absolutely sold on the beginning (it felt forced, particularly when the rest flowed so well), but am looking forward to seeing if that short narrative is further developed in the rest of the quartet.

I’m continuing the theme of female authors by reading Louise Erdrich at the moment. I’ve also got Knitlandia on the go. I bought the latter to read in hospital when I had Mabel. How naive! I’m enjoying it, though, and should be able to finish it this week.

Have you read either of these books? Any other female authors I should be reading this month? I’d love your thoughts.

 

Something different: a silver jewellery workshop with Helen London

img_0260img_0254Way back in my days of maternity leave, I decided that I wanted to do at least one craft workshop. I have a major guilt complex and feel terrible anytime I spend money on myself. But at the same time, I recognized that being able to a) spend money on myself and b) spend an entire day without a baby would be even more difficult once the baby arrived. So that was my decision made, and I spent a few weeks trawling the internet, looking for workshops and events within a reasonable distance and that I could afford. I’d hoped to do a silver enamelling workshop, but unfortunately I couldn’t find one. I did, however, come across (I can’t remember where) a silver workshop just down the road from my in-laws, run by Helen London. I signed up for it because it was so easy to get to, reasonably priced, and, as a bonus, I loved the examples of Helen’s work that she shared on her website.Β  I felt like she would understand my interest in small details. Plus, her website said this was her first class after maternity leave, so I knew she’d be aware of any potential health & safety risks, and was likely to not resent having a heavily pregnant woman there!

I arrived with no real expectations, but was greeted in a room outside the workshop by two other students, plus Helen’s mum, son, and 2 dogs! No doubt the latter aren’t at every class, but I thought it was wonderful that they’d come along to support her for her first post-maternity leave class. It also gave a sense of Helen’s friendly & supportive personality, which carried through into her teaching.

img_0257We started the day by learning basic techniques – piercing (cutting the silver), soldering, different ways of applying textures, etc. – and learning how to tell when the silver was at the right temperature to be worked with. Helen demonstrated the techniques before letting us have a go and helping us at our stations when needed. This was the most frustrating part of the day for me. While it was supposed to be done slowly and patiently, the other students were faster learners than me, so I got a little frustrated, especially when piercing in this case. Getting a tiny, tiny saw to do what you want is hard! There may or may not have been tears…don’t judge me, I was hormonal! But my frustration wasn’t a reflection of Helen’s teaching; she was patient and encouraging throughout. Getting to use the equipment was quite fun; there was a steel roller for patterning, a block set up to pull and shape silver wire, and of course mini blow torches for melting the silver and making it malleable. One of the coolest things was making silver balls – watching a tiny piece of metal melt and pop into a perfect sphere is magic! You can see why they ended up in my final piece of jewelry.

img_0253We had a lunch break (we brought our own), then spent the afternoon working on our own projects. I would suggest planning ahead a little more than I did, and having a rough idea of what you might like to make if you do a similar workshop. I’d brought some inspiration in the form of my favorite jewelry, and Helen had several magazines and examples of other students’ work on hand as well, but choosing what to make and refining the design took quite a while. In the end I made a bracelet inspired by my wedding earrings; I wanted something swirly, fluid, and detailed. And there was my downfall! I was a little overambitious for the time we had. I used several of the techniques I learned in the morning to create individual bracelet links by bending sterling silver wire with pliers, making silver pearls, and soldering them into the curves of the links. We had about 4 hours in the afternoon to work on our own projects, and all my work took…probably about 6! Oops. In the end, I made the individual links and Helen soldered the jump rings on and helped me attach the links to each other, as it would just have taken far too long for me to do it on my own.

The most magical part of the day was seeing everything after it had been tumbled (I’m sure that’s not the technical term, but that’s what it seemed like!) Before that, the silver looks quite tarnished from solder, changes in temperature, etc. All the polishing came from this final tumble, and you can see what a huge difference it makes!

P1090797P1090791If I could go back, the only thing I’d change would be choosing a simpler design. That said, I do absolutely love my bracelet and have already shown it off several times!

Have you taken any similar workshops? How were they?

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On postpartum depression

IMG_0247.JPGGoodness, it’s been a while since I wrote a post! I have been missing Pastry & Purls, but again, the lack of hands has meant I’ve not been able to sit down and type. However, I have still been posting on Instagram, so do pop over if you’d like. (Just to warn you, the account is currently private for various reasons, but do drop me a message/request to follow me if interested.) There are a few things I’d like to write about here. Most can wait, but I think postpartum depression is worth writing about sooner rather than later.

The NHS website says that 1 in 10 women will experience postpartum depression within a year of giving birth; the American Pregnancy Association says 15%; the WHO says 13% worldwide. And these figures are just mums; dads can also experience postpartum depression. You get the idea – while not everyone will experience postpartum depression (postnatal deprssion in the UK), it’s fairly common. I have a previous history of depression, so I wasn’t surprised when I was diagnosed with PPD when Mabel was 4 weeks old. I had spent the past 2 weeks crying every day, convinced I was a terrible mom, not able to sleep at all (even apart from making sure Mabel was fed/sleeping), and feeling overwhelmed. I know a lot of this is normal for the early days of motherhood. It’s a huge lifestyle change & a tremendous responsibility. The baby blues are also quite common, but those are supposed to happen in the first two weeks, and I was fine those two weeks. R was home, Mabel spent lots and lots of time sleeping, she didn’t cry that often (I know, how lucky am I?), and I was discharged from the midwife after the standard 10 days. It was after that things started going downhill. I lost interest in eating; I spent whole days obsessing about what a vile human being and mom I was; I spent hours sobbing; I was convinced it was my fault Mabel was screaming and couldn’t help feeling guilty when I couldn’t figure out what was wrong (turns out she had silent reflux). I loved Mabel, but it didn’t feel like she belonged to me, and I really was not enjoying looking after her; everything was rote and duty. Honestly, there was no pleasure. I loved Mabel and never got frustrated with her (only very, very frustrated with myself), but I found the lack of time to myself completely overwhelming. I felt extra guilty for feeling this way after a miscarriage, keenly aware of how lucky I was toΒ have Mabel at all.

I don’t know how much of that’s normal, but I do know from years of depression that these are all classic signs that I’m depressed. Specifically, the food and sleep issues, along with the self-loathing (to put it mildly) and guilt suggested that something was off kilter. In some ways I am lucky that I have previous experience of depression as a comparison. As a new mum, realistically I can imagine myself assuming all those feelings are completely normal and ignoring them. I was able to talk to people close to me about the risk of postpartum depression before I had Mabel because I was aware of the risks and signs. I only spoke to my health visitor about PPD when it was happening at the firm behest of my husband, mum, and friends because they were worried about me.

Well, their encouragement and one scary moment at 3 a.m. You see, while I have talked about my depression in the past, the thing I don’t talk about is the self-harm. This is the first time I’ve ever written it down, because I’m so ashamed of it. I’m still not comfortable sharing the details, but suffice it to say that I don’t cope very well in the small hours and, in my frustration with myself for not being able to calm Mabel down, passed her to R and hurt myself. It didn’t feel very significant at the time, but actually it’s looking like I may end up having scars from it. Even in my sleep-deprived state I knew this wasn’t normal and agreed (again, at my husband’s suggestion/insistence) to book an emergency appointment with my GP.

And honestly? He, my health visitor, and the local mental health services have been really responsive. I admit parts haven’t been very smooth (mainly the link with the local mental health service), but it was taken seriously without me being made to feel like I was irrational or blowing things out of proportion. I was lucky; we noticed it quite early, so for me it was a case of monitoring (I was offered medication but chose not to take it as I wasn’t sure how long this would last and hoped identifying it early would mean I could take a different treatment approach).

Between professional support and the realization that it’s okay to be an introverted parent and need time to myself, I am happy to say that I think the worst is over. There haven’t been any repeat incidents and I’ve not had any suicide ideation (which is the next step for me, usually). Some nights are still hard, but I’ve identified some coping strategies.

I’m not sharing this for pity or praise, but just so that if you are going through this you know you’re not alone, and to encourage you to go get some help yourself. I honestly believe that the sooner you are aware of it, the easier it will be to treat, but it’s never too early or late to take care of your mental health needs. Speak to your health visitor or GP; find a local support group; contact PANDAS if you prefer to be a little more anonymous. Just be brave and take the first step, whatever that is for you.

 

 

 

 

FO: Baby blanket

 

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Hello, everyone! It’s nice to be back on the blog, though I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to update it in the next few months. I won’t apologise – looking after a newborn apparently means having your hands literally full most of the time! And when they’re not, there’s a choice between sleeping, eating, and doing stuff (including writing blog posts). In the interest of my sanity, I nearly always choose sleeping, though it does mean the house is a state and that I am neglecting my blog & crafting. I’m sure I’ll learn to balance things eventually.

I did want to write up the baby blanket I made for Mabel nonetheless. It was my first attempt at knitting from scratch rather than using a pattern, so it was particularly challenging. In the end I wasn’t entirely happy with it, but I’ve been told it’s the thought that counts. πŸ™‚

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The yarn in the center of the blanket inspired the whole thing. I bought it at Unravelled in Farnham several years ago with the intention of making a shawl. However, the more I looked at it the more I became convinced it would make a beautiful baby blanket, so I’ve been saving it. According to the label, the wool by Little Owl Crafts is:

Organic Devon Wensleydale

Hand dyed and handspun in Devon

Colorway: Dawn Chorus

There were 120g and 220 meters, which meant making anything would be a real challenge. Making a central block and working my way out seemed the most sensible plan.

After looking through Barbara Walker’s Treasury of Knitting Patterns, I settled on Indian Cross Stitch. I wanted to maximize the size of the blanket by using lace, but because parts of the yarn are quite chunky, a traditional lace pattern didn’t look right. This stitch seemed like just the right compromise, and I’m glad I picked it.

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Then there was the border, knitted in a mystery undyed yarn (merino?) I bought at Wonderwool Wales back in April. It took 2 skeins. I spent ages looking up how to do mitered corners. But as you can see, I didn’t end up doing them (which is the main reason I’m disappointed with the blanket). I didn’t know how many rows I would need and instead of sensibly swatching I kind of gave up and opted to pick up stitches all around instead, which means it isn’t really a rectangle.

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I added a few inches of seed stitch to add some size, then used a Victorian edging pattern to finish it off. Unfortunately I can’t remember/find the one I used, but it is similar to a lot of the ones found on this website. Funnily enough, I had already added the three rows of eyelets, so this pattern was a natural fit.

Overall, I think the blanket is quite pretty, even if I’m not thrilled with it. I suppose the moral here is to always do a trial run! I haven’t decided yet whether I want to have another attempt at it & write up a proper pattern (something I’ve never done, but that might be a nice challenge).

Introducing…

IMG_0456.JPG…our very snugglable daughter, Mabel!

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I’m sorry for my lack of posts recently. I have been away doing more important things, namely, having a baby! Given that we didn’t know the gender, I thought I’d let the announcement be the first thing I shared on here. πŸ™‚ If you follow me on Instagram, you may already know about her, but I’ve only just managed to take a long enough break from replying to congratulatory emails to stop by here.

Someday I may share her full birth story, but for now I’ll just summarize. She was 5 days overdue, and was induced due to concerns over the amount of amniotic fluid left; it appears I’d been leaking it for some time without realizing it, which put me at risk of an infection. In the end I had to have an emergency C-section, but I was far too happy to finally meet Mabel to be upset about it. I was more unhappy about being kept in hospital for four days after her birth; however, it was necessary as I had lost more than double the usual amount of blood during the birth, and the doctors thought I might need a blood transfusion. Happily, I was sent home with just iron tablets in the end. Luckily she was healthy from the beginning.

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Anyway, that’s enough about me. Here are some fun facts about Mabel in her early days:

  • Her full name is Mabel Anneth Wren. We agreed that she looked like a Mabel, but couldn’t decide between our two choices for a middle name, which is how she ended up with two. Anneth is the name of a house we saw in Cornwall, but apparently it is related to the name Hannah.
  • Her head is the softest thing I’ve ever felt! I adore cashmere because it’s so deliciously snuggly, but Mabel’s head is definitely twice as soft.
  • She gets the hiccups a lot! It’s kind of adorable, though it must be a pain for her.
  • Her first night, she fed from 12:30-5; I kept calling the midwives in tears as I was just so exhausted.
  • She’s generally a sound sleeper. A constant source of amusement is when there’s a loud noise in another room; she jumps, wriggles her head, and carries on sleeping. I am not counting on this lasting, so I’m going to enjoy it while it does!
  • She hates having her temperature taken – she cried more when it was happening than when she had her heel pricked for testing her glucose levels.
  • I’ve already read her her first book: Animal Actions by Julia Donaldson.
  • My favorite thing is watching R pick her up when she wakes. Every time, he gives a little sigh of satisfaction and rests his chin on her head. It just makes me melt.