Tuesday, June 24, 2008

midwife gift 3 - pi shawl

Oh pie shawl, how I adore thee.
I am not ashamed to say that this was the most difficult thing I have ever knit. It absolutely kicked my ass. It tested my patience, it tested my skill, and it nearly brought me to tears more than once. I cannot believe I finished this in one month. I devoted nearly every evening and every spare second to it (and though I don't have a lot of those) there was one evening where Dave mentioned that he had joined a support group for men whose wives are knitting the "big blue thing."

Pattern: Elizabeth Zimmerman's pi shawl from Knitter's Almanac
Yarn: Misti Alpaca
Needles: US 7, most of it on a 32" circular
Gauge: 4-5 sts per in, after blocking
The night before I met Gail for the first time, I sat down at the kitchen table and cried. I believe I was 17 weeks pregnant, and yes - there was a lot of crying in those first months - but I remember feeling terrified. I had a list of questions to ask these potential midwives, and I was a little overwhelmed by the prospect of giving birth in general, let alone giving birth at home. We met with Gail and Clare, and they answered all of our questions patiently. We talked about many things, including pregnancy and birth, but also life and family, hopes and values. As we were getting up to leave, I really wasn't sold. I wasn't sure this was the right thing for us, just not the right fit. Before I saw it coming, Gail caught me in a huge bear hug. It surprised me, since I'm generally not a hugger (especially with strangers). Calm washed over me, and I knew in that moment that everything was going to be okay. Just then, I felt that I trusted Gail completely.
That trust never wavered, and it was her that I relied on most heavily during my labor. She was the one I called when I felt my first contractions, she was the one I leaned on against on the wall when we were trying to change the baby's position, and she was the one who got me through that most awful night - Monday - when I was so sure that I wanted to give up. When we asked Clare and Emme to leave after 2 days of labor, it was Gail that we asked to stay. She didn't leave our house for nearly 3 days, and so far as I knew - she was happy to do it.

Dave and I joke that Gail is a modern day witch - that she knows things about the natural world that most folks would miss. Her knowledge of homeopathy was able to slow my labor that second night so I could get some rest. Even now, with Dave so sick - we asked the nurses at the clinic if the baby was at risk, and when they weren't sure, the first person I thought of to ask was Gail. She just knows things, somehow, and that makes me feel lucky to have known her.
And so, for Gail, a shawl. A shawl that was sooooo freaking complicated that I couldn't find the big, glaring mistake in the lace pattern. It grimaces out at me from these photos, and I only hope she won't notice. This was my first attempt at knitting lace, and I realize only now what an undertaking it was.
I don't think that Gail is a lacy-shawl wearing type of lady. In fact, she might be the exact opposite of a lacy-shawl wearing lady, but I don't care. I wanted something she could wrap around herself, something that would be soft, and would make her feel calm. That first hug was just the beginning, and over the months of my pregnancy and after, there were many hugs exchanged.

I think it is suitable that this shawl took my knitting to a higher level, and it taught me something about patience, about being too big for my britches, about biting off more than I can chew. I learned something very similar from Gail, and when I look back at that scared pregnant lady, crying at her kitchen table, I feel like there are decades between who I was then and who I am now. It was Gail who guided me across that bridge, from woman to mother, and for that - for all that she taught me - I am terribly, terrible grateful.


Catherine said...

It's beautiful - nicely put!

Bonnie said...

Beautiful - all of it. Beautiful shawl, beautiful story.