Monday, 23 February 2015

Birth Story

   This is my birth story, not the story of my birth but of what happened in early December when I gave birth. I am putting it here because I wanted to share it with anyone who cared to read it. It has very little knitting in it, so I completely understand if you don't want to read it. If that is the case feel free to stop here; I would not be offended or hurt. I will also warn you at this point that I will get somewhat graphic concerning the medical details. I will not be holding anything back, so if that is something you would not want to read please do not continue. I am including a few photos, and I assure you that none of those will be graphic at all.

   This story starts with a knit night. I am the manager of a knitting store called Passionknit in Toronto. The owner holds a private knit night with some friends there once a month. (There is a public knit night on Thursday evenings if you are interested, its always a good time.) December 3rd was one of those monthly knit nights, and I knew it would be the last one I attended before I had my baby. I had started thinking of everything in terms of whether it was likely to happen before or after the baby, or how old my baby was likely to be when it happened.  Christmas & New Year's Eve, she would likely be a few weeks old. It was a toss up if she was going to be around for Hannuka this year, and when my brother's wedding rolls around she will be 4 months old.

   I had been working all day at the shop. It was my intention to keep working until my due date unless she came early. Everyone will tell you your first baby is usually late, and I was 11 days late myself. So I had every expectation of making it to my due date and beyond. After work I went and got myself a slice of pizza for dinner. When I returned with my dinner I went to the bathroom and passed a very large amount of mucus. I had read that most pregnant women lose their mucus plug slowly leading up to giving birth, so I did not assume that would mean labour right away. In case it continued to come I put on a pad and went back to my pizza. I had decided to google losing your mucus plug after I finished eating just to make sure I was right, but I thought it was likely not something I would want to read about while finishing my dinner. I never got the chance to make that google search.

   Before I finished my dinner the store owner and a few of the knitters started to arrive. I got caught up in chatting and quickly forgot about my worries. This may seem foolish, but don't forget my mommy brain was at its prime. Then at one point I shifted in my seat and I felt a gush. A part of me instantly knew what it was and what it meant, but I wasn't ready to admit it. Fortunately I had put that pad on because most of what came out was absorbed, so I didn't have a giant stain on my pants and in fact had made no noticeable change whatsoever. I calmly excused myself to the bathroom, and accepted some ribbing considering I had just gone a very short time ago. As a 9 months pregnant person, though, you can always get away with a trip to the bathroom.

   When I saw how much liquid there was I could not deny it to myself. My water had broken. Knit night had just barely begun, and I thought about telling nobody, enjoying the rest of the night and telling my husband when he came to pick me up. We could go to the hospital then, and what could be the harm? I hadn't had a single contraction, and I did not feel as though I was in labour. But then I realized I could not really go on without telling my husband what was happening. I typed out a text to him, and stared at it for some time before pressing send. I needed to get home, and get all our stuff together for the hospital. I needed to relax and not be in a room full of women chattering away for the next three hours. I needed calm and quiet.

   I walked back upstairs with the full intention of letting everyone know why I was leaving early. I looked around. The few people that had arrived already were discussing a new yarn we had just gotten, and a new pattern to knit with it (Koigu Kersti, a lovely hand dyed dk weight yarn). Without thinking I entered the conversation automatically, and suddenly I realized I missed my chance to interject. I had been talking about yarn and patterns too long to suddenly bust in with, and oh by the way, my water just broke. I still hadn't formed such a sentence out loud, and the prospect of doing so now was too daunting. I texted my husband to tell him I couldn't manage to tell anyone around me. He was reassuring. He told me not to say anything if I didn't want to, it was my right. He was on his way to come get me, and we could easily say I was too tired to stay long. I was so relieved at the thought that I didn't have to say it out loud to anyone.

   While I waited for my husband to arrive more people came. My coworker who had been with me at the shop all day had stepped out for coffee. She was also the person who would be taking over for me during my maternity leave, so I decided to text her the news, a text was so much easier than actually saying something. I told her what had happened and that I wasn't announcing it to the group. I thought she might want to get a head start on planning who would be with her in the shop the rest of the week, since it looked like I was going to be leaving a bit early. When she got back she found a private moment to give me a hug and some words of encouragement. I still felt normal, like nothing out of the ordinary was happening. Soon after that my husband arrived, we made our excuses and headed home. I texted my coworker that she could tell the group once we were safely away. I got a flurry of texts of encouragement and congratulations, but I still felt like I had done nothing to earn them. My pregnant body did not feel any different than it had that morning, and it was hard to believe I was only going to continue to be pregnant for a short time.

   When we got home we started getting organized for the hospital visit. I had a bag packed, but there were several things that needed to be added to it at the last minute. Fruit for snacks while we were there, which could not have been left in the suitcase indefinitely, our toothbrushes and other toiletries (which we ended up forgetting anyways), and some extra things to pack for baby like the blanket I had just finished knitting. I pulled out the pamphlet about when to go the hospital and what to bring. Mostly they focus on the 4-1-1 rule, when your contractions are 4 minutes apart, 1 minute long and have been like that for 1 hour that's when you go to the hospital. The pamphlet also said that if your water breaks to call the hospital right away, so I did. They told us we should come in immediately. So in the middle of the night we packed up the car and went to the hospital without having had a single contraction. I had planned for a long labour process at home, I had several ideas about how to distract myself during early labour with knitting, Netflix, video games and reading. Of course I had some knitting packed up to go to the hospital, but I never thought it would have to sustain me through what ended up being several days, though it turned out most of the time I didn't feel much like knitting, which if you know me at all you know means I was really out of sorts.

   When we got to the hospital before they would set me up in a delivery room they wanted to confirm that my water had broken. They had me walk around in a hospital gown with a pad in, waiting for more of my waters to be released. A doctor came to examine me, and a simple test confirmed that yes my membranes had ruptured, i.e. my water had broken. Part of me had been hoping they would tell me that I had overreacted and I was certainly not in labour and I could just go home and relax. Instead they told me that I needed to have this baby within 24 hours. They didn't say what would happen if I didn't, and I was too nervous to ask. Really I knew what happened when the hospital thinks you need to give birth within a certain time frame, either you do or they give you a c-section, which was the thing I most wanted to avoid. I didn't really want to hear any doctor say that word to me at all, so I didn't ask about it. That may have been a silly position to take, but I was in a pretty fragile state. Besides I had taken the time to learn what all the interventions were, and what they would mean for me and my baby. I felt I had the facts in hand, but that didn't mean I would really knew what I was in for.

   The doctor gave me a medication to soften my cervix, the first step of intervention on my journey. He said it would make it easier for contractions to get going. It was a topical medicine, which meant that for it to have time to work on my cervix I had to stay lying down for an hour to make sure it stayed where it was put. After that time had passed the nurses told me they would get me into a room, but it turned out it was a crowded night at the maternity ward, so they had to clean one up for me. While I waited for my room to get cleaned I paced the hallway of the maternity ward, not a very big place, but they had told me not to leave the ward. I knew that walking helped speed up labour, so I walked as much as I could. It was very early the next morning before I got settled into a delivery room. I got some sleep, not much with the stress of being somewhere weird and everything else, but some, which was helpful because the next night I got none whatsoever.

   The nurses had told me that in the morning they would call my regular OB and she would come for the remainder of my labour and delivery, which had been an enormous relief. However, when morning came, no doctor. At first the nurses said they were having trouble getting ahold of her, and eventually I found out that my OB was away for the entire week but the doctor on call would come see me soon. Eventually she did, and gave me more of the same medication I had the night before. This meant another hour in bed, and a bit of a wait to see if it brought on contractions. It didn't. As soon as they let me I walked doing laps around the maternity ward with my husband. Still no contractions. I walked so much that the nurses started to warn me about wearing myself out. I was going to need a lot of strength to get through the next bit. I tried to take a bit of a nap, but it was hard to settle. I was nervous and anxious and alert every minor twinge held the hope of becoming a contraction. I had a few very mild cramps, mild enough that I could not bring myself to call them contractions. Slowly they became longer and closer together, but they still seemed quite mild compared to what I was expecting for labour pains.

   The nurses arranged a shower for me, which felt like the pique of luxury. Shortly thereafter the doctor saw me again. I had not dilated very much, and I knew we were closing in on my 24 hour deadline from the night before. They started me on oxytocin at that point, which was about mid afternoon. This meant I had to have an IV, and stay strapped to the baby monitors for the rest of the labour. The monitor straps were the worst part of it all; they were tight around my belly, which had gotten used to being treated quite delicately. They also meant I had to stay in bed the rest of the labour, which was a great disappointment to me. Walking had given me something to do, and made me feel like I could help in some way since it was the only thing I knew of that could make labour progress faster, aside from the drugs they were now pumping into me. Periodically they would up the dose of the oxytocin, doubling the amount each time. I started frequently requesting they let me up to use the bathroom. Sometimes just for the break from the monitoring straps and so I could shift my position and walk a bit, even if it was just across the very small room. I would take my time like I never have, occasionally pausing to make sure I had a contraction while I was in there. Every contraction that happened without the straps was a relief.

   The contractions got more intense and closer together, but remained manageable. They would have been easier to take if I had more freedom to move around the way I wanted. In our prenatal classes my husband and I had practiced several supportive labour poses, but in the end we used none of them. The entirety of what felt like real labour to me happened while I was in that bed strapped to machines that severely limited my movement. At some point one of the nurses suggested I could lay on my side, and if that didn't disrupt the baby monitors I would be allowed to stay like that for a while. Before I was pregnant I had either slept on my stomach or my back. In the early stages of pregnancy I had to relinquish sleeping on my stomach and eventually my back as well was off limits. I had been longing for the days when I could go back to sleeping on my back and stomach. So I never expected to feel such relief and gratitude at being told I could be on my side instead of my back for a short period of time.

   The prenatal nurses were lovely. They checked on me frequently, they always asked if I needed anything, and they did everything they could to make sure I was as comfortable as possible. As the next shift change approached the nurses who were looking after me were very considerately trying to leave things well set up for the nurse taking over for the night. They checked my dilation, only three centimetres, which means I had increased about 1cm in two hours. I had hours and hours to go, but I was making progress. Just before leaving they also increased my oxytocin again. The new nurse arrived, the old nurses gave her a quick rundown of everything, and they left. Then the first contraction came after the new oxytocin dose. It was unreal. Up until this point contractions had been painful, but I could handle them. This was like nothing else; it was worlds from the last contraction. That first one was bad, but I remembered my breathing. I gripped my husband's hand, and got through it. But it took a lot out of me, my resolve my energy, and my focus were all drained. Then came another, much closer than the previous ones had, and it was worse. So it continued, and it wasn't long before I completely lost it. I tried to fight the contractions, I stopped breathing, I was reduced to just saying "No no no no no..." and I even got the point where I started clawing at all the medical equipment attached to me. My husband was amazing through it all. He kept telling me to breath, that it would be ok and it would be over soon. I have never loved him more than in those moments, he literally kept me sane. If he hadn't been there, the moment the nurse left me alone I would have ripped off every piece of medical equipment, and run through the halls of the hospital as if I could escape the pain somehow. That was what my brain was telling me to do, run away escape, get out of this somehow.

   It wasn't long into this that I gave in and asked for an epidural. I could barely take another minute of this, and I knew I must have had hours to go. I was 3cm, full dilation is 10cm, and it took me 2 hours to go from 2cm to 3cm. I knew as the contractions got stronger they were also more effective, so you would dilate faster, but I still didn't like the way that math was turning out. I had a few contractions while waiting for the anesthesiologist to come, but they were easier to get through because I knew they would be the last I had to manage. What I hadn't counted on was how difficult it was to get an epidural. The doctor was very nice, and he very politely and swiftly went through the major risks and side effects of the epidural and got my consent to begin. I had to sit on the edge of the bed, hold my back in a curve, and (this was the hardest) relax my shoulders. This man was about to stick a needle into my spine, which if done incorrectly could cause some serious problems, while I was having the worst pain of my life come and go every minute or so, and I had to relax. And of course while doing all that I had to remain completely still. He asked me to warn him when I felt a contraction coming on, since he knew it would be much less likely for me to remain still during a contraction. I went through several contractions during the process, and at one point he turned to the nurse and said, "Her contractions are one minute apart, and she is only 3cm?" That was my first clue that things might have been not quite what I thought.

   The second the epidural kicked in I felt the most amazing relief. The knowledge that I was not going to have to experience one more of those contractions itself was incredibly comforting, but feeling the pain of them slip away was amazing. A large part of me wonders if those contractions would have been so bad if I hadn't been on the oxytocin, which does supposedly make contractions more intense. The problem with that is how can you compare one woman's contractions to another? Pain is not something you can measure, and its not something you can really translate to language. Maybe the oxytocin was responsible for making my contractions a lot more intense than those I might have felt in a natural labour, or maybe there was no difference but because they ramped up really suddenly I was not prepared for them. There is no way to ever know, but I was glad that when I decided I could not take it anymore a doctor was right there, and he came quickly and gave me relief.

   As soon as the drugs started kicking in, they got me back in bed lying down, while I could still feel my legs. The anesthesiologist gave me a button to press that would give me a quick burst of drugs if I felt I needed it. He assured me that the machine is programmed to not allow me to overdose myself, so I could press it as much as I needed. I thanked him profusely, words could not describe how grateful I was to him at that moment. Then I started to shake. The nurse assured me it was a normal side effect of the drugs, and I shouldn't worry about it. My arms and upper body shook the rest of the time I was on the epidural drugs. It got to be so bad that I worried I wouldn't be able to hold onto the baby after she was born. Once I was settled back into the bed, the nurse decided to check my progress again.

   "Wow, you were at 3cm before, guess how many you are now?"
   "I have no idea"
   "Just guess!"
   She was very excited, but I did not have the mental energy for this game. Even if it was going faster than expected I really did not want to think about how much longer I had. Even though it would be a lot easier now, I was tired both mentally and physically. "I don't know."
   "10cm! You are ready to push!"

   I was shocked. I thought I had hours. I had mainly asked for the epidural because while I could have taken a few more of those contractions, I knew I would go insane trying to take them for hours and hours. She went to call the doctor, and when she came back I could feel something ready to be pushed out.

   "I feel like I should push."
   "Then go ahead and push." I did. I expected some sort of result right away, but there was nothing. I pushed harder, and still nothing. The doctor came back with several nurses, and she confirmed we were ready to go. The doctor said it helped if I had something to brace my legs against, so the nurses crowded around me and held my legs. Then they told me to push, so many people around me just telling me to push, push, push harder, forget about breathing just push. That felt like the strangest instruction to me. The entire labour breathing was the one thing I had to go back to. Focus on your breathing is what they tell you to for each contraction. Its what my husband yelled at me when I was going nuts with those terrible contractions. Now they asked me to forget all that, and put everything I had into pushing. I couldn't. I pushed with all my might for a a few moments, and then I stopped to catch my breath. They all coached me again, push, push, don't worry about breathing, push again, push harder. This happened a total of three maybe four times. I can't be sure exactly, but I know I can count the number of pushes on one hand. After the last push I felt it work, and some huge thing moved through me. Then I heard a cry. I was too tired to really process what had happened. The nurse helped me open my gown, and placed my daughter on my chest. I was still shaking bad, but I was lying down so there was little chance I might drop her. She was red and squirming and she felt terribly foreign to me. I remember thinking, what the heck is this thing they just handed me, what do I do with this? But I cuddled her and comforted her, and she stopped screaming. They had stopped the drugs in the epidural as soon as she was out, so my shaking was starting to slow down.

   I started to come back to my surroundings. I noticed the doctor and nurses were still busy doing something down there. With great disappointment I looked at my husband and said, "They are stitching me, aren't they?" I had really hoped I wouldn't need stitches mostly because the thought of stitches healing down there was simply incomprehensible. The doctor and nurses looked up at me in alarm, they asked quickly if I could feel what they were doing. I assured them that I felt a slight pressure nothing more, and they went back to work. I wasn't looking forward to how that was going to feel once the drugs wore off, but nothing could be done about that now. I never asked how many stitches they gave me, and nobody volunteered the information. I knew it was several based on how long it was taking them, but I didn't really want to think about it so I didn't ask. When they were finished, they told me we just had to wait for the placenta to pass. Then I would be placed in a room for recovery and we could rest.

   After a while they took my daughter to clean her off and check her over. I laid back and closed my eyes. Still no placenta. The doctor came back, and said she was going to try and help the placenta along. That hurt. The epidural had completely worn off by now, which meant I wasn't shaking at least, but it meant I could feel it entirely. Finally, she gave up, still with no placenta. She told me they would have to remove the placenta surgically. When she said that I instantly pictured a C-section but for the placenta, and I was so disappointed. After all I went through successfully avoiding the knife, I was still going into surgery just for the placenta. Fortunately, the doctor assured me, while it was called a surgery, there was no cutting involved. They could reach in and remove my placenta from the usual route, but since it would stretch my cervix out manually it would be way to painful to do while I was awake. I  could not have been more relieved.

   Before surgery the nurses suggested I try to breast feed her. I opened my gown and tried to get her into a good position. It was difficult to get her situated right. She is a long baby, longer than my torso is wide and longer than my little forearm. The nurse started to help me, and then she looked at my breast. "You have flat nipples. Your pregnancy should have prepared your nipples better, it will be hard for her to latch on to them." She tried to help me get the baby to latch, but no luck. Another nurse tried too, and still no luck. The second nurse said to me, "Your nipples are too flat for her. You will spend a long time trying to feed your baby. You will have sore and cracked nipples, and it will hurt a lot." I was tired and their words cut through me. I felt like I was not good enough for my baby, like I had already failed her. When I say they helped me, both women had reached in and grabbed my breast without asking, and tried to shove it in my infant's mouth. One of them kept pushing the breast in the baby's mouth, and then pulling it back to make sure her nose was clear to breath. It seemed to me like that must have been endlessly frustrating for my daughter, like someone giving you a bit of cake and then holding the rest of the slice just out of your reach. I did not successfully breastfeed before I had to go to surgery.

   As they were getting ready to cart me off to the operating room. I offered the baby to my husband. "Are you sure its ok for me to take her, should we ask the nurses?" This whole process had seemed so out of our control, it felt really good to realize I could assert my own opinion over this at the very least. "She is our daughter, we decide if its ok. Take her." I also told him not to let the nurses give her formula while they were waiting. I would try to breast feed again after surgery. I didn't want her getting used to formula or bottles, which could make it harder to breastfeed. They had told us the procedure would be very quick, 10 minutes.

   When we got to the operating room, and the same anesthesiologist that gave me the epidural was waiting for us. He explained that general anesthesia had higher risks for pregnant women, which I still counted as, and he could give me freezing through the catheter from the epidural, which nobody had removed yet. When a doctor tells you one option is less risky than another, you go for the less risky one. Especially when you are exhausted and a little scared and just want to get back to your new baby that you barely know yet. I laid back on the table, and they gave me an oxygen mask.

   The next thing I remember the room was spinning. It took me a minute, but it occurred to me I should tell the doctors this. I opened my mouth to say so, and I found I had difficulty speaking. This woke my brain up a bit more, and I focused to get the words out. Its hard to describe the sensation. I knew what I wanted to say, and I knew I had to make myself understood, but I just couldn't get the words out. By this point I also realized something much more important than my slurred speech or the spinning room: I was not even the slightest bit numb, not anywhere. It took all the concentration I had to verbalize this, but I did it.

   The doctors looked worried. I could tell right away this was not a common reaction. They told me to breath deeply from the oxygen mask. They gave me tests to verify that I did continue to have sensation despite the freezing agent they gave me. I lifted limbs, I told them when I felt a touch on my legs, and I turned my head this way and that. Then I remembered something: this was supposed to be a quick procedure. We had surely surpassed the ten minute mark ages ago, and my husband was probably starting to worry. I turned to the closest nurse, and I tried to say, "Can someone tell my husband what is happening so he doesn't worry." It took forever to get that simple sentence out, and since it wasn't particularly clear I had to repeat it a few times before I was understood. They assured me that someone would update my husband. It did not occur to me at the time that whatever they would tell my husband it was sure to make him worry quite a bit. I couldn't tell you why I was so certain that I was perfectly fine, but I was. My mind was crystal clear, so I guess I figured the rest would wear off with the drugs.

   Once those immediate concerns were taken care of, I started to worry about the procedure. One way or another my placenta had to come out.  The doctor who delivered the baby had told me that the reason this procedure had to be done under anesthetic was because of how painful it was, and I was remembering those terrible contractions which were only stretching my cervix a little at a time. I wasn't sure if I could still get the general anesthetic after having the freezing agent. What if the drugs couldn't be mixed? The doctors and nurses all seemed very busy around me. Then the anesthesiologist came in close and said the most comforting thing I could imagine, "Patti, we are going to put you under, ok?" I nodded vigorously and focused all my speaking efforts on the clearest yes I could muster.

   What seemed to me like seconds later I woke up. I panicked a little; that was too quick. They could not possibly have done anything in that time. I hadn't been asleep at all! The anesthesiologist was there, so I asked him why they hadn't done the procedure. I was so worried  that I hadn't even noticed I was talking normally again. He reassured me that they had time to do everything they needed, that I had been under general so of course I couldn't remember it. When you wake up from sleep, even a deep sleep, you have some sense that time has passed. You can often misjudge how much time, but you are aware that some amount of time went. This was not like that; I had awoken with the sense that no time had gone by at all. Not just a vague sense either, I was convinced. It was a jarring experience. I looked around, and realized I was in a different room, and there were two new nurses with me. I looked at my hands, and I had a new IV catheter in my wrist along with the one that was still attached to an IV on the back of my hand and a new bandage on my other wrist. I had no idea how any of these things had gotten there, nor how I had arrived in this new room.

   If I thought that was unsettling, the nurse then asked if I knew what year it was. Perhaps that is always what they ask when people wake up from general, but there is something unnerving about being asked a question like that. That there was the slightest chance I might not know the answer or come up with the wrong one was very disturbing. They wouldn't ask you the question if there was no chance of getting it wrong. There were several similar questions and small tests of mobility during my recovery. I recognized these tests for what they were immediately, they were making sure I had not suffered brain damage. Eventually the doctor explained that I had either suffered a stroke or overdosed on the medication. This was why they were checking for brain damage and memory loss. The doctor said that given my age an overdose was much more likely, and since I seemed to have no lasting effects there was no reason to do further tests. However there were some irregularities in my heart rhythm, so he had someone come by and give me an ECG. He was just going to finish his notes to put on my chart, and then he would send for a transfer guy to bring me to my room.

   The recovery nurse was very nice. She sat and chatted with me, which helped keep me distracted while all I wanted was to get back to my husband and baby. As soon as they allowed him Alex came to see me in recovery leaving the baby with the nurses. He was very relieved to see that I was doing alright, and I felt better just being able to talk to him for a minute. He quickly went back to our new daughter because he didn't want her to be without one of us for too long. In the weeks to follow I have come to believe that him spending those first few hours of her life alone with her (well there were nurses in and out and his mother was around but he was the only parent) gave him a rare chance to strongly bond with her. The nurses showed him how to change her diaper and how to swaddle her in a blanket. When I finally did get back to my room, to me he had suddenly morphed into this father out of nowhere. He held her confidently, swaddled her easily, and changed her without complaint. While I would not have wished my experience on any new mother, I am glad that my husband had the opportunity to bond with out daughter without the possibility of handing her off to anyone. Its impossible to say for sure, but I believe it is something that will shape their relationship for years to come.

   To give you an idea of the timing of all these events we got to the hospital Wednesday evening, I was started on the induction drugs Thursday afternoon, my daughter was born at 9:30pm Thursday night, and I was returned to my room at 2am Friday morning. The next few days were a blur. At some point in the chaos between having the baby and going into surgery I had spiked a fever for a little while, so they kept me on the iv and gave me antibiotics. The following things happened, but the order of them is lost to my memory: I received two more ECGs, various nurses tried to help me breast feed my daughter to no avail, the doctor who delivered my daughter came by to check on us both (this happened Friday because she distinctly told us we could leave that day, which we were subsequently not allowed to do), a paediatrician came by to check the baby, we were given use of one of the hospital's breast pumps, a lactation consultant came by to help me with getting the baby to latch on properly also to no avail, we were told by nurses that we could not go home until either the baby successfully breastfed or we gave her formula, and when we finally acquiesced and gave her the formula we were then told I could not leave until a cardiologist signed off on it after examining me and seeing my ECGs.

   After all we had been through we spent a whole day waiting around for the cardiologist. At one point he sent someone to check on me and tell me he might not make it in to see me until the next morning. Apparently someone had told him we were staying until the following day anyways. We told the messenger that the cardiologist was all we were waiting for before leaving, and we would really like to be able to go home as soon as possible. Several hours later the cardiologist arrived, fairly late in the evening. He listened to my heart beat, and told me there was absolutely nothing wrong with me. He said that to a non-specialist my ECGs would look abnormal, but that they were not. I had nothing to worry about, and was fine to go home. I sent my husband to fetch the nurse as soon as the cardiologist left. She was a little baffled that we didn't want to wait for morning, but at this point I was not willing to give any other professional a chance to decide we had to stay for something else.

   The nurse brought us our paperwork, had a brief argument with us about how bundled our little one needed to be in the car. I hadn't thought about travel when I packed for her, so while we had a few sleepers, they were sacks that did not have individual legs or a hole for the carseat buckle. We put her in heavy socks, a onesie, and doubled up on blankets which finally satisfied the nurse. Finally, in the middle of the night, we had packed up our new daughter and we left the hospital for home.

   We may not have had the smoothest experience, but the end result was pretty amazing.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Subway Shawl or Sunshine Shawl?

   This pattern is the latest instalment of my annual TTC KAL Surprise pattern kits at Passionknit. The TTC Knitalong is an organized yarn crawl that takes over Toronto transit (TTC) from various points in the city, and travels from yarn shop to yarn shop knitting all the way. You can learn more about it from their blog. For the past several years we have hosted two of these groups at Passionknit, and we offer up some goodies and a discount to our guests. Additionally, I design one pattern every year that gets dramatically unveiled for each group. I try to make the pattern something that is good for portable knitting, i.e. something that would be easy to knit on the subway, streetcar, or bus.

  Two years ago we started this tradition with the TTC Mitts:

   And last year we continued it with the TTC Token Socks:

   This year I did the TTC Subway Shawl:

   This shawl is called the TTC Subway Shawl in honour of the TTC KAL, and also with the thought that it is perfect for knitting on the subway. The pattern is not super complicated, and while it has four colours in it, you are never using more than two at any given time, so you would only need to have two balls of yarn with you. 

    Despite its underground namesake, this shawl definitely belongs in the sun. Part of me thinks Sunshine Shawl would be a more apt name because I can't look at these colours without thinking of a gorgeous summer day. My husband took these photos for me out on Toronto Island, which is a lovely place to spend a nice summer afternoon. It was a beautiful day, and none of these images gives the slightest hint of below ground transit.

   However, as someone who has spent several years commuting via subway, I think the perfect thing to make your commute less dreary is to bring a bit of colour with you. 

   Kits for this shawl are available at Passionknit in Toronto. If you are not a local, give us a call and we would be happy to ship you one! 

Wednesday, 11 June 2014


   I finally finished Alex's sweater! And despite making the smalls size in smaller needles, it does actually fit him. He kept saying he wanted it to be fitted, but the entire time I was dreading getting to the end and having him try it on and it did not fit. But in the end the perfect reward for being done is seeing it fit him perfectly, and exactly the way he wanted it.

   The pattern is Hugo by Veronik Avery, from Brooklyn Tweed Men. The yarn is Madelinetosh Tosh DK in Whiskey Barrel, 6 skeins total.

   This also means I can finally turn my attention to new projects, but the overwhelming question now is what to knit first? After the cables and neck alterations, see my previous post about the shawl collar here, I was ready for something simple. I have also been avoiding looking at the four sweater quantities of various Madelinetosh yarns I ordered for myself, so maybe the time is ripe for me to cast on one of those. Or perhaps I should just focus on getting back to my grey mink sweater that I was working on before the wedding craziness took over my life. (Yes that's right, mink, like the coats. Lotus Mimi is 100% mink, super warm soft and fuzzy, but sadly our distributor is not planning to bring in more of the yarn for more complex importation style reasons. If you are curious, we do still have quite a bit of it at the store where I work, Passionknit.)

   To avoid making a more lasting decision, I cast on a baby sweater out of some Indigo Dragonfly Merino Sock in the colour way: Don't You Just Love This Party? Everything's So Fancy, And There's Some Sort of Hot Cheese Over There, it was totally the name that sold me. The pattern is Newborn Vertebrae, one of my favourites. Not sure exactly which baby it will be for, I know of a couple that are on their way this Fall/Winter, and the colour is pretty gender neutral. Might be a matter of whose shower sneaks up on me first. However, since this little sweater knits up quick I will soon be back where I started. Leave a comment if you have a vote on what I should knit next: mink sweater, new tosh sweater, or something completely different.

Sunday, 18 May 2014


   That is what I say every time I finish a knitted item, which is greeted by varying degrees of  impressedness (I don't think that's a word, and neither does spell check, but I can't think of a word that means that, so you get the idea) by my boyfriend fiancĂ© husband (still not the first one I think of, maybe someday).

   I have noticed that the more knitted items you show non-knitters saying "I made this myself! All on my own! From string!" they will get progressively less impressed with you. In fact, if you happen to wear anything at all that it might be vaguely possible to knit that you did not make yourself they tend to get a bit disappointed in you. I once had a lace shawl, a mystery KAL from way back, can't remember who did it but it was one that ended up being a Swan Lake theme, if you know what I'm on about, leave a comment. Anyhow, it was a lot of work, and I was rather proud of myself. I was wearing said shawl at a work gathering, and chatting with a gaggle of coworkers (non-knitters every last on of them) when one of them said "And of course you made that shawl" in a tone that suggested everyone was tired of hearing that I made things, but I hadn't even been the one to mention it. As if to say "Yes yes, you made that. Its very lovely and probably took you a lot of time and effort. We are all sick of hearing how talented you are, would you shut up about yourself already. The rest of us do stuff too, you know. I have read a great many books, and I don't see why that should be any less impressive, but you don't see me showing off about it." Now this coworker is a lovely person, and I am sure he did not mean it to sound like that, but it did sound like that or at least it did to me. Maybe to someone who has less of a constant impression that nobody cares what you have to say it might have sounded better, but he wasn't talking to one of those people. 

   Anyways, here are my socks. They are quite lovely, and they took me a long time. The pattern is Hedera by CookieA, though I modified the toe and heel to fit my personal preferences. The yarn is Stricken Smitten Sinful Sock in Scheherazade's Sky, which came from the CookieA Sock Club

   I started these socks because I wanted to have some knitting that matched my wedding colour scheme. I know that's a little nuts, but if you're not going a little nuts before your wedding you probably aren't doing it right. 

In case you though I was cheating, and calling one sock of the pair done, you can see both of them here. 

Monday, 5 May 2014

Shawl Collar

   Throughout our relationship I frequently reminded Alex that I couldn't knit him a sweater because of the boyfriend sweater curse. I made him socks several times, but I couldn't do a sweater. It just wasn't worth the risk. After we had been dating a while I started to hint that if we were married, of course, the curse would no longer apply. I even shortened my reminder to no ring, no sweater. Well about a year and a half ago he handed me a little blue box with a ring inside, and for his wedding present I promised him a sweater. I also knew him well enough to know that he would be picky, so I didn't dare try and knit one in secret. I told him he could pick the pattern, then I would knit the sweater.

   After we got back from the honeymoon he went onto Ravelry and picked out a sweater. Of course it was a Brooklyn Tweed pattern, Hugo to be precise. So of course this pattern has to start with a tubular cast on, which I must admit creates a lovely edge, but is a pain in the butt. It is also knit in pieces, something I have been avoiding like the plague since my discovery of the top down seamless sweater. Occasionally I will do a bottom up seamless sweater, but completely separate pieces, with sewing to do afterwards, I guess I really love this guy.

    The one problem Alex had with the sweater was the neck. Rather, he thought the neck on it was ok, but he really wanted a shawl collar. My first thought was, a shawl collar would be simple. I just leave a rectangle shaped hole in the neck, knit a piece of ribbing the right length and seam it down. Piece of cake. But then I looked more closely at on of his favourite shawl collared sweaters, well it had some shaping involved. The collar grew wider as you went from the bottom towards the shoulders, and the ribbed collar piece got wider to fill in the gap, but it also got wider still in order to be able to fold over. So here is what I did:

At the spot where I wanted the collar to start I took the middle 14 sts of the centre panel and on a WS row I knit them making a ridge to mark the edge of the collar. On the next row, when I got to those 14 sts I worked 14 knit front and backs and stopped the row there. I put every alternate st from the 14 knit front backs on a holder with the sts from the unworked side of the front. I continued working the 14 sts in rib, and increasing the rib section by 1 st every RS row. On every 4th row I decreased one stitch on the edge of the rib section, so that the rib moved further away from the centre. When the front was long enough I did the shoulder shaping to match the back, leaving the rib sts live. I kept knitting the rib without increasing until it reached halfway across the back of the neck. I then did the same for the other side reversing the shaping. I grafted the two pieces of rib together, not a perfect grafting in rib specimen, but pretty good. I think all in all the effect is pretty much exactly what I was going for. Check it out:
Here you can see the ridge I made to mark the bottom of the collar:
There is the whole thing, along with my messy worktable.

The yarn is Madelinetosh DK in Whiskey Barrel. 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Sneak Preview: Mrs. Jardine

   I am very excited to tell you guys about my newest pattern that will be released very soon. I am just waiting for my boyfriend fiancĂ© husband (someday I will get used to that) to finalize a few more photos. But here is a preview for you guys:

   This sweater is a prime example of necessity as the mother of invention. The yarn store where I work, Passionknit, had just four skeins left of this gorgeous purple yarn (Madelinetosh DK in Vishnu). So I decided that I needed to come up with a sweater that would only take me four skeins. Of course the best way to make sure I had enough was to use a fabric that was very open. I picked out one of my favourite lace patterns, grabbed a needle one size larger than the yarn called for and got to work. The product was a loose open sweater that makes a great lightweight top for Spring. I hope you will like it as much as I do.

   While I knit the sweater out of a wool, it would also look great in a cotton or bamboo blend. Something even lighter would make it perfect for the warm months to come, though its hard to believe the crazy winter we have had in Toronto this year will ever loosen its grasp on us. We can only hope, and knit.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Day Four

This was a big day for us; we were going to do something we never really do: exercise. One of the first activities Alex suggested for our trip was going on a bike tour across the Golden Gate Bridge. This made me nervous for a couple of reasons. 1) I don't like heights and the Golden Gate Bridge looks like this:

2) We don't bike. I haven't been on a bike in years. This is not to say that I was afraid I had forgotten how, the statement "its like riding a bike" didn't come from nowhere. But I knew I would not be good at it. In addition to being tall that bridge is also long. I had a feeling this was going to prove to be a challenge for me stamina-wise. In addition the idea of a tour, where we were biking with other people made that whole bit worse. The idea that I might be out of breath, trying to keep up only to get to the rest spot to find a bunch of grumpy in shape people who were already bored of waiting for me by the time I got there never mind letting me catch my breath before we all moved on to the next part where I would quickly fall behind once again. I imagined them saying things like "Oh the Jardines are behind again, guess we will have to wait some more" in exasperated tones.

3) These tours are pricey, and the idea of doing something that made me nervous was one thing, but spending a bunch of money on it was adding insult to injury.

 But it was the one thing Alex really really really wanted to do. Now my cousin had been to San Francisco with his wife, and when he heard we were going the one bit of advice he gave me was if you bike over the Golden Gate Bridge take a tour. They had gone on their own and gotten very lost. They almost didn't make it in time to catch the ferry that takes you back to the city. Now my lack of physical fitness is second only to my complete and utter lack of a sense of direction. So I knew if a normal person got lost, I pretty much had no chance of getting there. So I was ready to listen to his advice, and spring for the tour, mostly.

   So Alex and I walked down to the water a bit after breakfast, and walked up to the first bike rental booth we saw. The young gentleman there was extremely friendly. He said his company did not offer tours, but that it was a very easy route to follow, and he would give us a map and walk us through it before we left. We were convinced. After all, I thought, I had Alex with me, and his sense of direction is actually very good. We also figured we had our iPhones, and in an emergency we could turn on roaming data and use the gps to find out way. I honestly don't know how I ever successfully arrived anywhere before turn by turn directions. So off we went.

   It was a long ride, and getting up to the bridge was super difficult. I wimped out and walked my bike a few times going up those hills. But it was nowhere near as hard as I thought it would be. And though the bridge was very tall, it didn't seem as scary as I thought it would. We made it to Sausalito, walked around for a while, and then caught the ferry back to San Francisco with time to spare. In the end this was my favourite day of the trip.