Monday, July 30, 2007

Knitblog pet peeves and a doulicia's book group book

I spend far too much time perusing knit blogs. When I can't be knitting myself, I want to see knitting. I want inspiration. I have about 30 knitblogs bookmarked and I whip through them like women with People Magazine at the hairdressers. It really can become frenetic: more yarn, more patterns, more beautiful photos. Gimme, gimme, now!

Which is why, perhaps, I'm starting to get really crabby -- for no reason other than my own idiosynchratic preferences -- at certain knitblog habits*.

  • Socks. Socks may be fun to knit and even better to wear, but I don't want to see them. This probably will change when I knit my first pair. For now, it's just variations on a theme. (Nothing against sock knitters or sock knitter bloggers...I just may not visit your site much).
  • Lace in progress. It looks the same one day to the next. I know it takes forever to knit lace. And if one wants to update her blog frequently, she can be hard pressed to come up with fresh material. But if you've added four rows since yesterday -- even if it's up to 350 stitches on size 2 needles -- I'm probably going to pass your blog right up.
  • New yarn. I can go to the yarn store if I want to see balls of yarn. Knit it into something and then show me.
  • Links to patterns you'd like to knit. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.
  • Sheep photos.

O.K. Please don't send me hate comments. The pet peeves are real, but the comments are unnecessarily snarky, possibly due to hormone level readjustment and a short night's sleep.

On to reading. If I were as famous as Oprah, and had my own bookclub, I'd add this to the to-read list:

A "social history" of sperm. What could be a more loaded topic? Surely I don't know. To have a sociologist deconstruct its various social and cultural meanings sounds fascinating.

To tease you into reading it, check out this great interview with the book's author, Lise Jean Moore, at Salon. From the interview:

Secular children's books want to anthropomorphize these little sperm cells and make them interesting, heroic and exciting, people we would identify with.... They have very masculine personalities, of purpose, competition and aggression. They give sperm qualities that we would want our fathers to have. Just like "Daddy did this for you, the sperm did this for the egg cell." But sperm carries the X or the Y, so technically it's not really he or she.

The narrative is so monolithic. It doesn't say, wow, most sperm cells are in a shape that isn't healthy and most don't swim right, and most don't have tails, and it's actually sort of miraculous that people get pregnant because semen is a highly unpredictable substance. Children's books also create this narrative of children always being wanted, always being planned, always being predicted, and of the sperm cell having some cognition of that. It never bangs into a diaphragm or the back of a condom. It never comes out in the air because the guy is jerking off.

I hope you'll read on!

*note: I am fully aware that I may have in the past or may in the future be guilty of any or all of these actions. I would appreciate not having these lapses brought gloatingly to my attention.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I finished this last week but couldn't get photos until Sunday. And then I found it hard to capture the shawl well. It's at its best when worn. But there was no one to photograph me in it and no model for me to use.

I made do instead with the tomato cages in the front yard!

Pattern: Clapotis, Knitty, Fall 2004.

Yarn: Briar Rose Fibers' Wistful (50% Alpaca, 30% Merino, 20% silk blend).

Needles: size 8 Clover circular bamboo.

Modifications: I was knitting this as a sample for Briar Rose Fibers (which means you can see the real deal at one of their upcoming shows, assuming it passes muster with Chris!) and was to use only one hank.

I started to get nervous about half-way through and decided to do only 6 repeats in section 3 (the straight rows) instead of 12. It was the right call. I ended about a yard short overall, but only had 9 or so stitches left at this point and could "just" bind them off. I don't think it's very noticable and I tend to be pretty critical.

I should note that I checked gauge half-way through and saw that I was at 4.25 stitches per inch rather than the 4.75 called for in the pattern. This difference certainly accounts for my not having enough yarn to finish my final rows and may even mean I could have gotten a few more repeats in the center section. I was using 10% more yarn than the pattern anticipated...

Notes/Thoughts: I'm glad to have made this. I'd wanted to for a long time. Having done it once, however, I do not feel the need to do it again. It is one of those patterns that looks pretty simple but is more complicated than you'd guess. I especially admire Kate Gilbert (its designer), for figuring out how to keep the pattern intact even as you're increasing on one end and decreasing on the other.

I just realized this is my first experience knitting on the bias. Maybe all bias knitting is complicated in the same way. The complications kept it interesting, but must have been a challenge to figure out.

As with all shawls, I just can't imagine when one would wear it. That is my main reservation about making another one.

The yarn was, as always with Briar Rose Fibers, beautiful. The color changes were so fun to watch. I wouldn't be able to wear this shawl. It was still a little scratchy on my neck, even though it felt so soft to my fingers.

This is all the yarn I had left after weaving in ends!

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Happenings in douliciaville

There's nothing major going on, but so many separate little bits are floating around out there I wanted to plunk them all down in one place. That is a way of saying this post is simply an assortment of random comments and thoughts.

1. The preciousness and precariousness of new life.

A friend just delivered her third baby at 31 weeks last week. Each of her births has been wild in its own way (including an 11 pound homebirth) and I was so hoping this could just be a routine little birth. No such luck. Her water broke at 30 weeks and they stalled delivery as long as possible. Ultimately it was his legs' unexpected, unanticipated appearance in the birth canal that brought this pregnancy to an abrupt halt. Both are doing as well as could be expected after an emergency C-section and premature delivery.

This weekend I am going to stay with my cousin whose daughter was born a few months ago with Treacher-Collins Syndrome. She has tubes and hearing aids in more places than anyone should, especially during their first weeks of life. My hope is to be able to help out around the house or with my cousin's other children, but honestly I am nervous that I'll just be in the way.

The client I worked with whose child was born still last September is still waiting for hope of another child. The unfairnesses mount as month after month goes by with loss being her only experience of pregnancy. I so wish I had the power to change that.

2. Blog updates

I did my every-few-months' tidying of the blogroll. I like to link to blogs that are kept relatively current. There were a few, notably Milliner's Dream and FPMama, that had stagnated. I actually am worried about Hannah at Milliner's Dream. She's been out of e-mail contact and her blog has been completely still for months. It's a weird thing about the blogging community that you have no way to investigate silence. Not like a physical community where you can go to that person's house and knock on the door. Hannah, if you're out there, let me know you're okay...

I have added a few new knitbloggers. Welcome Brown Berry (check out what she's been up to!) and On the Road to Somewhere (who writes about science and knitting).

Buzz Girl now appears under my book links. How fun to get an insider's view of the publishing world. It may become depressing after a while -- I have mixed feelings about publishing -- so we'll see how long she stays.

3. Getting Startitis

I will finish Clapotis in the next few days. Another week should knock off the Clementine Shawlette (in which I prematurely repeated a row last week to aesthetic disappointment but refuse to rip out because I'd have no idea how to recreate the I understand lifelines in lace knitting). I need to get back on the horse for the boxy short sleeve cardigan. But what I really want? What I really, really want?

To start a cotton sweater (yarn purchased in May) for my younger son's kindergarten fall.

To make a cotton cardigan (yarn purchased in June) for my officemate's daughter's second birthday.

To make a scarf for a friend who's moving to New York this fall.

It is taking all my discipline to keep from starting something new before wrapping up at least two of my 3 current WIPs.

Labels: , ,

Monday, July 16, 2007

Acting Locally

Before she finishes her project, you might wish to check in on the progress off Ann Arborite and senior citizen Liz Elling, who is swimming, kayaking and walking the length of our Huron River to raise awareness about its importance.

Go Liz!


NIH to study C-Section Rates and Appropriateness

This caught my eye last week. The NIH is gathering data to help doctors decide when to opt for a Cesarean section over prolonged labor.

I was not able to find out anything other than what was in the article, so I'm not sure how to read this. It could be good news or bad news, depending what slant they bring to the survey.

I did not find this quote encouraging:

"The main thing they're looking for is how long should a woman stay in labor who gets stuck," said Dr. James Fanning, Summa's chair of obstetrics and gynecology. "If the cervix starts to open up and then stops, or if she starts pushing and gets stuck, when should we quit? When should we say enough is enough, let's go with a C-section?"

It indicates a certain predisposition to think of labor as a linear progression without stops and starts. Who knows how they are conducting the survey (I tried to find info on it at the NIH website and couldn't), but it seems very vulnerable to bias. Unless objective third parties are present, all "assessment" of labor could be prejudiced. What one person might consider part of normal labor, another might consider being "stuck."

And it does not indicate that nurses or doulas or others who could work on fetal repositioning and other ways to change labor will be present.

I guess the more I write, the more convinced I am that this study will merely become more fodder for the "be safe, be surgical" line of thinking.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Revising what's normal for the Babymoon

Those first days with your new baby are supposed to be special. You bask in the glow of new life, touching soft cheeks and having little fingers curl around yours. Time passes and the newborn becomes a bright eyed Gerber baby. She laughs and pats her hands together as you gaze lovingly at her.

Yes, people joke about sleep deprivation. You may hear about the dreaded colic.

But who really tells you the TRUTH about being a new parent?

And when you are yourself a new parent, possibly overwhelmed by the demands of your new child, certainly awed at the magnide of change that has recently and forever occurred in your life, do you want to risk the scorn of all the other normal moms (see paragraph 1) by telling them how you feel?

We need to speak up. I am so pleased to see this woman doing just that.

I actually know the woman in this story. Our children went to preschool together for a while. At another child's birthday party we began discussing her recent birth. She pretty quickly began discussing her OCD and how debilitating it had become until she got treated.

I told her my odd little postpartum experience. Well, actually I think I probably had mild postpartum depression with my first son for about a year. But the psychological situation I experienced after my second son's birth was something I'd never experienced before.

From the time he was about a week old until he was maybe 3 months old, I would hold my son in front of me and look at his sweet face and have this compelling urge to stick my tongue in his mouth, all the way down his throat. I wanted to have, like, a foot long tongue to do this.

Do not run away. That is what postpartum women fear. There can be very odd things in our heads and we don't want to say a word to anyone about them for fear they'll take our babies away and lock us up. We also worry that we are going crazy.

Fortunately (and I dont' know why this atypical of my) I just thought "huh" about my weird little thought and got on with life. I actually even had moments of blissful gazing at my baby, rubbing his peach-fuzzy head while he nursed.

A few years later I was reading Linda Sabastian's excellent book Overcoming Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. I got it to inform myself about the range of experiences my clients might have. It ended up explaining myself to me! In it I read that depression was only one of the types of psychological conditions that can occur or intensify in the postpartum period.

Anxiety is another of the conditions. I was reminded of a friend who became so anxious -- about everything -- after her son was born that she couldn't sleep. Ever. She was put on medication and it helped her dramatically. A doula client of mine began having panic attacks when her child was a few weeks old. "It feels like you're dying," she told me.

Obsessions are another of the conditions. Obsessive thoughts are intrusive, often disturbing thoughts, that recur. For some women they are thoughts about dropping the baby. Other women have obsessive thoughts about hitting the baby. I thought about -- what do even call it? -- endoscoping my baby with my tongue? The common feature with obsessive thoughts is that we do not act on them.

FEAR of acting on them, however, can create anxiety or compulsions. Either you start to worry that you really will hit the baby or you begin to ritualize things to prevent yourself from possibly hitting the baby (e.g. never picking the baby up. Or clasping your hands before you touch the baby. And clasping. And clasping....).

I feel very fortunate that I was able to tell my spouse about my obsessive thought. I'm even more fortunate that he said, "weird," and then let it pass.

It took me years to realize that my tongue thought was most likely just a little postpartum psychological blip. It went away. I have not had other obsessive thoughts since. I tell this story to my doula clients at prenatals to let them know that postpartum depression is only one of the forms psychological disruption can take. I tell them to share their thoughts -- be they depressing, worrying or simply weird -- with their spouse and caregivers.

As with so many other things, silence only makes it worse. I'm so pleased that Kristen is telling her story and working with a support group where others can tell theirs.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Knitting Detour

I made progress on all 3 projects while in New York. I intended to lay them all out for a photo on the stone wall that ran along the edge of "our" property. Unfortunately, I saved that for the last day -- to maximize progress made -- and then got so busy in packing that I forgot.

We returned home with the beloved purse of my niece that she accidentally left behind (the NY trip was for a family reunion). This particular niece became my younger son's best buddy and girlfriend for the duration of the week. She even made it possible for him to participate in the clan-spanning kickball game by helping him run the bases:

Awwww! I had to return her kindness somehow. Knit=love, right? So I dashed off a little head kercheif for her. Fittingly, it is here modeled by her devotee:

Pattern: Primarily the Kitchy Kercheif in Stitch 'n Bitch, though I changed the bindoff (see notes).

Yarn: Regia Bamboo Color 1066 (previously used here) and Louet Gems sport weight in Willow.

Needles: size 7 bryspun and size 5 brittany dpn

Notes: After getting rolling on the pattern in Stitch 'n Bitch I just went until it seemed long enough. Then, instead of binding off and adding i-cord ties, I started worked the i-cord to the length I wanted, then fed it right into the bindoff and off the other side. In other words, the tie is one long cord, the middle of which was used for the bindoff. Despite consulting EZ's Knitter's Almanac and the Knitting Answer Book, I couldn't get a clear description of how to bind off in a contrasting color of yarn, so in true EZ style, I winged it. It came out fine. I only had to figure out what to do with the tail of varigated yarn that was left loose where I began the bindoff. I just wove it in. I think it will hold. Certainly for the use this little scarf will get (i.e. possibly none) it will work.

Here's the bindoff up close:

An, in the interest of devoting far more time and space to this wee project than it deserves, a shot of how nicely the i-cord ties in back:

Labels: ,

Thursday, July 05, 2007

For Your Bookshelf

Last month I finished reading The Baby Business: How Money, Science and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception (is that not the creepiest baby photo you've seen in a long time?). It was a thorough summary of the varied degrees to which reproduction has been divorced from sexual intercourse. The book's author, Debora Spar, is neutral in her assessment of the options we have for becoming parents. Her interest is in the markets these options create.

No one wants to think of adoption, in vitro fertilization, or surrogacy as the purchase of a human being. Spar argues that, like it or not, commercial transactions are at the heart of nearly all these means of creating families. She makes a case that everyone involved in these transactions would be best served by recognizing them as commerce and bringing transparent regulation to bear on them. Too often, government is afraid to explicitly legislate in the reproductive arena. This leaves all participants vulnerable to uncertainty and exploitation.

It was good food for thought.

And now I'm curious to get my hands on Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care. It was published only last month by one of the authors of Our Bodies, Ourselves. Without reading it, I don't know if it's comparable to other recent books calling modern maternity care into question (e.g. Misconceptions; Immaculate Deception II; Birth as an American Rite of Passage). It certainly seems to be in that vein.

You can check out an interview with its author, Jennifer Block here. As a teaser (from the interview):

[T]here's a much larger issue of women's access to optimal maternity care that feminists need to address. Some women are going to great lengths to access support for physiological birth, meanwhile most women are getting care that is not evidence-based and more likely to cause themselves or their babies harm. This should be of major concern to feminists. Women deserve better.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

If you're in the Ann Arbor area and interested in birth

This is likely to be a very useful program for any caregivers in the birth field or other outreach workers who interact with women of childbearing age. From the e-mail notice I received:

"Perinatal Grief & Loss Support, with Janet Holtz
Thursday, July 5th from 7-9pm
Center for the Childbearing Year

What is the role of the doula and care providers when a mom suffers a newborn loss? How do doulas and care providers navigate this difficult time and provide effective support to moms and families? Janet will talk about understanding grief and newborn loss and effective communication skills during especially sensitive times. She will facilitate role-plays on providing effective support to grieving families. Don't miss this very important presentation!

Janet Holtz is the Founder and Director of Peri-Natal Hospice of Washtenaw and a birth doula. Peri-Natal Hospice is “a non-profit Organization whose mission is to provide comfort, education and support to the families of the unborn who have a condition that is not compatible with life outside the womb.”

Please RSVP by emailing or by calling 734-332-8070.

Suggested Donation $10."

Monday, July 02, 2007

Watson and Crick were just the warm-up act

So much for a little escapist reading during vacation. I picked up my spouse's copy of The Economist and got sucked in by their cover story.

Yes? I thought curiously. What's new in biology? Well, dear readers who last studied biology in the '90s, it turns out A LOT IS NEW. Remember how we learned that DNA contains the "blueprint for life," its 4 amino acids sequence to code all the enzymes and hormones we need to make our bodies grow and function? Remember mitosis and myosis, those little chromosome pairs multiplying and dividing to give us gametes?

What if you're lounging on the porch overlooking Lake George and you read that they may have gotten it all* wrong? This camper suddenly felt like a Renaissance Courtier reading Copernicus's proposition that planets orbit the sun.

Imagine. Rather than just being the retriever of amino acids we've long assumed, RNA may, in fact, RUN THE SHOW.

The "selfish gene" may be little more than a red herring in the end.

What could be more exciting and mysterious?