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Hope and the Baby Sweater

April 23, 2015
Baby Baby Sweaters by Tin Can Knits

First, let me say how immensely grateful I am to live in an affluent corner of a post-birth-control world.  The very fact that knitting is a hobby we choose rather than poorly-paid women’s work is indicative of our vastly changed position in society. Women’s journey toward equality seems to me to be largely defined by our ability to choose whether and when to become mothers, a choice that we’ve only had (in some parts of the globe), since widespread availability of the Pill in 1960 or so – a very short time in history.

Lush Cardigan

A little Lush cardigan I knit long before ‘trying’ for a child.  Knit in Sweet Fiber Merino Twist DK in ‘something blue’.

I’ve had the luxury of making many of my own choices and defining my own life.  While so much of life is down to chance, I have been able to make some things happen for myself and have worked to create a career and personal life that I enjoy.

But You Can’t Buy It

Reproduction is one of the things that the modern world has not conquered.  Getting pregnant is something that we can’t control.  This can be difficult for us modern, independent women.  We can’t ‘work hard’ and expect it will come to us.  We can’t save up to buy it.  We can’t shop for it.  It is something quite outside of our control.  And there is a dark and sad side to it, as around one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage.  Seldom discussed, this is a loss that a huge percentage of us will experience, first-hand or through the sorrow of a dear friend or sister.  And tragically, some women are unable to conceive or carry a child to term no matter how long they try, which must be one of the most painful losses to mourn.

Baby Baby Sweaters by Tin Can Knits

A pile of sweaters knit while hoping for baby.

In the absence of control, that time when all we can do is wait and wish and wonder, what can we do?  I advocate hope.  For me, this hope was made real by knitting baby sweaters.

When I was ‘trying’ for a child, I spoke with a knitter who had been ‘trying’ for 9 months.  She asked if I had knit anything for my hoped-for child, and I told her about my growing pile of baby sweaters.  I asked if she’d knit anything for her little one yet, and she said that she hadn’t dared to, because she was uncertain whether she would conceive.  Perhaps this is how you feel as you hope to become a mother, or are wishing for grandbabies.

Own Your Hope

We all live our lives in hope, full of expectations for the future.  Expectation that the sun will come out tomorrow. But sometimes we are so scared to admit hope for the things that we REALLY want, for fear that they might not come to us. For fear that hope will ‘jinx’ us.

Don’t get me wrong… I am a pragmatist despite my romantic heart.  I didn’t go out and buy the whole kit and caboodle until I was 20 weeks or so along.  But I doubted in my heart that baby sweaters already knit would make me feel MORE sad if I lost a baby, or was unable to have one.  These sweaters were a physical symbol of my hope, but without them, my hope was still real.

My story was a happy one.  After 4 or 5 months of ‘trying’ and monthly mood swings when I peed on sticks and agonized that the process wasn’t within my control, I was suddenly pregnant.  I was fortunate to have a healthy pregnancy, routine birth, and a healthy baby.

Vivid Blanket and Flax Pullover

Little Max, at 2 weeks or so, on a Vivid Blanket, knit in Rainbow Heirloom Sweater.

Your hope is there.  It is real.  It cannot be denied.  Pain and change and loss are part of reproduction for a very high percentage of parents.  And there is some pain and change and loss even when you have a smooth pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby!  But I would advocate not allowing fear to stop you from owning your hope.  And for me, part of owning that hope was knitting baby sweaters.

Hoping for Grandbabies?

Many of our knitters are knitting for grandchildren, and I have heard many stories of knitters hoping for grandkids to knit for.  I say knit away!  Put those little baby sweaters in the ‘bottom drawer’.  They will wait a few years until your children either reproduce, or somebody you know has babies who need woollies, or a good cause needs some beautiful hand-knits.  There are always new babies popping into this world.  Just don’t pull them out when your kid brings their new partner over, PLEASE!

Flax Pullover

Max in a little Flax Pullover (it’s a free pattern!), knit in Rainbow Heirloom Sweater in ‘young temptress’ and ‘black cherry’.

My Favourite TCK Baby Sweaters

Playdate Cardigan by Tin Can KnitsAntler CardiganFlax Sweater

23 Comments leave one →
  1. Ophelia permalink
    December 24, 2016 5:09 pm

    I’m very late commenting here, but I wondered if you had any thoughts about what to do with these hopeful handknits if, after a long and heartbreaking journey, you’ve accepted not having children. I have crates of handknit baby clothes and handmade toys that I created with a hopeful heart. They are lovely, and I would have loved to have used them with a child of my own. However, after a long journey, and for complicated reasons, I know I won’t be able to do so. I am not sure my heart could take seeing them on a friend’s child or used by a niece or nephew, and I certainly don’t want to throw them away. Most donation locations only accept newly purchased toys and clothing, and I can’t imaginge donating them to a thrift store to be sold off for a dollar apiece after all the love and time that I spent making them. I am overwhelmed by this decision, but I know I can’t continue storing crate upon crate of baby things for a baby who will never be mine. I would appreciate any insight or advice, and I so appreciate you broaching this complicated idea of knitting in hope.

    • December 28, 2016 2:25 pm

      Hi Ophelia – what a tough question. I think, for me, if I couldn’t bear to see them on another child, I would donate them to the thrift store. Even if they are sold for a dollar a piece, it doesn’t mean the person purchasing them won’t value them and appreciate the love you have put into them. Just my thoughts, and I wish you luck in your decision.

  2. April 29, 2015 10:04 pm

    My best girlfriend lost a few precious babies before she was full term. When she told me she was pregnant the first time, I started a cross stitch that was gorgeous, but was super reluctant to finish once we received the bad news that she wasn’t going to carry to full term. I managed to finish it and hang it in my baby’s room – sent her a photo and told her she would get it when she had a baby in her arms. And she did – a little sweet girl who is one in a couple of weeks. Never ever give up hope.

  3. April 26, 2015 6:32 am

    This is a beautiful post. I have mostly given up on my own hope for a family but found out recently that I am to be an aunt. I had worried about knitting too much before the due date (November) but your words have helped me.

  4. Gunni permalink
    April 25, 2015 1:59 am

    Wonderful to read your post. 40 years ago I lost my first child a daughter and I had knitted a few baby things. But 3 years later we had a baby boy who is now a young man 37 years. I still knit and hope for grand babies some day. Look forward to your next post. Thank you Emily.

  5. Dorothy B permalink
    April 24, 2015 9:02 pm

    What a wonderful post! So true and so moving for women of all ages and varying circumstances.

  6. Nancy HILL permalink
    April 24, 2015 5:42 pm

    What a beautiful and poignant post!

  7. Melissa permalink
    April 24, 2015 12:11 pm

    What a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing your story and your thoughts.

  8. chopkins2011 permalink
    April 24, 2015 11:45 am

    I was so thrilled to see your little boy lying on a Vivid blanket. I have one in the drawer ready for my next grandchild (due in four days time!!) and have posted a photograph of it on my blog today.

  9. Sara Crafts permalink
    April 24, 2015 5:10 am

    <3 We tried for 24 months before conceiving. While waiting, I did knit some gender neutral things, but it depended on my mood. Some months I was hopeful and enjoyed knitting those teeny tiny things and other months were full of tears and the baby knits were shoved down to the bottom of my work basket.

  10. Jules permalink
    April 24, 2015 3:56 am

    Lovely post it reminded me of my first child who came along 8 weeks early and very small. I remember vividly hoping sometimes against hope of the day I could take my baby home.

    Yes he did have handknits, very tiny jumpers I think I followed a pattern for dolls clothes.

  11. Tess permalink
    April 24, 2015 1:14 am

    This post really touched me. Keep on writing your beautiful blog!

  12. Claudia (rav knittingmylife) permalink
    April 23, 2015 6:53 pm

    What a sweet and insightful post! I hope that my daughters will wait (2 are still teens) to reproduce but I’ve already begun the granbaby knits. I also hope to be alive and well should grans appear but the future is guaranteed to none of us.

  13. April 23, 2015 6:50 pm

    Thank you for the tip on when you are a gramma don’t rush to have your children produce more,I wont… I have 3 boys and 1 girl ,My daughter had a hard time conceiving and then came Mckenzie Lee,.It was the moment of joy when they were all born.I am so happy for You and your family.Max is a little cutie and He has a beautiful head of hair.I would love lots of grandchildren,but your right in time, whether they do or not,they’re plenty of others who would love a knitted something.I am thankful for my family as it is.

  14. April 23, 2015 3:30 pm

    This is such a beautiful and hopeful post! Thank you! My husband and I have been trying to have a baby for almost four years and have had four miscarriages. I’ve just recently started knitting some baby sweaters of my own to bolster my own hopes for the future. I may need to add in a few more of these sweet patterns!

  15. April 23, 2015 2:58 pm

    A lovely and brave post – I wholeheartedly endorse what you say about how incredibly lucky those women are in wealthy parts of the world to have access to good and safe contraception. And, yes – I agree too that despite all this “choice”, having babies is still a natural lottery, – too much pain and sadness and disappointment for too many. But yay – let’s own our hope! BTW your little Max is just gorgeous.

  16. Joyce Wood permalink
    April 23, 2015 2:37 pm

    Thank you for saying all the things I could never express. I have two lovely grown children and a grandchild and another on the way. I have also experienced the loss of 2 babies in miscarriage and the pain is still real. Babies are gifts and should always be celebrated so knit away ladies! A new life always needs to be warm.

  17. Rachel permalink
    April 23, 2015 1:37 pm

    What a brave and inspirational approach to life this is. I am half Jewish and have totally inherited that superstitious fear of the jinx. That idea that you never let the gods see you too happy. But your way is better. I was just reading about the power of letting the universe know what you are hoping for–just putting it out there. It’s such a brave way to live.

  18. April 23, 2015 12:43 pm

    For me, knitting baby things (presents for my friends babies) and at the same time not being able to conceive, was very painful. Maybe because I wasn’t knitting for my baby….

    • April 23, 2015 2:50 pm

      Hi Zeta – Knitting is a process, stitch by stitch, so I can see how it could come to be a reminder of what isn’t instead of hope for what may be. Best of luck and thanks for sharing.

  19. Cathy permalink
    April 23, 2015 12:31 pm

    This is a beautiful post. Thank you! And, congratulations on the birth of beautiful Max!

  20. Elizabeth permalink
    April 23, 2015 12:26 pm

    I love this post. Thank you for writing it, for helping us all to think about the love and loss and pain and hope wrapped up in babies. And,of course, for your gorgeous baby patterns! I love dressing my sweet Lucy in her Flax. She’s almost grown out of it so time for a new one soon.

  21. April 23, 2015 11:31 am

    While I was very fortunate to get pregnant soon after we starting “trying” I didn’t knit or sew anything until late in the pregnancy, because I was afraid I’d somehow “jinx” it. But its interesting how we all react to the hope vs. fear spectrum of the unknown.

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