MKG Cable Gram - Volume 20, Number 3
My grandmother taught me how to play a mean game of gin rummy. She did not teach me how to knit. My mother taught herself to crochet after she had kids but she quit a long time ago. So I didn’t pick up knitting as a tradition handed down through the women in my family. What called me to knitting was my own experience of motherhood, only not the way you might think.
At fourteen weeks into my first pregnancy, I lost my baby to a miscarriage. Miranda would have been one year old in August, had she made it into the world. My husband and I had been trying to have a child for five years when we finally got pregnant through IVF. At six weeks, we saw the baby’s heartbeat on ultrasound. At three and a half months, we were relieved to be through that notoriously iffy first trimester. We thought we were safe. But that magical point you pass after which nothing can go wrong turned out to be a myth.
The miscarriage itself was terrifying. For a week or two afterwards, I couldn’t sit up without getting dizzy, because of all the blood I’d lost. And that’s when it started, that urge to fill my hands with purpose.
Even though I hadn’t started showing by the time I lost Miranda, I had already begun to cradle in my hands that space where I knew she floated. Sometimes I ran my hands over my expanding belly, trying to calm the rising nausea of morning sickness, or just trying to feel myself fitting into this new role I had finally achieved: Mom. Losing Miranda, along with all the dreams we had for her, left me with an emptiness that is hard to overstate. My hands felt useless. I had not been able to protect my child with them, and now it seemed all they could cradle was this terrible tragedy and my powerlessness to stop it.
In desperation one afternoon, I asked my husband to go digging through an old trunk for my mother’s crochet supplies. Along with crochet needles, he found some fuzzy yarn and a little booklet on How To Crochet. Lying on my back, I managed to make a chain, but got no further. A few weeks later I saw an article in the paper about an upcoming meeting of a local charity group, the Mother Bear Project. If you showed up to help, they’d teach you how to knit, it said. Still feeling fragile and somewhat lost in the world, I took a chance and showed up. Sure enough, an experienced knitter put her hands over mine and guided me through those beginning stitches. For two hours, I sat focused on learning this new skill, and went home with something in my hands that, under my own power, would grow and ultimately be complete. For the first time since the miscarriage, I felt like I might be something more than just the woman who lost her baby.
Learning how to knit gave me hope that life would get bigger again, that I was not done becoming. A year and a half later, I find I can hardly get through a day without knitting. At first it was a way to get through the grief, one stitch at a time. But since then it has evolved into a kind of spiritual practice, keeping me grounded no matter what happens.
My husband and I go on vacation this month, visiting my parents in Washington. Of course I’ll be bringing my knitting supplies, and visiting the local yarn stores, but not for the reason you might think. After I offered to teach her, my mother has expressed an interest in learning to knit.
Carrie Mercer has an MFA from Hamline University and has been a judge twice for the Minnesota Book Awards. She teaches writing workshops, has published poetry and currently writes book reviews for Rain Taxi.
To learn more about the Mother Bear Project, visit http://www.motherbearproject.org