I’m thrilled to be one of the mom’s participating in July’s Ease into Motherhood blog hop hosted by Monserratt, Jodi, and Erin. Ease into Motherhood is a sewists’ celebration of motherhood and the changes it brings to our lives. And boy does it bring changes! Motherhood helped me find a new creative path sewing a beautiful life for myself and my family.
When I was younger I always joked around that what I really wanted to be was a 50’s housewife. The always elegant mother who kept a spotless, well decorated home, dressed beautifully and cared for her family with ease. Totally unrealistic- but cooking, crafting and babies (and even sometimes cleaning now) are some of my favorite things. For a long time I felt guilty growing up in a feminist household that I didn’t have greater career ambitions. Family and living a beautiful, happy life have been my highest ideals.
All that said, becoming a stay at home mom was a huge life transition. Today I wanted to share a bit more about my parenting (including some mini birth stories for both my kids) and creative journey.
I started sewing only after our first child, Nigel, was born in 2008. His birth was an unexpected Cesarian due to breech. I was planning a birth center birth with my midwife but Nigel had other ideas! He flipped upside down in my 39th week- talk about a crazy sensation! I tried to get him to flip back for the next week-doing inversions in the pool and at home- but no luck. I went into labor the night before my surgery was scheduled and though I was instantly infatuated I was still disappointed not to get the natural birth I had envisioned.
Being stuck at home those first 6 weeks (since I couldn’t drive) was so isolating. Breastfeeding was a struggle and the pain from my incision made it difficult to even carry my baby for long. It took almost 16 weeks before I got the hang of breastfeeding and I almost gave up. Figuring out how to care my baby and for myself was uncharted territory. Luckily my younger sister already had kids and was nearby to help me out and give me great advice.
I think the roughest part of those first years was my own inexperience and insecurities. Once I let go and stopped worrying about what everyone else thought things fell into place. I started to enjoy the little moments and embraced life in all it’s messiness and imperfections. That’s when I truly eased into motherhood.
What I missed most after having children was expressing myself creatively. My favorite forms of art were printmaking (mainly etching and lithography) and oil painting which both involve lots of toxic chemicals. As a newly crunchy mom that was just not ok. Trying to find a new outlet to express myself led to crafting and then sewing.
One of my first makes was a simple ring sling. Baby-wearing had quickly become a passion and I figured I could make one myself (It’s just a simple length of cloth sewn to rings after all) to add to my growing collection. It helped me learn the basics on my sewing machine as I learned to make a hem and sew simple stitches. I set aside an hour a day to sew while my baby napped in the afternoon. That regular practice was calming and rewarding.
I had done a bit of historical costuming, knitting and hand embroidery before kids but had never really used a sewing machine. Pinterest and DIY Craft blogs came to the rescue! I made some simple hats, baby slings and car seat covers and from there the world opened up. I became so excited with my newly learned skills and wanted to learn to make everything! I threw myself into craft.
By this point I was full on into crunchy momma and natural/attachment parenting. We did bedsharing/cosleeping, babywearing, cloth diapering with elimination communication (mainly with my youngest) and full term baby led weaning. I was cooking all organic healthy meals and really into my new lifestyle. I started cooking more, made decorative soaps and cleaning products, started to explore natural dyes and started sewing everything I could figure out how to do.
My daughter was born in 2011 and her birth was amazing! Early on in the pregnancy I dreamt that I was having a girl so I was calling her Amelie in my mind for months. I did some hypnobirthing and worked on fetal positioning with Spinning Babies throughout my pregnancy. I birthed her at home with my midwife and my sister as both my doula and birth photographer (my husband was taking care of Nigel but they were both there for the birth). It was a truly an amazing and transformative birth. If you’d like to see it you can view my birth video here! I felt so powerful! She’s my little HBAC baby that I fought so hard for! I was out and about right away and on such a birth high for months.
Ami nursed like a pro and I tandem nursed both children. Nigel was an awesome big brother-always ready to help out! I was a bit nervous about adding a second child to the mix but parenting seemed to come so much more naturally after the second child. Finally, I felt like I knew what I was doing.
It was at this point I got obsessed with sewing. I finally had a little girl to dress! I quickly learned how to make baby clothes. Because I breastfed for so long (8 years!) nursing friendly clothing was a necessity too. It was what started me sewing clothing for myself. I couldn’t find anything I would wear normally that was breastfeeding friendly. Nursing clothing was somehow even uglier than maternity wear.
I remember vividly the first dress I made- a black and white leaf print linen/cotton with a bodice I modified for breastfeeding. It had a criss-cross wrap tie that went around the bust and a fuller skirt that covered my belly. I was so proud of myself. It gave me the confidence I needed to keep trying more complicated patterns. That same dress got refashioned later, after my sewing improved, into a pinafore for Amelie!
I wanted to share some books that really helped me….
As an expectant mom :
- Sacred Pregnancy by Anne Daulter
- Birth Matters by Ina May Gaskin
- The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer
As a new Mom:
- Attached at the Heart by Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker
- Beyond the Sling by Mayim Bialik
- Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn
- Naturally Healthy Babies and Children by Aviva Jill Romm
- Adventures in Tandem Nursing by Hilary Flower
As an artist:
- Cultivating Your Creative Life by Alena Hennessy
- The Rainbow Way, Cultivating Creativity in the Midst of Motherhood by Lucy H. Pearce
Being able to sew and alter clothing is such a blessing when your body is in a state of transition. I gained 45 lbs with my first pregnancy and it took a good two years to get back to my pre-pregnancy size. I remember how shocked I was after giving birth that I still looked pregnant. When Nigel was 2.5 I was pregnant again and gaining it all back. I went from a B to a DD while breastfeeding and have only gone back to my original size within the last year. The second time around I lost the baby weight more quickly, mainly because I was tandem nursing but even back to my same weight my body has changed quite a bit. Learning to embrace those changes took time.
Being able to alter and make my own post maternity clothing was amazing. I wish I had started earlier! I’ve always had a healthy body image and been quite confident in my sense of self, but I still had a hard time feeling confident with my changing size. Knowing that my clothes fit ME is amazing!
One of the reasons I started this blog was that I needed to focus a bit more on myself and not just on motherhood. Being a stay at home mom is so wonderful but it’s really easy to lose your sense of identity when your focus is so devoted on your family and parenting.
That really hit home for me after we lost our last baby to miscarriage at almost 12 weeks in 2014. I was physically and emotionally drained and it took me quite awhile to recover with the love and support of my husband and family. The depression that followed was hard to ignore. Focusing on sewing and creating was the best therapy for me. It became my refuge. And having such a wonderful larger sewing community online was such a support, it’s always so welcoming and upbeat.
“In order to not resent our children keeping us from our creative work, we need to bring creativity into our lives together, to allow it to inform our families life and fill our homes with beauty and togetherness.” Lucy H Pearce
Nurturing ourselves is vital and sewing is a wonderful tool for self care. It combines the physical act of sewing, artistic expression and of course practicality. I try to make the most of my sewing time now that I’m back working when the kids are in school (they’re now 8 and 6!) and sewing dance costumes freelance.
For me organization is key. Keeping my sewing area set up for easy sewing is must. In my free time I’ll cut out patterns I’m planning to sew. All my fabrics are then cut and separated into bags so I’m ready to sew when the mood hits. Making time for myself to sew is just as important as reading and playing with my kids. Even if it’s just a half hour here or there it’s worth it.
I also try to have small detail work projects that I can focus on easily when we’re out and about or at home with the kids. Some knitting, embroidery or practicing some sashiko stitching. I’m starting to teach my kids too. They love helping me with my natural dye projects and I’m teaching them some hand stitching. My children are so often my muses, their joy and creativity is infectious.
Right now I’m enjoying summer vacation with my sweet kiddos! Spending our days at the beach, playgrounds, the library and relaxing at home. Excited for the years to come!
Looking forward to reading more about everyone’s adventures in motherhood/parenthood. Happy Sewing!