Tip #188: Take it one day (and one person) at a time.
In case you missed the news, we’re expecting a new arrival to our family this spring. What was once two, then three, then four, will become five people living in fewer than 500 square feet on the top floor of this old brownstone. We’re not panicking.
We don’t know precisely what five people living in this space will look like, but the only plan we have is to make it work until it doesn’t anymore.
Expansion is the great American dream. As a culture we’ve tended to prioritize bigger and better and more from the very start. (It’s a compulsion that’s benefitted a relative few and hurt many others, to say nothing of the planet, so you can probably imagine where I stand on it.)
For us, right now, more space isn’t a non-negotiable. If we decide to move after this baby arrives it would likely depend on other factors, like cost, or the prospect of living somewhere filled with bright afternoon sunlight, or the allure of a bit of outdoor space, or the chance to wash clothes in our own building. Another hundred square feet, in other words, wouldn’t be reason enough to jump ship.
For the moment, we’ve been lucky to find a mini crib through a neighbor on our local Buy Nothing group. It will likely slide in next to our bed for the first few months, and squeeze into the kids’ room after that. The addition of tall cabinet of one kind or another might be helpful for stashing diapers and baby clothes and other small necessities, but we’re not rushing into that either.
What I’m sure of, is that the arrival of a new person into our family will be all sorts of life expanding. Whether it needs to also be space expanding, remains to be seen.
A few weeks ago, over coffee at our favorite place to catch up and brainstorm ideas, I told Rose that underneath my flowing gown of a dress there was a very unexpected and very present belly, growing seemingly before my very eyes. Faye, I told her, seemed to be suspecting something and had announced on our walk to school earlier that morning that my dress was a bit “too loose.” She gestured dramatically at her mid-section and let me know that she prefers dresses with “something here.” A waist, is what I gathered she was hoping for. I can’t be sure, but I think I had just been sartorially owned by my five-year-old. As I relayed the anecdote to Rose, she had, as she always does, a solution: a belt, not fussy or complicated, and something I could make myself in a matter of minutes.
Here’s that belt, which like most things that Rose dreams up, can be repurposed in about a million ways: “This eight strand braid can be so many things; a delicate belt to cinch a flowing dress, a simple tie for packaging gifts, or a touch of texture to tie back a curtain.” The finished product is delicate and understated but special enough to feel elevated beyond a simple piece of string. As for the tutorial, “it’s simple but involves braiding with four strands instead of three to create a more intricate-looking accessory. The natural hemp twine is strong, durable and will soften with use.”Roses’s instructions are below. To Faye’s delight, I’ve started wearing the belt as suggested.
+ Start by cutting four lengths of hemp string, each around four yards; doubled, each strand should wrap around your waist twice.
+ Fold each length of string in half and bring all folded ends together to create eight hanging strings.
+ Keep two doubled strands together as center strings to create a 3/4” loop. Wrap the remaining two doubled strands around the center ones. Keep all the pieces in place by pinching them together where they meet with one hand.
+ Working with four sections, you will begin to braid. Each section contains two strands.
+ Still pinching the top where the strings meet, bring the section on the far right across the middle two sections and pinch them in place.
+ Pass the section on the far left over that last section to the right.
+ Continue the same way, passing the far right section over the middle two sections, then cross over the far left section to the one on its right.
+ Be sure you are not twisting the strings while you are braiding.
+ If it helps, you can safety pin the top of the braid to a cushion to stabilize the braid while you work.
+ Continue until you reach your desired length, roughly a few inches longer than the circumference of your waist.
+ When finished braiding, tie a simple slip knot with all the ends together.
+ Trim the ends and you are finished.
All photos by Rose Pearlman.
Thanks to Rose Pearlman for developing this project, writing the instructions, and capturing the imagery. Rose is an artist, teacher, and textile designer. With a background in fine arts and a love of well designed functional objects, her creations blur the lines between art and craft and pushes the boundaries with non-traditional techniques and materials. Rose teaches monthly rug hooking workshops in and around her home in NYC, and also welcomes commissions for one of a kind constructions in decor and home furnishings. Her work has been featured in fiber magazines, galleries, and numerous online design sites. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her family.
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I’m fifteen weeks pregnant with my third child, which is not something I ever imagined I’d be writing here. Things are going more or less as well as expected for a very unexpected pregnancy, which is to say that I’ve been exhausted and overwhelmed and occasionally totally panicked. And I’ve also been excited and happy and completely confident. I’ve been sick, like I was with my first two, but intensified this time around and with no signs of letting up. But I’ve been carrying on, writing and working and climbing onto the top bunk to read Henry & Mudge stories for the fiftieth time.
I believe that any pregnant person should proceed precisely as they desire in regards to everything, and in terms of announcing their pregnancy in particular. I know that for myriad reasons—infertility, and histories of miscarriage, and medical complications, and family dynamics, and work expectations, and generally living in under patriarchy—a private first trimester is often preferred or necessary. But it’s dawned on me, too late, really, that this approach probably isn’t the right one for me.
It’s taken me reaching the end of the first trimester of my third pregnancy, to realize that keeping my pregnancies secret in the first trimester made me feel worse, not better. I’ve realized that what might have actually helped me along would have been to talk openly about the news and the surprise and the joy and the muddling through of feelings. I might have let more folks know that I was needing to nap. Or that I woke up most mornings and vomited and then, on the bad days, vomited again after dinner. I might have revealed that I sometimes felt thrilled and that sometimes a dark wave of doubt would sweep over me and I’d wonder how I was going to get through this at all. I wish I’d been able to simply say, for instance, “I actually need to take a break from this photoshoot. I’m pregnant and famished and also I might throw up on your shoes.” Instead, like so many pregnant people before me, I tried mostly to carry on with business as usual, ignoring—forgive me—the elephant in my womb.
Pregnancy is deeply personal. So personal that it’s nearly impossible to broach without hurting someone in the process. I hope I’m able to avoid that here. Despite all evidence to the contrary, we tend to approach the subject of pregnancy with a perspective of its universality. As though every person carrying a child in their uterus—or expectantly waiting on a child in someone else’s uterus—feels the same way about it, or comes to it from the same place, or will finish with the same experience. But as Angela Garbes writes in her book Like a Mother, “There is no right or wrong way to be pregnant…There is only one way—your way, which will inevitably be filled with tears, mistakes, doubt, but also joy, relief, triumph, and love.” In her book, And Now We Have Everything, Meaghan O’Connell articulates a similar sentiment, writing: “With stuff this big, almost any way of looking at it can be true. We all talked like we were going to eventually reach some grand conclusion, some correct stance, but in fact it was different for everybody, impossible to pin down. Was childbirth traumatic or transcendent? Was pregnancy a time of wonder and awe or a kind of temporary disability? …My feelings changed every minute, depending on my mood and on the company I kept.”
I’m trying to be compassionate with myself about following convention instead following my gut. The reasons to keep an early pregnancy private are many, and valid. For one thing, for so much of a pregnancy, the condition is apparent. Pregnant people walk around with their pregnancy on display. And as anyone who’s been visibly pregnant knows, that display elicits reactions. Some of those reactions are very welcome and some are very exhausting, and all it depends on the particular people in question. But regardless of how we’re feeling, the general expectation is that we should meet that reaction with a smile. It’s no wonder then that some of us decide we’d rather just have a few months of not needing to field questions from strangers at all.
And of course, there’s the fear of loss. Even in the best case scenarios, pregnancy is a time when something delicate hangs in the balance of fate and health and genes and sheer luck. We’re not, after all, in control of very much at all. When deciding whether or not to share news of a pregnancy, I followed the conventional thinking that in the case of loss, it would be better to have that be private. Sharing news publicly and having to retract it later sounded more painful than privately mourning. (And I know that that’s very much the case for some.)
I also know that deeply embedded notions (and legislation) about pregnant people and whether or not we should have autonomy over our bodies makes this conversation even more difficult, and the choice to delay announcing a pregnancy even more understandable. But for me, keeping my early pregnancies largely private didn’t feel protective as much as it felt isolating. For my part, I’ve come to think that dealing with even the totally mundane discomforts of a healthy pregnancy is more than I really should have tried to carry myself, three times over. I can only imagine that in the case of loss, I’d want to feel even more supported. In the final analysis, as my dad would say, when losing a pregnancy, whether publicly or privately, there would be no way for me to skirt the anguish. I often think of the poignant words of Margot Finn, sharing her story on The Longest Shortest Time. On her decision not to hold her deceased baby, she says: “I think I thought I was saving myself some pain. And in the fullness of time, that seems so naive. And sweet. What a sweet thing for my past self to think I could do for myself—save myself some bit of trauma. But it would have been hard and beautiful and sad. And not holding her is hard and beautiful and sad. And it’s just—there’s no way out of it being sad.”
And so that’s that. There’s no grand conclusion. No correct stance. Just an announcement that I’m pregnant and a feeling that maybe, I’d have been better off saying so earlier. I’m very relieved to be sharing the news now.
For the curious: I’m wearing the Alida Jane Dress, a gift from Fog Linen, which ironically I thought might conceal a pregnancy, but I’ve come to learn has mostly allowed me to feel exceedingly comfortable in my own stretching skin.
A crane kite for remembering our feathered friends. Colorful sneaks for marching in. Someone special for keeping company. A little box for taking along some sustenance. A little pack for keeping everything wrangled. A…