As I move through my second postpartum journey I am doing things differently. It’s only with the power of hindsight that I can see where my struggles originated five years ago and I’m working tirelessly to avoid falling into the same holes. In many ways I feel like I’m still working through my original postpartum depression. So far (knock on wood) I don’t seem to be exhibiting any severe depression or anxiety symptoms since the birth of my daughter, but birthing has still left me emotionally raw and I frequently experience shards of my first postpartum self insinuating themselves into my life. Birth splinters me each time so now I live with three versions of myself, possibly four–pre-pregnancy, post-miscarriage, new mother, and second time mother. I expected becoming a mother for the second time to be a slightly less intense version of the first time, but that has not been my experience. I’m not traveling back to the underworld of postpartum depression. The darkness isn’t claiming me. I’m living in a place of unexpected light and from that place I continue to do the work of healing from my first foray into motherhood. And this time I’m not doing it alone. This time I’m venturing into motherhood with a whole army of women warriors marching along with me. One of the places we gather is at Stab and Gab.
Stab and Gab is my bi-monthly craft group that meets at my house to drink wine and make stuff. The group is a year old now. It began as a way to teach a few friends to needle felt (that’s the stabbing part) and developed into an informal support group for all of us stumbling through life with the desire to craft something along the way. There’s a lot of gabbing at Stab and Gab, and the whole thing sinks into my soul like the most potent medicine. Stab and Gab has become inextricable from becoming a mother again. It started at the beginning of my pregnancy and is now one of the primary things keeping me afloat postpartum. On nights when my husband is out and I know I’ll have to face a very long evening of baby care I stave off panic by planning a Stab and Gab. I fill my empty house, that would once have been a breeding ground for anxiety and panic, with unbelievably lovely people who come with yarn in hand, or nothing but a desire to learn something new, and we share our craft skills, share our life skills, and generally buoy each other up for a few hours. Some women bring babies, some don’t have children, but we all have in common a certain generosity of spirit that leads to endless collaborations and shared wisdom. I pretty much invite everyone now. The group has over 50 members, though no more than 8 or so have ever shown up at once. My first question to people I am getting to know is “do you do any crafty stuff?” If the answer is yes, or if they even hint that once upon a time they wanted to learn to crochet or something, I add them to the Stab and Gab group. I can’t speak for everyone else who attends, but for me it’s a life raft. Stab and Gab is the ark that is preventing me from drowning in the postpartum flood. And as an added bonus I’ve been making some pretty great things–felted things, knitted things, crocheted things, and sewn things. But the best thing that’s being made is community. I feel like I’m positively inundated with friends who are willing to give up a few hours to devote to self-care and crafting. This abundance of friends is not something I’ve regularly experienced. It’s an unexpected gift that has someone come along with my most recent pregnancy and flourished after our move to Steveston, which I have, on more than one occasion, referred to as “Magical.” I have never lived anywhere else where I have felt so embraced by the community around me. I’ve never felt so much a part of the fabric of a place. I’m sure it’s rare to actually be a part of the fabled village that is required to raise a child. Mostly the villages are gone, replaced by intensely protected individualism and isolated nuclear families.
Here my neighbours regularly say they’re headed “to the Village” which means Steveston Village with its shops and restaurants, but indicates for me something far more valuable. There is a village of people here too, unlike anything I’ve encountered before. I shop locally and know many store owners by name. I run into friends and acquaintances daily. I literally only have to step outside my front door to find other people to chat with, commiserate with, and laugh with. And I try to drag as much of that congenial feeling as I can into my house at Stab and Gab. I can only hope that others are gaining even a fraction of the benefit that I am. I hope to be stabbing and gabbing for a long time to come.