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Sunday, September 29, 2013

a C-section story - Melanie Singer and TWINS!

Melanie Singer is a SUPER MOM in my book. She not only experienced a C-section but she also had twins, one of whom had to stay in the NICU for a couple of weeks after she took the first baby home from the hospital. Feeling torn between two babies, two places, all while recovering from major surgery... and yet still keeping it positive during that tough time, this earns her a Super Star from me! Thank you, Melanie, for your story.

Photos from Melanie Singer 

What was your birth like that turned into a C-section? Since yours was planned, what was it like knowing the due date was definitely that day?
We had a planned C-section since our twin girls had to come out a little early due to placental insufficiency. Having a definite date in mind and knowing that I would meet my girls on that day was awesome. It allowed us to make plans with our family that was flying in to visit and it gave us a date to get everything ready by.

What did it feel like to think your birth experience would be one way, and have it turn into another way? When I first found out I was pregnant I wanted to do a water birth. I thought it would be less painful than the traditional way. When I found out I was having twins, I changed my mind. I didn't want to take any chances. I wasn't upset about it.

What was going through your head as they said it had to be a C-section? At that point I just wanted the babies to have as little stress as possible. I was willing to do anything to make that happen. We found out in the third trimester that Sofia was not growing at the same rate as her sister, so we knew a C-Section was on the table.

What do you remember about the actual surgery and moments after? I had a very good experience with my surgery. The doctors, anesthesiologist and nurses were all wonderful. I remember being very cold when I first went into must have been 60 degrees. As soon as they put the epidural in and I laid down, I started getting a warm sensation in my legs. Then I couldn't move them at all. It was a little scary, but I knew it was temporary. I also remember when they lifted Alena out (baby A) I felt like a bowling ball had been removed. I felt so much lighter. I felt the same thing when they took out Sofia (baby B) but on a smaller scale.

What challenges did you experience with C-section and/or recovery?
Once the surgery was over, the girls were whisked away to the NICU and the room cleared out.  

It was just me and two nurses for clean up. It's a little shocking because everything was such a whirlwind and then all of a sudden you're alone.  

I had my phone in the recovery room so my husband was texting me video of the girls. After about four hours they brought Alena in and that was the best feeling in the world.  

As for the physical aspect, I was surprised how difficult it was to get around. I spent 5 days in the hospital, mainly so I could see Sofia in the NICU, but it was very painful to walk/move around. Also, I couldn't drive for 2 weeks after the surgery which made our life very difficult. With one baby at home, one in the NICU and a husband at work....I had to heavily rely on friends to help me out. We had a friend staying with us to watch Alena during the day while I spent my days in the hospital with Sofia. Eventually I was spending 24hrs in the hospital.

What things did you not like about a C-section? I didn't like getting pitocin after the surgery and going through labor pains. No one told me they would be pushing on my stomach when I was withering in pain. If I had any energy someone would have been punched in the face.

What did you find was a good thing about C-sections? It was over very quickly. I think the whole procedure lasted 20 min.

What is your advice for someone having a planned C-section? Bring in your own robe/clothes/socks. The hospital issued wardrobe is cheap and flimsy and you want to be comfortable when people come to visit or if you have to leave your room. If you normally get waxed, DO IT BEFORE THE SURGERY! I really regretted shaving and not getting my normal Brazilian wax. It is easier to clean up down there if there is no hair in the way. Also all the bandages they put on have to come off sooner or later and it hurts that much more if it is caught up in hair.

What is your advice for someone recovering from a C-section? What helped you the most? Take your pain meds!  

Sometimes we try to act tough and push through the pain, but if you are in a lot of pain you will not be able to enjoy the time you have with your newborn. It takes 6 weeks to recover, so follow the Doctors orders. Don't lift anything but the baby during that time. If you do too much it will take longer to recover and you could end up feeling miserable.

11. What did you not expect with a C-section that happened? I just found out two weeks ago that I can't do a single sit up. I used to be able to do 50 in one minute and now I can't do any at all. That was shocking. I am now taking an ab class 3 days a week to get back to normal.

What was it like having your babies in the NICU? What helped you get through that experience? What is your advice to anyone else who has a premature baby?
The whole experience was very frustrating. Sofia (baby was just over 3lbs at birth. In order to take her home she had to be over 4lbs and have continuous growth for 4 days in a row. She was breathing on her own and had no other issues. We just needed her to gain weight. She was hooked to an IV and I was only able to feed her 1.5oz to 2oz of donor breast milk (until mine came in) every couple hours. The problem was, she still seemed hungry. I felt like I should be able to feed her whatever she would take, but the doctors disagreed. They said she was getting everything she needed from the IV and the small amount she was being fed. That angered me because the whole idea was to get her to gain weight, so why were we limiting her intake? 

The NICU nurses were awesome. They were heavy handed on her ounces and allowed me to breast feed in addition to bottle feed so she could have as much as she wanted. She did lose weight at first, but that is normal for all babies. Then she was on a steady climb.  

After being in the NICU for 8 days she was transferred to the PICU (due to limited room in the NICU) and that ended up being a blessing. I was able to stay all day and sleep there at night too.  

I was an emotional wreck because I was spending all my time with one daughter while the other one was at home without me. I could only provide enough milk for one and I felt Sofia needed it more. It was tearing me apart to have to choose between them, but one was healthy and safe and the other was in a hospital and needed to get fattened up. In the PICU, she was no longer hooked to an IV so the doctor put her on an ad lib schedule, which meant I could feed her whenever I wanted. She ended up spending a total of 13 days in the hospital and she came home the day before my birthday. It was the best present ever!  

Everyone's experience with the NICU is different. I met a lot of parents who had babies in there for months. My heart aches for them. Having a good support system is key. My friends and family were amazing. They came to visit, gave me words of encouragement, and most importantly they took care of everything for me so I could focus on the task at hand.

13. What was it like leaving the hospital with one baby, one staying behind? What helped you while at home away from your second baby? I was an emotional basket case. Family and friend support helped the most. 

Also envisioning the girls back together again helped a lot. I kept thinking "this shall pass". Now we are all happy at home and that experience is a distant memory

a C-section story - Katie Morrill

Thanks to Katie Morrill for her awesome account of her C-section with her adorable little one! I love seeing first-day, brand new baby photos! These are some great ones. 

All photos from Katie Morrill

1. What was your birth like that turned into a C-section?
I was a scheduled for an induction due to high blood pressure and being past my due date. After 2 days of labor my labor failed to progress and they saw she was not able to move into my pelvis.

2. What did it feel like to think your birth experience would be one way, and have it turn into another way?
I was nervous about labor whether natural or c section but happy that they were going to go ahead and do one as I was very uncomfortable even with an epidural.
3. What was going through your head as they said it had to be a C-section ? 
Somewhat relief that labor would be over.
4. What do you remember about the actual surgery and moments after?
Actual surgery I was having a panic attack feeling like I couldn't breathe, vomiting while laying down and uncontrollable trembling from adrenaline that had started.
5. What challenges did you experience with C-secion and/or recovery?

Recovery has been very painful unable to do much but feeling like I have to do everything.

6. What things did you not like about a C-section?
Being awake during it was very scary and healing is awful and not having milk come in soon enough which made it impossible to feed her also my swelling got 10 times worse.

7. What did you find was a good thing about C-sections?
She was out very quickly and no fear of her getting stuck or other complications.

8. What is your advice for someone going into a vaginal birth?

Always be prepared things can change and turn out different than what you planned.

9. What is your advice for someone having a planned C-section?
Healing takes a long time and make sure you have a support system of family and friends to help you once you're home.

10. What is your advice for someone recovering from a C-section? What helped you the most? 
Don't feel bad asking people to help you. Try not to do everything yourself.

11. What did you not expect with a C-section that happened? 
Such a long recovery and breast feeding problems.

CUTEST little thumb-sucker ever :)
12. Anything else you want to add?
One more thing, everyone wants to see the baby when you look and feel like you got hit by a bus and take all these great pics without you in them cuz you're stuck in bed and can't move right after the c section!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

a C-section story - Amy Valvo

Thank you to Amy Valvo for sharing her pitocin-turned-C-section labor with us. And how adorable is this photo of the two of them?! I appreciate your honesty!

Photo from Amy Valvo

1. What was your birth like that turned into a C-section?
My water had broke but I wasn't having contractions so I was started on pitocin. The pitocin started my contractions,however every time I would have a contraction Koby's heartbeat would drop to 50-70 bpm. The nurses would give me oxygen,had me on my hands and knees and were rubbing my belly to get his heart rate back up. After several attempts at pitocin each resulting in me being bombarded by nurses with oxygen masks and iv's I decided I didn't want to stress or harm the baby and that c-section was the best way to go.

2. What did it feel like to think your birth experience would be one way, and have it turn into another way?

I was very disappointed that I wouldn't get to experience what it was like to have a vaginal birth. After weeks of preparing myself for what it would be like and whether or not I would get an epidural or not all went out the window. It didn't really matter anymore.
3. What was going through your head as they said it had to be a C-section ? 
My dr told me I didn't have to have a c-section. That I could continue to try the pitocin if I wanted. It was my decision.
4. What do you remember about the actual surgery and moments after?

During the actual procedure I just remember staring at the ceiling listening to my own breathing trying not to freak myself out. 

Every once and a while I could feel my body moving around from the drs trying to get Koby out. I couldn't feel any pain, just my body moving around every once a while.
5. What challenges did you experience with C-secion and/or recovery?
I didn't have any problems with recovery, it's just very slow and painful process. I didn't like that I needed help getting out of bed to feed him in the middle of the night.
6. What things did you not like about a C-section?
The only thing that I didn't like about it was the recovery time. I'm not very patient when it comes to things like that
7. What did you find was a good thing about C-sections?
I'm so grateful that modern medicine has such things available. That it allowed me to safely have a healthy baby boy.
8. What is your advice for someone going into a vaginal birth?
Congratulations!! you're almost there!! 

I don't have any experience with a vaginal birth, but in the end all that matters is that your little one arrives safe and healthy.
9. What is your advice for someone having a planned C-section?
Being cut open was a super scary thought for me. I was afraid that something terrible was going to happen to me. But there are lots of nurses and doctors in the room monitoring every little thing. I thought it was nerves that were making me nauseous when really it was my blood pressure. So any questions at all that you have. ASK THEM! There's no such thing as a dumb question especially in this scenario. They will do their best to make you as comfortable as possible.
10. What is your advice for someone recovering from a C-section? What helped you the most? 
Have plenty of pain relievers and someone that can help you at home for the first few days. The hardest part for me was getting off the couch and out of bed. Rest is important, but getting up and walking around is also important.
11. What did you not expect with a C-section that happened? 
Going into it, you don't really know what to expect, but I asked my nurses and drs a ton of questions and just kind of went with the flow of things.
12. Anything else you want to add?

If you plan on having a vaginal birth and it's not in the cards for you, it's ok. It is disappointing and frustrating that you don't get to have that experience,but your child's safety is the most important.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

a C-section story - Pamela O'Pecko

Thank you to Pamela O'Pecko for sharing her experience with a C-section! I'm featuring several mamas on the blog this month with their experiences with C-section births because I feel like it's something women rarely get a chance to talk about since it's not the norm. I think it's scary and not how moms planned births to go, so it's good to talk about. If you have an experience to share email me at!

  • All photos from Pamela O'Pecko 
  • What was your birth like that turned into a C-section?
    Well, I actually never went into labor. My doctors wanted to induce me because I had gestational diabetes. I went in three days before my due date to start the cervadil (spelling?). The doctor on call inserted it, and I waited for something to happen. 12 hours later - nothing had. I'd had some contractions, according to the monitors, but I never felt any of them. I didn't dilate past the 1cm I was when I went in (and for the previous 2 weeks).

    What did it feel like to think your birth experience would be one way, and have it turn into another way?
    I knew C-section was a risk with the Gestational diabetes. I did everything I could to avoid it. I really, really didn't want a c-section. But when my doctor came in and told me that the inducing had no effect on my cervix, he said we could try another 12 hours.. and I said - No. The whole experience in L&D was miserable. The nurses, the beds, not being allowed to drink or eat anything. Miserable. I just wanted out of there.  

    When he said instead that it would be a c-section, I was completely OK with that. I didn't feel any of the emotions I thought I would. No disappointment, no anger, no negative feelings at all. I guess I just accepted it, and I think that in a way I had been working on accepting it since I found out it was a possibility.

    What was going through your head as they said it had to be a C-section ?

    It was surreal. I knew my baby would be here... soon. I'm not sure I was prepared for that.  

    My husband and I are very "in the moment" people, and while we knew, obviously, we were having a baby, we didn't spend much time thinking what it would really be like to see him.  
    In a way I think I was relieved - My birth plan would not be put to the test (I had down that I didn't want medications or to be cut, and a number of other things I don't recall. I wanted to make it through on Lavender oil and back massages, and I'm sure like many women, I wasn't sure I really could). But I didn't have any bad thoughts about it at all. I wanted a shower before I went in, I knew that. And they let me. Then my doula and husband dried my hair and off we went!

    What do you remember about the actual surgery and moments after?
    The surgery was intense. Nothing went wrong, there was just a lot of feeling. Not pain but 'pressure' they called it! It really felt like someone was trying to yank my lungs out. I had no idea the 'pressure' would be so far up. The doctors told me "He's gripping you with the clamps pretty hard, do you feel that at all" and I said no. They told me to be prepared for pressure... I tried to be.  

    My husband was there holding my hand. I was so scared at that moment. I heard the OB say that there was meconium (spelling) staining and that the cord was around his neck twice. And I thought "I knew there was a reason I wasn't feeling him move around so much".  

    Then he was out and the dr held him up by arms and legs and said "Here's your baby, Pamela". I didn't see much of him and I dont remember what I said. The next I recall, someone said "Dad, do you want to cut the cord". My husband said "Can I?" and left my side.  

    We had already decided that should a c-section be necessary he would stay with the baby at all times so that wasn't a shock. I yelled out to him "Is he breathing" and then I heard two little cries and relaxed. Then I yelled "Does he have hair?" I dunno why that was important to me. And I did see that he had hair when they pulled him out so I dont know why I asked. One of the doctors said "What's that..." and I waited to see what they had found, and another replied "A skin tag I think". No one was telling me what was going on and I was nervous but I figured if it was really serious someone, hubby at least, would say something to me. It was a tiny skin tag on his ear. It's CUTE!

    I felt that they were sewing me up and then I felt the staples, and then hubby was next to me showing me our child all wrapped up snug with a tiny blue hat on. I didn't get to hold him like I wanted. I don't remember but I think they stayed in the room and waited for me, however I am not sure. They transferred me to another bed, and off to recovery we went!

    Aside from L&D, recovery was the most miserable thing about my experience. I was ok, and baby was ok, but he was right next to me and two nurses and my husband were standing there with their backs to me an no one was letting me see or hold my child.  

    He had low blood sugar so they gave him some formula from a cup and it went up fine. They kept talking about how adorable he was, and I got more annoyed. It felt like I was there for two hours but I know that can't be right. I think one of the nurses noticed I was upset, because she finally came over and let me hold him and put him to my breast. He latched right away and we spent a little bonding time. I spent the rest of the time there trying to move my legs!

    What challenges did you experience with C-secion and/or recovery?
    Really, the only thing was that I didn't want to be in the hospital that long. Hospitals are for sick people. I had a baby, I wasn't sick. I hadn't slept since the night before I went in to be induced. I wanted my bed. I wanted to see my dogs and cats. I wanted to take my baby to his new home. When they took me to my room, I told them we were leaving a day early (that is how long I'd have been in if my birth were vaginal). They took me at my word, and sure enough, we were discharged one day early.

    What things did you not like about a C-section?
    The catheter. And not being able to clean myself up for almost 24 hours. It was weird to have a nurse clean me.

    What did you find was a good thing about C-sections?
    For me, it was all pretty easy. I got up a few hours after the section because I had pulled out my IV and the nurse needed to clean up my bed which was covered in blood. By then I was able to move my legs. I told her to just bring a chair over and asked everyone else to please just leave the room, and I got up and sat in the chair while she cleaned my bed. It wasn't easy, it did hurt, but I was able to do it just fine.

    Look at that peanut!

    What is your advice for someone going into a vaginal birth?
    Have a plan, but don't be afraid to change it. Get a doula if you can, even if you have a c-section they are awesome for support and not too costly. Don't feel like you have to impress anyone or do anything for anyone else. You are there for you and your baby. That's it. The rest does not matter.

    What is your advice for someone having a planned C-section?

    It's still a birth. Celebrate it like one.  

    Take the pain meds as you need them, but get up as soon as you are able and move around. It will hurt but not as much as you think it should.

    What is your advice for someone recovering from a C-section? What helped you the most?
    Move, move, move. The sooner, the better. Take that bassinet for a walk around the halls. Take a shower as soon as you're allowed. Don't over do the stairs, but don't be afraid of them either. My incision leaked a lot while it healed. That was a little scary so I called the on-call doctor at the hospital. Don't be afraid to do that, they are there for you.

    What did you not expect with a C-section that happened?
    All the pressure, in my chest, that was weird. That the pain wasn't all that bad, that was a little weird too. I think mostly though, it was how relieved I felt when I heard that he had been in meconium stained water, and had the cord wrapped around his neck twice, that we had done a c-section. Even though I knew babies were birthed fine that way every day, I was glad we didn't take any chance for any sense of pride or accomplishment that I wanted to have.

    Anything else you want to add?

    My c-section turned out to be a wonderful experience. I really fought against it my entire pregnancy, but I am not the least big upset with having had one.  

    My little boy is perfect in every way. He's amazing and I could not be happier.  

    I know that my future births will be c-sections, and I'm 100% ok with that. I thought I would feel like I missed out on something by having a c-section. Something that would bond me with other women. But the truth is, I don't feel I did. I didn't miss out on a single thing. I got to breast feed him as long as I was able (and having a vaginal birth would not have made me more able). I got to room in with him. I got to bring him home on the same time schedule as if I had delivered him vaginally. I had a perfect birth, and I could not be happier.  

    And next time, I know what to expect, and can make appropriate plans and not have to spend 12 hours in L&D being miserable in those horrible beds with no food or water (Well, I'm sure I'll have restrictions there for surgery but I can handle them at home in comfort).  

    It was a beautiful birth!

Monday, September 23, 2013

finding the silver lining in motherhood

Sometimes motherhood is so exceptionally hard. 
There are days when you feel like you can't get it right, can't get it all done, can't be everything you want to be to everyone who is begging for your attention.

Some days you just want a vacation. And not the kind you take when strolling through Target on your own, as the captions in the black and white drawings on Facebook point out.

The real kind. The kind where you could put your feet up (right?!) and order a drink (order something, what?!) and be waited on and relaxed, totally relaxed (seriously a dream!). The kind where nobody wants anything from you, where you can hear yourself think (who else's mother used to say that and you'd laugh your butt off, thinking, "Um, DUH, you CAN'T hear yourself thinking, Mooommm!").

Sometimes it's just not easy. 

There are days that go like this, that are harder than others.

Days where a shower is a dream and eating anything but what's leftover on your kids' plates is like living a Queen's life. There are times when you just don't, can't, won't be able to get it all straight the way you imagined you would in your head, or the way the pages in Parenting magazine so nicely lay out the way it should be.

Sometimes you just miss the mark. 
Sometimes you aren't even close. 

Sometimes, yes, sometimes, you're even wrong. By far.

With yelling or swear words muttered under your breath, or even out loud when you forgot you weren't
alone and there were little ears around. With messy houses and cars and purses. With so not perfect lives.

Sometimes you mess up. Sometimes you have to find the patience to apologize, even though you feel sorta right in how you felt five seconds ago, you know you have to be the bigger person (because let's face it, you are like 3 feet bigger really in this situation).

I'm all about being honest. You know this about me. I'm not about sugarcoating the motherhood experience. It's crazy, chaotic, loud, and totally up and down a lot of the time. It's not easy. It's trying somedays.

Still, lately, I've been thinking...

As hard as this motherload really is, it's also pretty freaking amazing! 
And we are so damn lucky to be moms. 

I've heard too much bad news lately. A girl was kidnapped. People were shot in D.C. My cousin's father died from a brain tumor that was only found three weeks ago. A 21-year-old boy died in a car accident.

There are terrible things in the world. Really awful things that make you want to shut the world off and just stay locked inside the love you have for your kids and partner, friends and family.

Things happen in the world that make me scared, make me want to lock my kids away and never let them be exposed so they won't ever be hurt by anyone.

But we can't live that way, can we? We have to face the world. Every day really. We can't hide. We can't protect our babies from everything. We can't even have perfect days where every single piece of laundry is done, folded and put away at the same exact moment (dream come true, wouldn't that be?!).

We can't be perfect or live perfectly. It doesn't exist. 

What exists is normal. Ups and downs. Roller coaster highs and lows. What is real is happiness and sadness and frustrations and pull-your-hair-out moments.

That's life.

Life is about real moments. Nothing fake or misleading. Real, honest, raw experiences that happen just as they are meant to. 

When you have kids, you know what I'm talking about. Things always seem to just happen how they are going to. You can't plan it all, no matter how you try. I'm a planner, I know these things don't always work how we want them to.

So you find the silver lining. The shining, glimmering, hopeful part about life. The dream come true. The cherry on top of the sundae. The icing on the cake. 

You find what you're needing, what perhaps you were looking for amid the chaos.

You find the happiness, beauty, and truth.

Sometimes you find it in the middle of the tiring afternoon drive home from work and school, when the kids are screaming because that's their new game... to play off each other and screech as loud as they can, in some type of singing ritual that makes you want to blare the music to get them to stop... Sometimes in a moment like that where you're frustrated and without a plan of how to get a 1-year-old to listen to you and get the 3-year-old to listen at the same moment, you start to laugh.

You chuckle because you see that this is how it goes. This is your life with kids. It's hilariously frustrating at times. And the silver lining comes again, when you see in the rearview mirror that the two kids who are driving you crazy are actually becoming best friends right before your eyes, as they lock eyes and reach out hands to try to hold each other across the car seats. And they are laughing. Like it's the coolest, funniest moment ever.

So you let go of your hair and leave it in your head a while longer instead of pulling it out. Because you see the silver lining here.

It's OK. It's hilariously OK.

Like that moment when you're running late in the morning, trying to get out the door on time, for once. And your son stops you to ask you the thousandth question of the morning or to show you one more thing. And instead of raise your voice or say no again, you stop and you listen, and you lock eyes with the smartest, coolest kid you know. And he shows you how he can put his shoes on all by himself. And you laugh because they're on the wrong feet, but it so doesn't matter in this moment. What matters is that he's excited to tell you something, you are listening, and you're together.

Or that moment when instead of care about the mess, you make it a game to clean up together. Instead of snap that for the 50th time today your child has not listened to you, you find more patience and take a breath and calmly express the rule again, for the 51st time. Because you realize he's still learning, she's still practicing. They'll get it some time. Not today, but some time.

And then there are those moments when you realize someday you're gonna miss this... just like the song says.

Someday you're going to have what you want - an empty car, no toys, no blankies, no extra diapers, no sippy cups full of spoiled milk because it's been sitting in the hot car since drop off this morning. Someday you'll be alone, listening to whatever older people listen to in the car, and you'll miss someone saying "Mom, Mama!" or telling you about how Lily wouldn't play with him today and how much fun it was making a sand pile for the dump truck to pick up. Someday you'll miss seeing the baby's bald head in the mirror, when you check to make sure she's there snuggled in her car seat.

You'll miss all of this. So you learn to cherish it, even on the tough days. 

They grow fast. 

We know this. 

But on the hard days it's easy to forget how much we'll miss this someday, how much we should slow down, ignore the messes that need to be cleaned, play more, sit more, rest more. 

I encourage you to be real, be honest about how hard it is. Ask for help. Take naps (that's my new favorite thing! All summer I took naps for about 30 minutes as often as I could. It was just the pick-me-up I needed to carry on with the rest of our busy days!). 

Let things go that your former-mommy-self never would have let go. Give yourself a break. Your older self will thank you for finding more time to spend with the kids instead of doing chores or trying to achieve impossible perfection. 

On the hard days, try to stay calm, breathe, find patience. 

When you don't have anymore energy to give because it was a hard day at work or because the Terrible 2, 3, 4, etc. stage your kid is in is particularly wearing today, try to find the silver lining. The little moments within those big frustrating moments that shine. The little things that can make you smile. 

Find what matters. In every day, in every moment

And try, really try, even when you're at a breaking point, to embrace what's right in front of you. Hopefully healthy, happy, smiling - despite the occasional tantrums! - children, who are yours, now and forever, little and growing. 

The silver lining. It's what makes motherhood's trials and tribulations seem so small and the love so grand.

Hang in there, mommas. You can do this. Find what shines to help you through.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

introducing a Knaptime Knitter

(All photos by Angela Avery)

This is my beautiful sister, Amanda McCarty, who is also known as the Knaptime Knitter from her blog,

She also is the amazingly creative momma behind the Etsy business, Crooked By Design, at and on Facebook.

She is so incredibly creative and adventurous with trying new things she's never made before. She knits, crochets, sews... she does it all! I know she's my sister and so I have to be a fan, but honestly, I would be even if not related to her. I'm totally her biggest fan. She does AWESOME work.

I knew you all would want to know more about her and her great work, so here's a feature on Miss Amanda (aka Min, that's what I named her when I was 3 and couldn't say her real name!).

She is fun and generous and kind, always trying to make a package and craft that someone is going to love. Her home and work are in New York. Below is her work station in her house.

How did you start your business? Why did you want your own Etsy business?
I had been knitting, crocheting, and had just began sewing, and realized I love it to the point where I was crafting constantly. I found myself with a lot of items made and my husband said, you need to sell your stuff. I was hesitant at first, because so many other people sell their crafts and there is a lot of competition, but he convinced me and pushed me to open my Etsy shop. It was the easiest place to launch Crooked By Design, because it's an online marketplace which is already set up and ready for you start up.

What does Crooked By Design mean? How did you come up with the title?
I wasn't sure what to call my shop. All my items are handmade by me, with the help of my sewing machine for fabric items. 

I think there is something really special about handmade items, because so much time goes into making them, and they feel more personal than a store bought item.  

The name was inspired by our house, which was built from the ground up by my husband's family in the 1800s. We all joke that because it was made with love, by working hands and generations, that it is "crooked by design" and filled with character.  

And no, my items are not crooked! But they are made with love, and my first few projects were not perfect, but as I keep working harder and harder to learn new skills and perfect my craft, it has turned into something I can really be proud of.

What does your shop specialize in? What is your favorite item to make?
My shop mostly offers baby and toddler hats, because that's what the highest demand is for. I like to offer items for the whole family, and I also offer knit and crocheted items for women, kids (mostly upon request) and occasionally men's items. I have bags, as well, which are probably my favorite things to make. I make them free-hand without the use of a pattern, so each bag is truly one of a kind and made with love!

How do you get inspiration and ideas for items to make?
Most of the time ideas for items come from the customers.  

I love this about my craft, because someone can show me a picture, and I have to challenge myself to either find an available pattern or write one myself if that fails.  

I also go by what I like, and what I would buy on Etsy.  I don't make items I wouldn't use myself, because if it doesn't sell, I like to know I'll use it.

All of these baby hats were donated to a great cause last month!

How long does it take you to make items? When do you make your items mostly , what time of day? What do you do while knitting - TV on? music on?
The amount of time it takes to make an item depends greatly on what it is. A basic hat, about an hour. An embellished hat, a few hours. A scarf, couple of days. My bear cowls, a bestseller in the winter months, take a little over a week. This, of course, is with interruptions.  

I get items done every chance I get, but I have a husband, toddler and two dogs, so finding time isn't always easy. At the end of the day, when my little man goes to bed, I'll sit down with a show and knit or crochet away, and throughout the day I get it done when I can. When I'm doing basic knit items, I can read while working, since I've knit for so long now, I can literally do basic stuff with my eyes closed.

Take me step by step through sending someone's package to them.. what speial things do you include in there ? How do you wrap them up? Why do you take care into wrapping them nicely? Do you get nervous when you send packages to people?

When I get an order, the first thing I do is tell my husband and get excited. 

I recently reached the 200 sales mark in my shop, and I still get excited every time I see the notification that an item has sold. Even if I know it's about to happen. Then, I either make the item custom for the customer, or get it from my ready-made stash and wrap it in tissue paper, wrap it in yarn and add a hand stamped Crooked By Design business card to the package.  

I like them to look like a present for the buyer, because it's exciting getting mail!  

I always get nervous sending out the packages. Not because I don't stand by my work, because I double and triple check items before sending them, but because of that fear that it won't be what the customer is expecting.  

I want it to be perfect, but I try and cut myself some slack that I am one person, and I make a lot of items (over 300 since I started the shop May 27, 2012, including craft fairs). Somewhere along the way I may have a slight imperfection, but it is my goal to make that never happen.

What is your success rate - of 200 orders, any complaints?
Of all my Etsy orders, I have only received positive feedback, which I am so grateful for. This is a learning process for me, and I'm sure that at some point I will make a mistake.  

I have had only one unhappy customer. We resolved the issue, but it was frustrating and upsetting for me. I got over it pretty quick though, because like everything else, this was a learning experience for me and keeps me on my toes.  

If no one complained, ever, I would fear they were just trying to avoid hurting my feelings. I want to know if something wasn't up to par, so I can fix it for the customer and keep them coming back.

Why do you think people should buy on Etsy, homemade items? 
Etsy is a really amazing thing. Here, we have all these people, providing items that they made, and you can talk to the store-owner directly, request something custom made just for you and enjoy the personalized experience of shopping the marketplace.  

I love it, and I love knowing that with my purchase on Etsy, that person is getting the profits, not a store, giving them a percentage.  

In my case, each time you buy an item, I am paying for college, or helping out on household bills. This is my job, and each order is appreciated more than buyers probably know.
What are your favorite Etsy shops you buy from? 
I have many shops I have purchased from. Jenni from Signed n Sealed makes amazing banners. Star Crushed Minerals has awesome homemade mineral makeup for a steal. If ever I'm looking to buy something, I always check Etsy first, and usually, I'll find what I'm looking for.

How does your business allow you to be a great mother?
Having my Etsy shop has allowed me to be home with my 3 year old, while my husband works full time. I love our time together, and that I can work on sewing, and he helps me (mostly by standing next to me with his hand on my arm "sewing"). I can work around his schedule and not have to worry about work hours. I love making him hats, too, because he now gets really excited about them!

You also have a blog Knaptime Knitter ... what is your blog about? What types of posts do you specialize in ?
My blog, Chronicles of a Knaptime Knitter, is all about the DIY things I do as a mom. We live on a budget, and I like to save money anywhere I can and do as much as I can without the help of a store.  

I started doing this, and thought, (again, with my husband's persistence) that I should blog about my experiences so others could do it, too.  

I'm also gluten free, which is something people seem really interested in, so I like to add information and recipes too, to help anyone who is starting their journey of being gluten free.

What is your advice to any moms who want to make some money selling their items on Etsy? How was it getting started? What are your tips for successful selling on Etsy?
To anyone thinking about opening an Etsy shop, I say DO IT! It's a lot of work, but so worth it.  

I get such a sense of pride knowing my handmade items are all over the country, and even as far as Ireland!  

I would say to do some research before opening. I didn't know the ins and outs of Etsy when I started, and I realized that I could have been doing much better if I knew how to utilize tools. Ask questions, experiment, find your niche and don't be afraid of changing your mind. It's your shop, and your work! Also, be patient, it takes a little while to get established. I had little to no sales in the beginning, and now I have a constant flow of orders.

You are also gluten free, which many moms seem intrigued by... when did you go gluten free, and why? How did you know you had a gluten allergy? What is challenging about being gluten free?
I went gluten free in 2007 after years of a bad tummy. I read an article about gluten, when it wasn't well known, talked to my doctor and gave the gluten free diet a try. I was amazed how much better I felt within a couple of weeks. I had all the classic symptoms (which you read all about on my blog!) and it was really hard to go gluten free, but also very rewarding. I had more energy, better skin, less stomach issues. It was all worth it.

Give me one of your favorite gluten free recipes. And speaking of cooking... let's talk about how you cook with random ingredients all the time... how do you do it? ! What is your advice for moms to make healthy meaels for their families, but on a strict budget?
Oh boy, favorite gluten free recipe....I don't know! Probably my gluten free French onion soup, which is something I missed so much. I played around with the recipe for awhile, and the final product is also on my blog.  

I like to use what I have in the house when cooking, to avoid having to buy so many groceries. There are so many substitutions you can use, and since I'm already substituting by taking gluten out of my diet, it's easier to use something else in place of an item I don't have.  

Like, Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, or ranch instead of mayo. If you are budgeting, I'd say meal planning definitely helps, couponing, and freezing leftovers.

You also recently graduated from college, after being in school through wedding, baby, move, etc. HOW DO YOU DO IT? What are you most proud of ?
I don't know how I juggle doing so much, but my husband is a big part of it. He works a lot, but when he's home, he is hands-on with our son, and the dogs. He gives me the time I need to do things I have to do, and still give me "me" time.  

If I say that I need a good soak in the bubble bath, he is more than happy to take over parent duties. He never complains and he's amazing for this.  

I just finished my Bachelors degree, after years of life getting in the way, and this is probably what I am most proud of. It was so hard to be a mom, student, wife, plan a do-it-yourself wedding, launch my blog and Etsy shop and balance every day life. But now that I am done, and I earned my first ever 4.0 (hoorayy!!!!) I am thrilled to pieces of my accomplishment.  

I am also proud of how well my Etsy shop is doing. It was a slow start getting the hang of things, but now it is thriving and I am so appreciative and excited. If not for my shop, I wouldn't have been challenged by projects and learned new skills. I'm willing to bet life would have taken over and my craft would have been put on the back burner.  

But since it is my business now, I take great pride in work and get the chance to do what I love, surrounded by the love of my life, my son, Atticus.

THANK YOU, Amanda, for sharing your awesome ideas about working from home, Etsy shopping and gluten-free eating! You are definitely an inspiration of mine, and I know so many moms in the Mommy Stories LOVE your hand-knit items. THANKS, THANKS :)

P.S. Anyone from the Mommy Stories group or reading this blog can take 10% off any purchase ANY time on Amanda's Etsy shop!!! Use code MOMMY for 10% off. ENJOY!