First Day of Fall: A Photo Essay
on Normal, Successful, and the Meaning of Life. Maybe.

the one that Helped Me Understand

Sometimes I feel misunderstood by my husband.

That's shocking, I know. Certainly no one else feels this way.

It seems, however, that he cannot understand most of the things I am passionate about. Keeping a journal and blogging? Reading for pleasure? Scrapbooking? Quilting? Writing poems that no one reads? None of those things are worthy of my time in his eyes.

But this isn't a husband-bashing post. Honestly, plenty of the things he's passionate about are sort of eyeball-glazing in my perspective. Spotless house? Checkbook always current? Squeaky clean car? I just don't get it. Luckily, we do have plenty of stuff we're both passionate about together. But I do wish that he could understand my things just a little bit, so I could do them without feeling guilty.

Last Halloween (yes, last Halloween; I am getting around to writing this blog post only ten months or so later), my neighbor decided to take my kids out trick-or-treating with her kids. So I stayed home to hand out candy. Passing out the loot to trick-or-treaters is fun, but it's sort of frustrating. You can't really read in between knocks on the door, because you just get into the story and then are yanked right out again. You definitely can't watch TV, at least not if you don't have a TV near your front door. So, to keep myself occupied, I sat in the semi-dark room and worked on clipping the seams on my fall rag quilt:

Quilt fall (pictured here with my kid who didn't want to cooperate with taking pictures when it was almost time to leave for school; you can also see it hanging from a tree in the post after this one.) 

I love this quilt. This year it was THE first fall-ish thing I pulled out of my storage bins. I couldn't wait to use it. It took me more than a year to find all the autumn-hued flannels, because non-babyfied flannel is hard to find. All the shopping paid off, especially that cream-colored paisley tonal; without it, there wouldn't have been enough contrast. I put an extra layer of flannel as batting, so the quilt is heavy and warm and soft and comforting. It might be my favorite quilt...well, I can't say ever. But I do love it so very much.

That Halloween, while I sat and snipped the seams, Kendell walked by the front room. He was grumpy for some reason I've forgotten, so I was sort of avoiding him anyway. "When did you turn into the quilting chick?" he asked me. "Why do you like it so much?" I didn't really answer him then (he was grumpy, remember? and this is an old and often-repeated query) but I continued to think about his question while snipping seams and passing out candy.

I sort-of answered this question later, but I left something out. An enormous reason for why I am a quilter right now in my life (as opposed to the mostly-older women I see in the fabric stores) is that I didn't get to have a second daughter. During the years between Nathan and Kaleb, I gave the best new baby gifts. I considered it a sort of calling to find sweet little newborn nightgowns, or delicate crocheted sweaters, or perfect pastel dresses. If I was shopping for a girlbaby, and I found a great deal, I'd buy two: one for the new mom, one for the other daughter I was certain I'd have one day. Those bought-on-clearance baby clothes, and the shopping itself, became a sort of inspiration for me, a way of keeping real while I waited to conceive the second daughter I thought---knew---I would have.

After I found out Kaleb was a boy, I gathered up everything I could still return to Gymboree (whose return policy was, then, six months) and, bawling the entire time, returned all that pink stuff. I had a great big credit to spend, so I took a deep breath and turned towards the blue side of the store. And I never looked at pink things again. I couldn't allow myself to even see anything pink, so I shuttered off that part of me, which was harder than it sounds. And was also a problem, because I couldn't bring myself to buy anything pink, not even for friends having girls.

That's when my baby rag quilts were born.

I'd never made one for anyone. I'd never planned one for my never-to-be-born second daughter. So there wasn't anything painful attached to them. They weren't a symbol of heartache. I could buy pink flannel; I even managed to enjoy buying pink flannel. And I've loved making every single one I've made, for boys and girls. I discovered that by making the quilts I felt a little bit more attached to the babies they'd be wrapping up. A sort of surrogacy, I suppose. That's why I keep making them, even though I have just very recently managed to buy something little and pink and impossibly soft from Gymboree: because even though I won't ever get to have one of my own babies again, the recipient would, and it brought me a silly sense of comfort to know that someone I loved would get to have their own baby moments. By making and giving the quilts I get to experience that, just a little tiny bit.

The unborn daughter is a topic Kendell and I never discuss. She is a sore spot we avoid. None of this has anything to do with me wishing Kaleb had been a girl. He is himself, my caboose-baby who I love with every bit of myself. It is about me wishing that I could have had her, too. About the feeling I continue to have that I've lost someone. In a real sense, I had to mourn for the daughter I didn't have. I didn't know what to do with the years of hoping, planning, and dreaming I'd done in her behalf. The realization that she wasn't ever coming to me didn't happen at my sonogram with Kaleb, or on the day he was born, or at any other specific moment. It was a gradual gathering of reality, a long, slow dying of the hopes, plans, and dreams. Probably that death isn't over yet. Maybe part of me will always grieve some. Even though I have the knowledge: you don't get to be her mother, I still dream about her sometimes. 

Looking back at the thoughts I've written about quilting, I realized that I'm nearly always trying to defend my creative impulse to Kendell. Yet, in a sense, the quilts---which, obviously, have become more than just baby gifts, but are my newest hobby---continue to be about her. At least connected to her. I can't use my body's creativity anymore, but I can still use my spirit's. Something about quilting, about the making of a functional and pretty item by cutting and reassembling, makes me feel better. It is a realization, every quilt: I thought that not having her would leave me forever numb, without the ability to make anything, but that is not so. Look! I am making something. Limping or no, I'm moving forward. Reassembled.

And maybe that's why I'm still thinking about Kendell's question, ten months later. And why, even though his non-understanding continues to bother me, I continue to make quilts. Whether I give them away or keep them for me, they are a source of creativity that brings me a comfort I need.



I love the quilts you make. You always have something you are working on, and I think that is so cool. I've slacked on my creativity this year, but I've got some projects I want to get going on.

I'm glad you found an outlet. I wish you could have had her.


I've mourned the same way - even though I'd never undo either of my sons, there was a girl in my heart who needed to be mourned.


This is absolutely beautiful, I am sitting here in the dark with tears streaming down my face.

Thank you for sharing this.


Melanie Bell

It's not unusual that I'm reading your blog with tears in my eyes. This time it's because I'm pregnant with another baby boy, who I'm thrilled about. But there's a little nagging worry that I may never get that second girl (I have a 5yo daughter) who I'm so sure is supposed to come. I've got boxes of pink things waiting for her eventual arrival, and every once in a while I allow myself to think about the possibility that she won't ever come. I guess I could say that I'm afraid someday I will feel your pain.

I share your love of quilting, except that I almost exclusively make baby blankets. I use mostly flannel, with some minkie thrown in here and there, and I LOVE the process of putting fabrics together and then turning them into a finished product. I enjoy giving them away almost as much, even though I feel every time like I've given away a little part of me. Maybe that's what makes the gift-giving so satisfying.

You need to post more pictures of the quilts you make. The ones I've seen are beautiful, especially that autumn one!


I love the quilt you made our little guy. I very much enjoyed reading the emotions behind these beautiful treasures, painful and all. Thanks for sharing your heart, Amy.


I get twinges of sadness when I think about my unborn daughters. I always, always pictured myself as a mother of girls, so three boys was not what I pictured in my life. I adore them and think Heavenly Father knew exactly what I needed to learn. And yet.

I miss her too. I miss her as a 60 year-old woman without a daughter to go help as she has her own babies. I miss her as a teenager, freaking out about her acne and being every bit as dramatic as a daughter of mine would be. And, of course, I miss the pinks. The bloomers covering diapers under dresses and Mary Jane shoes and hair with matching bows.

I'm glad you have an outlet. What a beautiful way to a mother to many daughters.


I'm with Lucy here. I love my sons, but there are many things about raising a daughter that I will miss.

I'm also with you on having a husband who questions my use of time. In fact, as I read, I began to wonder if we married the same person (ha, ha), but that couldn't be! There is this constant struggle between trying to fit the mold he desires and standing on my feet and saying, "This is who I am! These very things you disdain are the essense of me!"

kelly edgerton

The picute of your son wrapped in the quilt is amazing. You need to enlarge that and have it framed. It says so much about who you are and the kind of mother you are to your sweet children.

So... where did you get the amazing fabric? I've never seen anything that pretty around here. I'm guessing you are going to tell me that you ordered it... this is my weakness. I can't visit online fabric locations because I have no control when it comes to the "buy" button.

Love you BIG,

A guy who sort of understands

You don't ever need to defend your creative impulse to your husband, or to anybody else. The same goes for your reading and anything else. Whether he knows it or not, the parts of you that drive you to do those things combine to make you the person he fell in love with.

(Me, I still can't understand why a man would spend hours sitting in front of a TV watching somebody else play football, but that's just me.)

If you're lucky, one day he'll wake up and realize that. If not, well, that's his loss.

And speaking of loss, the sorrow you feel for the daughter you never had will never go away completely, but several forces in the universe will combine over the years to dull the pain and replace at least a part of it with joy.

To begin with, the girls you will serve in primary and YW will grow to love you and be willing recipients of your love. When they come home to visit, as adult women, they'll seek you out and embrace you and talk to you for what seems like hours. And when your boys are old enough, each of them will bring home a special girl to meet you, and he will hope, silently and desperately, that you will envelop her with your love and adopt her as one of your own.

And if you're one of the lucky ones, then one day you will find a girl who has been aching for a mother as desperately as you have been aching for a daughter, and you will fill the voids in each other's heart. I hope you are that lucky.


isn't it amazing that we can miss a child we never had? the dream of that little one? the hope? it's years later and I still miss the other baby I so wanted to have, but husband didn't . . . in a way it comforts me that others feel that way.

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