Niamh’s Blue and Yellow Sweater

On the last night of my honeymoon, I wore a floor-length, fitted red dress and black kitten heels. A car picked us up at our hotel in Porto, Portugal, and drove us through the city where the lights from the Yeatman Hotel danced on the river and the bridge was crowded with people heading home from world-famous bookshops. As the city disappeared from our view, we were surrounded by rolling fields of farms and wineries. As the sun hid behind the horizon, the fields opened up to reveal the picturesque ocean crashing on the shoreline.

We were headed to Casa de Chá da Boa Nova, where Michael surprised me with a life-changing, 21-course meal as waves landed on sharp boulders, splashing the glass windows. Far from the bustling city, the lights of the restaurant stood out against an open ocean of never-ending waves. Michael and I paused at the top of the grand staircase, taking in the sense of intimacy that settled in as we peered out at the open sky and reached for the doorknob.

Inside, the restaurant was bright and lively. Glasses clinked, and small plates were placed around tables. Our first course was an immaculate slice of toast with a smear of creamy, rich butter. A perfect start to our meal, and every dish that followed was better than the one before it, ending our night with the sweetest, freshest citrus dessert that I still long for some nights. We decided to skip the wine pairing. Not because of our early flight the next morning or the price tag on the menu, but because I had decided to stop drinking cold turkey—an arguably strange decision considering the three bottles of port in my suitcase waiting to accompany me home.

Michael and I have talked about wanting kids since we were in high school. Becoming a mom was always exciting to me in a way that made it feel very far away, more like a dream than a plan. Regardless, it was a dream I loved sharing with him. I always said I wanted four biological children and two adopted children. Michael always said he wanted a daughter named Niamh—an Irish name that means bright.

For eight years, I have had a working note on my phone of names that we have liked. Many have been vetoed. I said no to Bjorn, and Michael said no to Briney. A few names have stood the test of time, but most come and go, no longer resonating with us as we move through a new phase of life. Niamh has always been at the top of our list since we started our note all those years ago. Niamh Kristen Carolan.

On a rainy day in Venice, Italy, Michael and I scurried across a small bridge, into a quaint restaurant, seeking refuge from the rain and craving pasta. My sandals and yellow sundress looked equally ridiculous and cheery against the black raincoats and angry sky. When I pictured my honeymoon, I imagined sunny skies and warm days, so that is what I packed for.

We ate our noodles and sipped our wine as we warmed up in the dimly lit restaurant. I tried my very best not to bore Michael with stories of my knitting plans. Instead, we spoke about our visit to Libreria Acqua Alta and the mosquitos that had snuck into our hotel room that night and feasted on my legs. As we ate, my mind wandered out the restaurant door and across the cobblestone path to the little yarn shop we had planned to visit after our meal.

The rain had slowed to a drizzle, and the sun had found its way through the clouds by the time we finished lunch. We walked over to Lellabella, the only yarn shop in Venice, where we were greeted by a kind Italian woman who owned the shop with her mom. I shared my plans of buying yarn in each country we visited on our honeymoon. I was going to knit three projects for my future babies. She showed me her favorite baby yarns, and I showed her a few of my favorite patterns. We settled on the Seaside Sweater by Petiteknit. We said no to yarns that were too warm for the Miami weather and put aside colors that screamed “boy” or “girl.” Eventually, we settled on a thin, merino wool in light blue for the base of the sweater with a small ball of matching yellow yarn for the sweater’s stripes.

I started my tiny sweater that night, lying in bed next to my new husband, while the last few mosquitos hid behind the blankets, sneaking out to bite me.

Michael said he thought we were having a girl early on in my pregnancy, so I said we were having a boy. I didn’t want us both to be wrong.

The morning after I gave birth to Niamh, I sat in my hospital bed, staring at her tiny body, sleeping in her pink onesie. Michael was cramped in the hospital bed beside me. We had both been up all night, peering into the bassinet, just to make sure that she was okay. She always was.

The room was silent as I stared in admiration at my daughter—this tiny little girl who I had spent every moment with over the past nine months. She was the one kicking right above my left hipbone early in the morning, letting me know she was there. Her beautiful dark hair is what caused my sleepless nights, and her hiccups were just like I had imagined.

”Of course she’s a girl,” I thought, as I heard Michael adjusting next to me in the tiny bed. I’ve known her all along. I knew her in the way she enjoyed vanilla ice cream with me late at night in the third trimester. I knew her in the way she left me exhausted as I helped her grow her perfect heart in the first trimester. And, I knew her in the way we had wished for her for all of these years. I knew her without having any idea that I did.

Our Niamh Kristen Carolan.

I finished knitting Niamh’s blue and yellow sweater months before my positive pregnancy test. Each stitch I made brought me closer to her. Each row I knit made me feel more ready for her arrival. It felt special making her a gift, I felt close to her. My daughter.

My Niamh.

With love,

Kristen Mary Carolan,

Niamh’s Mommy

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