Our second son, Colin, was diagnosed with a devastating birth defect about 21 weeks into the pregnancy, which gave him a 50/50 chance for survival. He was 4 lbs 15 ozs. at birth, unable to breathe on his own, and was quickly taken to the NICU, with time only for us to hold his hand and tickle his toes through the isolette. My husband went with him, and I went to recovery.
Being alone in a maternity room, separated from your baby, is a terrible feeling, but I was met almost immediately by a nurse who gave me two beautiful lovie dolls made by Threads of Love. She explained that by sleeping with them, I could transfer my scent to the dolls and they could be placed in Colin’s incubator to soothe him. What a beautiful gift! I can’t express how those dolls helped lessen the ache in my heart as I snuggled them to my chest that night, and each of the 31 nights he spent in the hospital. They gave me a way to always be connected with him, despite our separation.
Colin’s first few weeks included ventilators, surgery, and various “procedures”, and he was always covered with IVs and tubes and bandages. The mornings we walked in to find him clothed in a sweet flannel vest, wearing a little knit cap, or snuggled in a beautiful crocheted blanket softened the harsh image of our tiny baby in tubes and gave us hope.
Colin came home healthy, a little miracle, and after things were settled and stable, I knew I wanted to find out more about Threads of Love. I have been sewing for the South Orange County chapter for four years now, and feel so blessed to have both given and received through this wonderful organization. It is a true way to share God’s love and hope with one another.
From Mary H.
Dear Ann and Threads of Love,
Thank you for your nice note back to us. I don’t know if many of your volunteers have been inside the NICU at Saddleback Hospital. I want to describe it to you so they get a picture of what your blankets mean to the babies and their parents.
Most moms don’t expect to have our babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. When I saw the NICU chapter in my pregnancy book, I skipped over it, thinking I wouldn’t have a premature baby or a sick baby. So when this happens, it is a real shock to the parents who don’t expect it at all. Our twins were delivered by emergency c-section during a routine doctor’s appointment at 32 weeks. Twin B had a problem with his umbilical cord not functioning properly. Not only was I put to sleep for their birth, I didn’t even see them in the NICU until 10 hours later when I was awake enough to go by wheelchair!
When I got there, I was scared to see rows of babies in incubators with so many monitors, machines, lines, and tubes. Many are under bright lights and have cloth sunglasses taped over their eyes with Velcro. Many of them can’t be held because they have IV lines thru their belly buttons, which is a delicate thing. The only things in there are incubators, open air cribs, machines, and rocking chairs. There are no soft remnants from home.
On the third day, my twin boys were put in a special room with purple lights for their jaundice. Over their incubators, the nurses had placed your blue and green blankets. Since I had not had a baby shower yet, these were the first gifts Todd and Matthew received. The doctor had speculated they were identical, so we had planned that Baby A would be blue and Baby B would be green to tell them apart in clothing. I was so surprised that that’s how the nurses put the blankets: Todd got the blue blanket and Matthew got the green one!
After a week, they were down-graded and moved across the hall to the lesser NICU known as “The Growing Room”. It is to the right of the elevators when you get off. It is just for well babies to grow and mature until they are ready to go home, which is when they are able to bottle feed all day long instead of the nasal feeding tube. For my babies that took 24 and 26 days.
Now we are all home and the boys have doubled their weight in the first 8 weeks. Todd who was 5 lbs. at birth, is now 10 lbs. Matthew who was 4 lbs. at birth, is now 8 lbs. They are doing very well. They are going to be baptized at St. John the Divine Episcopal Church here in Costa Mesa on August 21 and we are going to use your blankets to hold them at the altar.
I encourage you to put a little business card or note on the NICU bulletin board on the wall near the nurse’s station with the Threads of Love information and address. I think you may hear from more appreciative parents.
Kirsty and David
I am the mother of Christabella Hope. She was born at 7:16am on December 29th, 2008. There were no complications at all. Christabella came out perfectly pink and crying when she was born. She weighed 7 lbs 13 oz and was 18 inches long. She was my first child, and the first grandchild on both sides of the family.
At about 3:10am, on December 30th, while still in the hospital, Christabella had a SIDS episode, she was rushed from our room to the NICU. It is too painful for me to go into all the details, but any parent who has had their baby in a hospital’s NICU with every possible tube and wire connected to them, will know what Christabella looked like.
After two weeks on a ventilator, the doctors declared her brain dead. My husband and I agreed to donate all of Christabella’s organs that they could find recipients for.
On January 12, 2009, Christabella entered Heaven when the doctors harvested her heart. A two month old, baby girl from Seattle was the recipient. The doctors told us, that without the heart transplant, that baby would have died. As of June 2009, the baby girl is very healthy getting big and just turned 7 months old.
Losing my daughter has been the most difficult experience I have ever endured. I will never forget her and I will never get over losing her. I miss my daughter dearly and I look forward to the day when I can hold her again in Heaven.
While we were in the hospital, Christabella was given a handmade blanket, a love doll and a few other things all donated by Threads of Love. I was so touched at the kindness of strangers during this most difficult time, that I wanted to be part of such a wonderful organization. I contacted a few friends to join me in making and donating blankets for the babies in local NICU’s, One thing lead to another and now here we are, a group of wonderful ladies all dedicating our time for a cause that is so close to my heart.
It is a privilege for me to be part of Threads of Love.
September 12, 2006 was to be one of the happiest days of our lives as we were excitedly expecting the birth of our second child. We had experienced an easy and uncomplicated pregnancy; however; without warning, 5 days shy of her due date our daughter was found to have no heart tones and ultimately was stillborn on September 7, 2006. She was a beautiful, fully developed baby with chubby cheeks and lots of dark curly hair, weighing 6 pound 11 ounces and measuring 20 inches long. She strongly resembled her big brother.
We spent the next few hours in the hospital making memories with our daughter – precious hours and precious memories that would come to mean more than we knew at the time. We tried to capture every detail and live a lifetime with our daughter in those few fleeting hours. We had no idea of the journey that was before us – experiencing the birth and death of our daughter simultaneously has forever changed our lives.
Just before we departed the hospital with empty arms and broken hearts, a social worker met with us and brought to us a beautiful handmade gown and hand knit bonnet, booties and sweater for our little girl to wear during transport to the mortuary. We inquired as to the origin of these delicately handmade items and were briefly told about Threads of Love and its ministry. We were moved by this gift of compassion. Ultimately, we elected to have Emma buried in these beautiful garments.
In time we reached out to Threads of Love to thank the local chapter and its volunteers for helping us and bringing us a degree of comfort during this time of tragedy. We named Threads of Love as an organization our friends and family could support, should they choose to do so, in lieu of sending us flowers. Many did. We hope that Emma’s life and our brief involvement with Threads of Love will help other families in need of the organization’s compassionate support.
From John and Kirsten P.
Threads of Love received a donation of 10 knitted blankets from Loretta. These blankets were made by her mother-in-law, Kathleen’s co-worker’s mom (remember this as it is pertinent to the story). Loretta had lost her baby. She was put in touch with Threads of Love by Kirsten, who had also suffered a loss. Threads of Love had never received a donation that was in memory of a baby. There was a card in the bag with the blankets that read “in memory of Jeffery Andrew G.” Ann Katapski from Threads of Love decided to replicate that card and put it on each blanket. The story goes on as follows:
Letter from Loretta:
I have a story to share with you all. After receiving the 10 blankets for Jeffery, Kirsten put me in touch with a woman who is part of Threads of Love and she graciously accepted these blankets in Jeffery’s memory and said she’d donate them to Saddleback and Mission Hospital for me (the hospitals have strict guidelines and cannot accept blankets from just anyone). Kathleen just emailed me and told me that her former co-worker called her, telling her that her daughter had a little baby girl at 26 weeks (due to placenta previa) and is currently at Saddleback. The baby is not doing very well, just hanging on she said. She said they brought the baby girl out wrapped in a blanket that had a tag on it that said “in memory of Jeffery Andrew G.” I did not put these tags on, Kirsten’s contact must have. This friend/grandma said to the nurse, “oh my gosh, I know this angel’s grandmother!” The nurse said they usually take the tags off the blankets so they do not upset the baby’s family (if the baby is alive); the nurse doesn’t know why, but made the conscious decision to leave that tag on. This friend/grandma was afraid to upset us with this story, but she does not realize how much I love hearing these stories, to hear that Jeffery’s memory is alive, that he is not forgotten, and hopefully is even helping others in some small way. Missing our babies…
Ann (Threads of Love) responds:
Yes, I am the mystery person that put the labels on the blankets. Threads of Love had never received a donation of blankets in memory of a baby before. I just thought I had to
acknowledge his life in some small way. I am so touched by this story; I can’t even begin to imagine how you must feel. These stories are what keep me going. This commitment to Threads of Love is a life-long commitment; which I probably didn’t realize when I signed on over 10 years ago. I did put tags on all the blankets; I am so grateful that you received at least this feedback. Our chapter rarely gets any Thank You notes, but our volunteers don’t do it for the praise. We realize that we are reaching someone out there in a special way through our talents of sewing, knitting, crocheting.
Words cannot express how touched I am by this. My mother-in-law too. She had been having a hard time recently and really missing Jeffery, and then she got this call and as emotional as she was, she was so happy. Since we do not have much to remember his short life by, everything that reminds us of Jeffery, especially when something gives us some sort of sign that his spirit is still with us every day, is so important and special to us. This just cannot be a coincidence. I think I had been having a hard time as well since Jeffery would have been 2 1/2 years old recently, and my third son’s first birthday is coming up, which is bittersweet since we never got to celebrate Jeffery’s first birthday with him. So for this to happen was truly amazing and reminded me that he is indeed still with us, his memory lives on, his life continues to make a difference, and he will never be forgotten. So thank you, Ann, for making all of this possible. When my mother in law called me, I thought to myself “I didn’t put those tags on!” You gave me such an amazing gift. Something that you made a decision to do really impacted a lot of people and we are grateful. I can’t wait to write this in Jeffery’s journal and scrapbook. Thank you and to all the women in Threads of Love for what you do. I know you don’t do it for the praise and purely out of love, but I am also sorry that people do not thank you more. People do not realize how important it is to have a blanket, outfit or memento that our babies actually touched until the sad day comes when they are gone and we realize that is one of the few material things we have left of them. Thank you again for this amazing gift.
P.S. This little baby girl did survive but has some health problems with her lungs and heart but doing okay, I hear.