To think it all started in the summer of '08 with two matching teddy bears for two matching twin brothers who stole my heart for the three months I trained in the NICU, learning all the phases from micro-preemie through Big Boys from them--You will always been in heart, my little Little Boys!
Over 600,000 premature babies are born every year in this country alone, finding themselves with their anxious parents “living” in NICUs (Neonatal Intensive Care Units) across the country. Premature babies need careful monitoring of their development to insure safe passage past their due dates: namely the transition of their lung development, learning to feed, and regulating their own body temperature. Even inside warming beds many babies still lose too much of their own body heat in those crucial first weeks, so a covered head is often standard operating procedure in the NICU.
I am a respiratory therapist in Springfield, Missouri who works in adults, NICU, and pediatrics. For going on four years now I have been creating patterns for the little Littles in our NICU and am one of a group of knitters who stock our NICU with hats, booties, and cuddling blankets. My personal area of expertise is in creating holiday and other themed hats that we send home with our babies as souvenirs of their time with us. Knitting “Wow!” hats became a mission for me the day a 25-week/ 24 oz baby’s mother said to me “I love that your hats make me feel like my baby is a real! I walked in to see the bunny ears on her head on Easter morning and smiled. For the first time since she was born I felt hope she would come home.” As clichéd as it sounds, a smile may seem like a small thing to you and me but for those moms and dads literally facing their worst nightmare, I am humbled and grateful to be a part of a project that can bring a smile to someone who lives in fear of losing that child.
While term newborn baby hats are widely available both commercially and in needlework pattern books, the same is not true for premature babies. The lack of existing books is the reason I first began creating my own designs which, to my pleasure, became so popular with the parents and our staff that I'm often asked if I have patterns available for term babies (and toddlers and teenagers and adults...). Grin.
I'm thrilled to announce that coming up this September (2011), Leisure Arts Inc is publishing a craft booklet containing 18 of my designs sized for micro-preemie through 12 months, titled "Seasonal Hats for Babies".
A note on the sillier of hats: I’ve delighted in each turkey, reindeer, and pumpkin hat I’ve knitted and stuck on those little Little heads but I have had one objection made along the way—by my own husband! Looking at a reindeer hat one day sitting on my doll model’s head, he said laughing “You know that one day these little guys are going to grow up, form a mob, and come kick your butt for making them look silly, right?” I smiled and said, “As long as they GROW UP, I’d be happy for them to come complain.”
In the upcoming weeks until the book comes out and the plethora of fall/winter holidays begin I will be posting pics of hats gone by, so to speak, the hats that I and my little gang of nifty knitters have been pouring out for the past three years. For all of those RN's, RT's, and NICU Moms and Meemaws who knit for NICU's everywhere, I'd be honored if you share this journey with us along with your input and stories of your own NICU "little Littles." I don't promise to upload all of our patterns since we each have our own gifts and there are published patterns in the works, but I do intend to sprinkle this blog with some of my patterns plus links to other fabulous knitters, patterns, and cool informative sites.
I’d like to dedicate this Blog and that Book to my mother for teaching me both the beauty of the craft and the blessing of giving back, my husband who patiently and passionately supports me, and to the doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, nurses’ aides, unit secretaries who make the NICU of Cox South Hospital a place of miracles, and to the babies and their parents and families whom we honor and joyfully share steps along the path of life for a while...