When You Knit for Preemies

I’ve been trying to think of how to describe the NICU for my fellow knitters.  So many different words come to mind: scary and unfriendly came first, but they’re not really all that accurate.  I must just be out of sorts today.

Sure, when I think back on my own experiences there as a mom, there was definitely some fear and trepidation involved — mostly because there was so much I didn’t understand — but there was also a sense of wonder, thankfulness, and camaraderie.

Have you ever seen a preemie?  My goodness, they’re beautiful!  Picture thin, delicate skin, tiny little chicken-wing arms and legs, and this funny little wrinkly old-man-like face and neck that melts your heart when they turn their heads.  (Body fat sure does make a difference in appearance … As I learned after being pregnant with twins — ugh.)  They have tiny little noses, and their fingers are so slender and small that they remind me of inch worms.  It’s pretty easy to fit daddy’s wedding band over a preemie wrist or even an ankle.

A little wee 1 pound 11 ounce micro preemie

Sometimes it was scary, not knowing what outcomes we might have with our kids, but mostly (and especially when they weren’t in any danger), I felt privileged to view a stage of development that most parents only experience through a padded, heartburn-filled belly.  Sure, there were some downsides, especially when my twins were born at 27 weeks and needed ventilators and other modern miracles of medicine, but I can actually look back fondly on my experiences there. (It’s three years since they were born.  I can say that now.)

One of the best things about the NICU, besides the ridiculously small amount of privacy while trying to breastfeed an infant who won’t latch on, was the abundance of knitted preemie hats and quilted preemie blankets floating around.  At the time, I took them for granted, but in retrospect, and as a knitter myself, I am awed by how much time and effort some caring people took to do something purely for someone else, with no credit or thanks to themselves.  I will never know who knit those little hats, but I still have them years later so I can marvel at how tiny the kids were as infants.  They are family keepsakes.

So, as a knitter and a mom of four preemies, I hereby bestow upon myself expert status and offer you my advice:

When you knit for preemies, make the hats beautiful and colourful.  The NICU is a drab place, no matter how many teddy-bear wallpaper borders they put up.  Add some colour to a family’s day and keepsake box in the form of a preemie hat that makes them say, “OOOOOoooohhhh!!!!  It’s so adorable!” in little high-pitched voices.  Seriously.  They’ll thank you.

Also, when you’re knitting preemie hats, unless you know a micro-preemie, don’t knit as many of the tiniest sizes.  Those little bitty micro-preemies are the cutest to knit for because the hats will make you think you’re knitting for a tiny doll, but… well, those tiny ones will likely be stuck wearing slightly weird-looking hospital hats that are specially designed to hold up their CPAP machines.  Make some small hats because some small babies have different needs for breathing help (or not), but if you’re going to go crazy making a gezillion tulip hats, make them in the bigger sizes.  It’s sad for me as a knitter to admit this, but the hospital can usually use the bigger ones more than the small preemie hats.

One of those funny little CPAP hats

When I knit for preemies, I pray for them and their parents.  I want every stitch of that hat to be filled with love.  I want my preemie hats to be visually stunning, but I mostly want those parents to know that they’re not alone.  Can a viking hat do that?  Maybe not immediately.  But, once the crazy days of worrying and wondering are over and life has gone back to normal and their little wizened old man has blossomed into a chunky baby who cries and wakes them up at night in their own home, they’ll look back and know that something amazing carried them through that whole roller coaster experience.

Was it a hat?  No, it was the love and care that surrounded them.  And now I get to be a part of that for someone else.  And you do, too!  Have fun knowing that you’re knitting with purpose, and send me pictures of your preemie hats.

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Categories: Preemie

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9 Comments on “When You Knit for Preemies”

  1. June 8, 2010 at 4:15 pm #

    I just love your story about the NCU and little preemies!! How precious!! I have a friend who recently had twins and know all about the worries and concerns she had with those girls (Charlotte and Ruby). Do you have the pattern for your little tulip hat posted anywhere? I’d love to make a bag full of those for our NeoNatal until here!!

    Happy Knitting!
    Alli

    • June 8, 2010 at 5:03 pm #

      Alli, thanks so much for your kind comment! 🙂 I just posted the pattern on Ravelry as a Ravelry download, as that seems to be the easiest way for me to sell patterns without having to jump through too many hoops and without delaying purchases for any impatient knitters out there (like me!). If that doesn’t work for you for some reason, send me an email and we can do it through PayPal that way. 🙂 I will be posting a free pattern now and then, too, so check back occasionally for more goodies. 🙂 Amanda

  2. June 8, 2010 at 6:01 pm #

    Thank you very much Amanda!! I have just purchased it through Ravelry and am very excited to get started!! Off to go dig through my yarn room .. yes I have an entire room dedicated to housing my yarn stash .. it’s that big! LOL

    happy Knitting!
    Alli

  3. Heather
    June 9, 2010 at 12:48 am #

    This is great! Thank you! My older two boys were both preemies, 30 & 28 weeks. They were 2 lb 1 oz and 2 lb 13 oz. I still remember how much those knitted hats meant to me. It was a very difficult time. I look forward to making things to help brighten another mother’s day.

  4. Theresa Poirier
    June 9, 2010 at 10:25 am #

    Hi Amanda .. Just wanted to drop a comment to tell you how much I liked your post. I’m sure your experience is a great encouragement to others and the prayers you lift up as you knit is simply beautiful. God Bless you!

  5. Norma Schwieterman
    January 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    thank you for posting this today on Quilts of many Angels…I just this morning finished making my first preemie hat and booties…and was wondering if it was too small as it fits my American girl doll…so I guess I need to make it a little larger…God Bless You…Norma

  6. Niki
    October 30, 2012 at 5:14 am #

    Wow, it’s people like you who helped my little monkey keep warm in NICU. She is 3 months old and thriving. I am looking for another way to help other families. What would be nice is if you could recieve a card from the maker to tell you a bit about them and why they decided to do this and maybe an email address to let them know that their little beanie is appreciated. I had such cute ones!

    • October 31, 2012 at 12:03 am #

      Ooh, I never thought of including a note or card. I wonder if that would be okay. It was always so nice for me to see the photos of the other tiny patients who were growing up well (our NICU displayed some on the wall and in a binder), so I could remind myself that in five years, those three months we spent there would be just a tiny speck in the past. (And they are now, in a way.) Great idea!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Why Should You Care About Preemies? | a k n i t i c a - November 17, 2012

    […] via the Preemie Awareness blog hop, welcome!  I usually write about knitting, but there are other preemie posts here, too.  If you’d like to, you can sign up to receive email updates at the top right of […]

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