Sunday Morning 8:30am. The time in the morning when no one else is awake becomes precious time alone for self reflection and time to catch up on world events without competing for screen time with my 3 year old, Jackson. My hot cup of java is now cold and the Sunday morning news is actually on mute becoming a moving, colorful mural in the background. Mother Nature just dumped 10” of fresh snow on the Twin Cities and it is like a winter wonderland, although I’m told Spring is just around the corner.
I’m flanked by a loyal “new” golden retriever, named Sparrow, to my left and my slightly sleepy 5 month old, Audrey Rose, fighting a nap to my right. I’ve resorted to sitting on the floor lately so the new adult dog and my daughter know exactly where I am in case they need me at any possible second. The picturesque setting seems perfectly serene but to me something will always be missing, my son, my little angel, Nicholas.
My daughter, Audrey, was a twin…is a twin…is a twinless twin. We had a fairly normal and healthy pregnancy for twins with a few bleeps and hiccups here and there. Throughout my pregnancy, I wondered if I would really make it to my scheduled c-section date and would I feel the beautiful pains of labor for a second time. So when my water broke at 36 weeks and 2 days; I was beyond excited to bring home two bundles of joy wrapped in pink and blue.
Instead of joy, the darkness of the night filled my hospital room just after midnight, Friday, September 13, 2013. I was lying in the hospital bed with two fetal monitors restricting my movement and only one heartbeat; we were told that our second son, Audrey’s twin brother, and Jackson’s new little brother would likely be stillborn. My doctor sat on my hospital bed to my left with the bedside ultrasound monitor and probe in her hand and delicately delivered this horrific news to my husband and me. The moment is engrained in my memory; my stoic husband walking away to the the bathroom, head in his hands, nauseous, and scared. And me, instantly initiating the doctor in me, thinking “Let’s get to surgery, NOW. Save the other baby.” I also grasped a thread of hope that this amazing medical team could resuscitate my son. Bring him back to life, please.
I remember moments from that night. I remember feeling so alone as I was being prepped for surgery, my husband waiting to get permission before he could join me in the sterile surgery suite. I was surrounded by caring doctors and nurses that were trying to comfort me, already giving me their condolences. I remember when the doctor pulled my daughter first, there was no hope for my son. I remember rejecting the offers to see Nicholas after he was pulled from the safe and protective environment of his mommy’s loving, now soft tummy. I remember the silence of the room that was supposed to be filled with the cries of two babies. That’s about it…Little moments of what was supposed to be a joyous experience now eternally shadowed in darkness.
Before I left for the local hospital the night my twins were born, the very last item I packed in my suitcase was my knitting bag. Having unpacked my belongings, the beautiful little bag had been hanging on a hook in my hospital room glaring at me. I knew the bag contained the unfinished baby blue hat I had been working on while on bedrest. In my mind, I knew this was one project I couldn’t and wouldn’t leave unfinished. At some point during my stay, sitting in my hospital bed alone, I made time to finish Nicholas’ precious little hat, adorning it with a crocheted white baseball with red stitching, and a blue pom pom. Nicholas’ hat was knitted with a mother’s love, not out of grief, not out of sadness, but pure, unconditional love. He didn’t need to be breathing to wear his hat, he didn’t need to be born alive to earn the right to wear it. It was his hat, just like all of his other belongings. They were his regardless of a beating heart. Nicholas wore the hat in pictures and had a piece of his mommy’s heart close to him during the time we spent together in the hospital.
After the initial grieving period, I looked for ways to honor my son, the life he had, and the legacy he left. I wanted the world to know that Nicholas George, existed. He lived within my body, safely snuggled next to his sister for 36 weeks. He may not have taken an earthly breath, but his tiny heart was beating up until 35 weeks. His tiny arms and legs felt like they were moving mountains within my uterus. He was caught smiling, waving, and snuggling his twin sister, his best friend, on ultrasounds. I needed to protect his memory and the life he lived.
I told two people about my idea, only two. I didn’t even tell my very supportive husband for fear in might be considered one of my hair-brained ideas. Most importantly, I couldn’t have something honoring Nicholas fail like the sad attempts at keeping the flowers and plants alive that we received after my son’s death. I told one of my dearest friends and fellow knitter, Lindsay, about my idea and we never really talked about it again. One Saturday afternoon in January, we had a rare day with nothing planned. I sat down with my computer and opened Facebook. “How hard can this be?” And that is how “Knitting for Nicholas” was conceived. After about an hour of undivided attention to my computer, my husband asked what I was doing? (I’m sure he was thinking, it is so nice that my beautiful wife is getting some coveted time to herself while I’m playing legos and trains with Jackson and our newborn is sleeping.) I was on a mission and couldn’t be stopped. I invited a few friends who liked to knit to join my project and within 24 hours, I had 100 followers.
My goal with Knitting for Nicholas is simple. Knit with Unconditional Love. By September 13, 2014, I want to share my son’s legacy with other families who’ve experienced the tragedy surrounding stillbirth, miscarriage, and infant death. I want to provide these families with little hats, blankets, burial gowns, and mementos in honor of the baby they were supposed to bring home. I want to give them something to hold. Will this replace our sadness or their grief? Absolutely, not. But the grieving families are grasping for that earthly breath of their child, the memory of their baby, and the lost hopes and dreams of the future. A small knitted token from another grieving mother may help other families know they are not alone and may allow them to move toward healing.
Knitting for Nicholas is my therapy…it’s how I’m working THROUGH my grief. My knitting bag goes with me everywhere. I may actually have a free moment and free hands to knit sitting in a waiting room or on a quick road trip. Jackson will watch me knit and ask if I’m making a hat for Audrey. I tell him the hat is for a baby we don’t know yet. I knit while Audrey is nestled in the Moby wrap and watch her grasp yarn or needles in her tiny hands. Although knitting hasn’t taken the same amount of time and dedication it would’ve taken to care for two babies, I feel like the time I dedicate to Knitting for Nicholas is time dedicated to my angel. On occasion, I feel anxious if I haven’t spent even a few minutes working on my latest project, a knitted preemie burial gown. However, I have set aside a couple of mornings and evenings with friends to work on Knitting for Nicholas projects. I’ve had several friends learn to knit just to make hats to donate to Knitting for Nicholas. The friends who don’t knit are working on cross-stitch, crochet, sewing, and other crafty talents.
The support has been amazing and overwhelming. I’ve been touched by the number of stories from women who’ve lost a baby and found my story inspiring. An old grade-school friend in Arizona with her daughter and other grade-schoolers took crocheted items to the NICU in honor of Nicholas. After only two months, Knitting for Nicholas has received the first shipment of hats and crocheted artwork from Oregon, knitted preemie hats from Florida, and Christmas ornaments from Nebraska. The Facebook page has over 300 followers from across the world.
My goal was to honor Nicholas’ memory. I’m so proud my little angel will leave behind a wonderful legacy.
Editor’s Note: Melissa would prefer to be contacted via Facebook prior to sending items. She will also accept them at Birch Lake Animal Hospital at 4830 White Bear Parkway, White Bear Lake, MN 55110. If would prefer to send things to a local hospital, she can connect you. She has been contacted by someone in the Tri-cities about sending items to MLMH – and can definitely send more to local hospitals throughout Nebraska.