‘Stitched To­gether’ for Janeway ba­bies

Spa­niard’s Bay mom turns wed­ding dresses into hos­pi­tal chris­ten­ing gowns

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY MELISSA JENK­INS

It is one of the first mile­stones many ba­bies ex­pe­ri­ence — a chris­ten­ing.

But while some fam­i­lies plan for weeks or months af­ter a baby’s birth to find the right gown to wear for the re­li­gious nam­ing cer­e­mony, a venue for a cel­e­bra­tion af­ter­words and food for the guests, some par­ents don’t have that op­tion.

Chil­dren born with se­ri­ous health prob­lems, ter­mi­nal ill­nesses or those that are still­born may need to be chris­tened at the hos­pi­tal.

Th­ese chil­dren could be in the Neona­tal In­ten­sive Care Unit (NICU), on a ven­ti­la­tor, re- cov­er­ing from surgery or re­ceiv­ing treat­ments. Par­ents are of­ten by their side ev­ery mo­ment of the day, which makes plan­ning a chris­ten­ing a dif­fi­cult task.

With such fam­i­lies in mind, a Spa­niard’s Bay mom is now re­pur­pos­ing old wed­ding gowns to make sure ba­bies at the hos­pi­tal have some­thing ap­pro­pri- ate to wear. Chris­tened at the Janeway For Amie Richards of Spa­niard’s Bay, she chose to have the chris­ten­ing for her twin daugh­ters, Yvette and Minxie, at the Janeway Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­tre in St. John’s when they were nine months old.

Minxie was born with cere­bral palsy, a dis­or­der of the ner­vous sys­tem start­ing at or around birth that can cause in­vol­un­tary move­ments, mus­cle rigid­ity and dif­fi­culty with mo­bil­ity.

For al­most a year af­ter the twins were born, Minxie lived at the Janeway. Those that knew her best were the doc­tors, nurses and clergy that treated her and dropped in for vis­its fre­quently. That is why Amie and her hus­band de­cided to have the girls chris­tened at the hos­pi­tal be­fore head­ing home.

But, Amie said, not all par­ents get to bring their chil­dren home, and those par­ents also have the op­tion to have their child chris­tened at the hos­pi­tal.

The NICU has sev­eral gowns that a par­ent can use for an emer­gency or short-no­tice chris­ten­ing, but each must be re­turned to the unit af­ter­wards, Amie said. Fill­ing a void It was her phys­io­ther­a­pist who sug­gested the idea of mak­ing chris­ten­ing gowns out of old wed­ding dresses. Amie, who trav­els to the Janeway on an al­most weekly ba­sis for ap­point­ments, knew this was some­thing she could be a part of.

“I have the time to do that now,” she said. “With three kids in school, that’s some­thing I can do.”

Amie did some sewing be­fore, mostly mending items and mak­ing dresses for her fam­ily. She had to give it up when her fam­ily moved and there was limited space for her sewing gear. But hav­ing the skill and abil­ity, Amie reached out to friends, fam­ily and the gen­eral public to help her get the nec­es­sary items to begin the project.

“I posted in a Face­book group what I was go­ing to be do­ing, and that I had noth­ing,” Amie ex­plained. “I needed wed­ding gowns, sewing stuff and a ma­chine.”

Peo­ple gave gen­er­ously, with some­one do­nat­ing pins, a trac­ing wheel and other sewing ma­te­ri­als, but the big­gest sur­prise was from a stranger.

“A guy in St. John’s do­nated his sewing ma­chine,” she said, not­ing it looked brand new. “He hadn’t used it in a few years and it was just sit­ting in his closet.”

With the pos­i­tive re­sponse from the post, Amie de­cided to start a Face­book page called Stitched To­gether. She knows the feel­ing of be­ing torn apart while your child is in the hos­pi­tal.

“Es­pe­cially when you’re in a dark place, you can fall apart, but you can get put back to­gether. You’ll still have the scars, but you’re mended, like at the Janeway,” Amie said.

She has since re­ceived sev­eral dresses, in­clud­ing one be­long­ing to her long­time friend.

One woman was go­ing to make a wed­ding dress and still had the ma­te­rial. She do­nated all of it, in­clud­ing beau­ti­ful beaded lace and ac­cents.

Amie also has sev­eral pat­terns of dif­fer­ent sizes, so not all gowns will look alike or fit the same. The sizes go from fit­ting pre­ma­ture ba­bies up to 12 months old.

The par­ents will get to keep the gown and can use it for what­ever they choose to. Th­ese types of dresses are some­times used as be­reave­ment gowns. Do­nat­ing to Stitched To­gether While many peo­ple store their wed­ding dresses as a keep­sake, Amie be­lieves oth­ers will be ready to do­nate theirs to the cause.

“Yes, some wed­ding dresses have sen­ti­men­tal value, but for a lot of peo­ple in the prov­ince, the Janeway has sen­ti­men­tal value too,” she said. “If you ask any­one, they likely know some­one that was a pa­tient there or was a pa­tient them­self.”

Her first gown was al­most fin­ished as of late last week. She has posted the progress on­line for all to see.

“It can go from a wed­ding dress to a chris­ten­ing gown, and ev­ery­one can watch it hap­pen,” she ex­plained.

Amie is ac­cept­ing wed­ding dresses, prom dresses and other ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing in­ter­face ma­te­rial. Tulle and other scratchy fab­ric can­not be used, but colour is ac­cepted.

“I was told to just make sure the area that would touch the baby is soft,” she said of the in­struc­tions from a vol­un­teer co­or­di­na­tor at the Janeway.

Other items that are needed for the project in­clude pre­sen­ta­tion boxes for the gowns and small plac­ards to write in­spi­ra­tional quotes for fam­i­lies.

Those in­ter­ested in mak­ing a do­na­tion for a Stitched To­gether Chris­ten­ing gown can con­tact Amie at amie.richards@eastlink.ca.

PHOTO BY MELISSA JENK­INS/THE COMPASS

Amie Richards uses her tal­ent for sewing to make chris­ten­ing gowns for pre­ma­ture and ill ba­bies at the Janeway in St. John’s.

PHOTO BY MELISSA JENK­INS/THE COMPASS

Amie Richards is al­most fin­ished the first gown for her project Stitched To­gether, which uses old wed­ding dresses to make chris­ten­ing gowns.

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