‘Stitched Together’ for Janeway babies
Spaniard’s Bay mom turns wedding dresses into hospital christening gowns
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 email@example.com.
Amie Richards uses her talent for sewing to make christening gowns for premature and ill babies at the Janeway in St. John’s.
Amie Richards is almost finished the first gown for her project Stitched Together, which uses old wedding dresses to make christening gowns.