Burial Layettes

Since the death of my youngest daughter I have been making these tiny gowns, hats and blankets for St. Peter’s Hospital labor and delivery department. My daughter was not born there, but it is where my husband and I go for our baby loss support group. The hospital relies on donations from the community for the memory boxes and little clothes the nurses give to bereaved parents.

AdiaRose was born at Albany Medical Center. The nurses who took care of us in the recovery room were so kind, and they knew just what to do: to take pictures and to make little footprints.  They gave us a memory box and a knitted hat and a handmade dress for AdiaRose to wear.  Our nurse told us that other mothers who had lost their babies made the little clothes in small sizes, and they had them ready for anyone in need. It hit me then that our daughter would not have had the dignity of clothes that fit if it hadn’t been for these mothers and the nurses who care so much about their patients.

I wanted so badly to make her something to wear in the week between her birth and her funereal, but all I managed was a pink silk swaddle to wrap her in, underneath the cozy warm baby blanket I had made for her in anticipation of her November due date.  The shock, the grief, the preparations for her memorial service and celebration of life, left me drained and unable to wrap my mind around constructing a garment. So she was buried in the only clothes we had that she ever wore, that lovely baby blue eyelet gown and little knit hat.

The little gowns, hats and blankets shown here are my effort to repay the kindness of the women who made those clothes. I don’t know their names, but I am forever grateful for the gift they gave to us: that they had been thinking of us before we ever even needed them. Everything was waiting. Our daughter was dressed as beautifully a princess. The comfort that honor gave us can’t be put into words.

These are just a few of the sets I have made. They range in size from 13 weeks to 35 weeks. The 13 week buntings can be used for even smaller babies. I like using vintage tatting, lace and trims to give the little outfits an heirloom feel.  Since I don’t know how to knit I make the hats out of stockinette, baby rib knit, or cashmere knit fabrics, with pompoms made from embroidery floss. I use new and vintage fabrics and trims for the dresses and blankets- whatever I can find that is cozy and beautiful. Alana A. makes me tatting to order, providing tiny tatting made from silk thread to scale for the littlest gowns. Her Etsy shop is here.

For a 3-5lb size gown, I use beautiful salvaged  hand embroidery from vintage pillowcases to make the border on the bottom of the gown. I love the care of hand embroidery, and the sense of history these give to the gowns. Worn by babies who are leaving us all too soon, they can at least take these things from this world.

I make these gowns and blankets and hats with love in every stitch, and with a prayer that they give some small comfort to grieving parents and honor their babies, and with a wish that no one will ever have a need for them.

Patterns and instructions can be downloaded here.

 

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