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A Stitch in Time

Earlier this year in April our son, Callum arrived 7 weeks early. Callum (pronounced the American way, KAY-lum) was born with pneumonia and spent almost a month in the NICU. My days were spent trying to heal from an emergency c-section and going back and forth twice a day to Sibley Memorial Hospital here in Washington, DC. Needless to say, I wasn’t knitting, but more worrisome was that I simply DID NOT WANT TO. During those days I didn’t care if I ever picked up knitting needles again. My priorities had changed. Knitting went to the bottom of the totem pole.

These were dark days.

Sometime we’d make the long drive and he would be asleep in his plastic box and we weren’t allowed to hold or touch him. He ate through a feeding tube and it was such a minuscule amount I wondered how we’d ever get weight on him. He was hooked up to many wires that when we were allowed to hold him, it was a choreographed dance of hopping, stepping around and detangling ourselves from all the machines and their attachments. Most days he barely opened his eyes and he never moved much. He was so small-born at 4.6 pounds and dropping down to 3.6 at one point.

April 20, 2011

The rock star nurses in the NICU as well as the doctors and nurses who had taken care of me became our second family and held me together as I teetered close to the edge emotionally. More than once I fell over that edge, but with the staff at the hospital, my incredible husband and amazing mom and dad offering a hand to pull me back up, somehow we made it through. We’d cheer when he reached any milestone – a bit more food, moving on from the feeding tube to an actual bottle, getting out of the plastic box and into an open-air tray and finally, at long last, coming home in late May.

Callum came home on a heart and lung monitor. We couldn’t carry him more than 8 feet without having to pack up the heavy machine and take both him and it with us. Each time the alarm went off signaling he wasn’t breathing or his heart stopped (mostly false alarms), my heart stuck in my throat and I sprang to action. I got really good at moving very fast, not panicking until I had all the facts and sleeping with one eye open.

Great Grandma Jenny, who made the dress, holding my mother, Patricia

Eventually we were able to ditch the monitor and while we were on lockdown (no germs, no unnecessary travel, barely any visitors and no going outside in anything over 90 degrees-which it is every day in a DC summer) I started planning Callum’s baptism. There is a dress in our family that was made by my great-grandmother Jenny out of my grandmother Irene’s wedding dress. It has been worn by my mother, my aunt, my brother, me, my cousin and her sister and now Callum. I decided to knit a matching bonnet for the dress and somehow found my way out of the knitting darkness I had been living in for many months. I credit Callum for bringing me back to something I love doing.

Irene's wedding dress that eventually became the family heirloom Baptism dress

my mother, Patricia holding me on my Baptism day, 1980

Callum in the bonnet I knit for him that got me out of my knitting funk, August 2011

While telling my story to my former boss at VK, Trisha Malcolm, she encouraged me to write about it and have it published in the Winter 2011 issue of Knit Simple Magazine. The issue hit stands last week and I am so proud to be able to share a bit of my (crafty) family history with the knitting world. The article is on the last page. Hope you enjoy it.

© Knit Simple

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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tara C. #

    What a hell to navigate, Tanis. So glad Callum is starting to thrive and your family is finally experiencing a new “normal”. The bonnet is beautiful and will be treasured by him.

    December 19, 2011
  2. Thank you for sharing your story, Tanis. We held your family in our hearts and prayed for Callum and all of you every day. I am overjoyed to see his growth. Keep sharing your pictures. He is a miracle; (and his bonnet is lovely )

    December 19, 2011
  3. Pam #

    Wow! What a heart rending story of love, patience, and triumph. I’m so happy for you on all counts (return to knitting included). He’s beautiful.

    December 20, 2011
  4. Ruthe A. Sholler #

    Callum is truly a beautiful baby, but you already know that!
    I’m so happy for your family, your Mother, Pat,has been a valued friend and companion artist,
    for many years!
    Best wishes for Callum’s continued good health and success.
    Ruthe Sholler

    February 24, 2012

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