Babies’ first garments give comfort

Published April 1, 2004

Mary O’Connor calls the items that her church group makes for infants a "labour of love."

Mississauga, Ont.

Tiny ribbon rosettes, intricately embroidered stitches, seed pearls and gossamer fabrics; these are the raw materials of a group of local women who call themselves Threads of Love.

A more apt name could not have been chosen. For such delicate resources, when combined with the group’s talent and devotion, are transformed into beautiful, miniature garments.

What the women fashion with their careful stitches are infant burial gowns and blankets,

preemie day gowns, bonnets, booties and “lovie dolls.” But what they actually create is comfort and hope for families in crisis.

One afternoon each month, the dozen or so women who make up Threads of Love meet at the church of St. Luke in Mississauga , Ont., to work. There is a sense of something almost sacred about the garments they make in purest white, palest pink or delicate blue. The smallest of the gowns, measuring no more than six inches in length, could be used to dress a tiny doll, booties would fit a small finger, knitted bonnets a small orange.

Lovie dolls, crafted from toddler socks, are designed to be worn next to a mother’s skin to pick up her scent, and then placed in an incubator to comfort a struggling newborn.

“It’s really a labour of love, doing this,” said Mary O’Connor, founder of the recently formed group. Theirs is Canada ‘s first chapter of an organization that began 10 years ago in Louisiana.

“We have nine different sizes of burial gowns, from newborn right down to 14 weeks gestation,” she said. “So the parents, when they want to see their child, have something beautiful to see their child dressed in.”

To date, Threads of Love has donated 425 items to the Trillium Health Centre Mississauga site, each one accompanied by a printed prayer of comfort. Ms. O’Connor said great care was taken to ensure the prayers would not be offensive to those of other religious backgrounds.

“We’re doing this in the name of Jesus Christ,” said Ms. O’Connor. “We’re doing it because of our love for God, yet we don’t want to offend anyone in their time of crisis. But we want them to know that God loves them in the midst of this and is there for them.”

Kevin Mossop is a medical social worker with the labour and delivery and neonatal intensive care units at Trillium. He said families of premature and stillborn infants from all backgrounds and cultures have deeply appreciated the infant gifts and prayers.

“It’s wonderful,” he said, “because it’s really filling a gap or a need that we have.

“Having a little wrap or gown to put the baby in, makes (the parents) feel like they’re giving something back to the baby, and they’re treating the baby with dignity and respect.

“This baby, that all their hopes and dreams and aspirations were invested in, is suddenly gone. Anything you can do to make sure that baby has value, has worth ? to celebrate the short life that the baby had ? is certainly going to help everybody involved.”

Patricia Paddey is a freelance writer in Mississauga, Ont.


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