Diapers by Gwen!

I had first heard about Teeny Tears, and the mission behind this service organization at the end of December 2012. I found myself driven to spend hours and hours of service to this cause. Both my husband and I were curious to why I felt so strongly to serve these little angels. I had not lost a baby myself, and yet felt extremely passionate about making these clothes for preemies and micropreemies, and had such immense love for these angels and their families. 

Although I have been so passionate about this service project, there has been some ambivalence too. I've read lots and lots of comments and stories about how mom's lost their angel(s) and sew in memory of their baby(s). They touch my soul deeply. Sometimes, I feel like an outsider - an intruder - like I didn't belong to this club because I didn't have the right membership card. I have not lost a baby, so how could my service mean as much as theirs? In fact, I had one instance with a fellow Teeny Tears volunteer, in which the volunteer thought what I was doing did not matter as much as what she was doing, because she had lost a baby and I had not. It hurt my feelings and once again I re-evaluated if this was the right place for me to throw myself into service. Would I ever belong? Will my donation of time, talents, and money mean as much as those who have lost a baby?   

It's now been six months since I began my service with Teeny Tears, and I have come to answer that question with a resounding YES! There is a real need in the preemie and micropreemie bereavement community and all donations of service, supplies, money, and time given to help these angels and their families is needed and important. It does not matter what motivates us to give this service, but that we are giving it. By far, the majority of the women I have met in the angel baby groups have been amazing, helpful, encouraging, and inspiring.

So why do I give this service? First and foremost it is because I love my neighbor. I am a Christian and want to serve my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, trying to bring a ray of light into someone's life during a time that is surrounded by darkness. I want to help clothe these precious little angels.

   " [I was] naked, and ye clothed me... And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."                     
                                                                      - Matthew 25: 36, 40

Being a mother, I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and suffering of losing a child, and then at the same time realize that I didn't have anything to clothe my dear sweet baby in for their burial. I am so grateful for Teeny Tears and the other Angel Baby blogs, websites, and groups that post patterns and advice for free, in order to make this clothing for our tiniest angels. It is truly an honor to help the family's find peace and comfort, and to clothe these angels, giving them dignity as they leave this life.

As I have ruminated on my reasons for serving in the Teeny Tears organization, I could not help but give credit to my Heavenly Father for leading me here. Since having children, it has been difficult to find time to attend various service projects. But with Teeny Tears, I am able to perform the work as needed from home. I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve, it keeps me grounded and humble.

I give credit to my Heavenly Father because He knows exactly what I needed, and when I needed it. The summer of 2012 was one of the most difficult times of my life. It sent me into a deep depression. This was situational, related to having a difficult move across the country into a town where I didn't know a soul - losing my social network and support. I had emergency surgery for the first time, and my Father and Grandma passed away. There was chaos and hurt physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And all of this happened in the same month! My Father passing away was by far the most difficult thing for me to deal with.

I am so grateful that I found Teeny Tears. I feel the need to give this service deep in my soul. The hundreds of hours of service that I have given helped pull me out of the depression I was trying to claw my way out of. The service of making clothing for our tiniest angels, helped me see beyond my own suffering. I read beautiful and heart wrenching stories of dear parents that lost their angels. I've seen beautiful photograph's of these tiny angel's in the clothing made by volunteers. So many parents talk about how sewing the clothing for these angels was healing - it has been for me too! It has been a healing balm for my  soul, my spirit, and my mind. Doing God's work has many rewards.

One of the first days of January 2013, I had heard of a sewing party for Teeny Tears. I noticed that a flyer had not been made for this activity and offered to help. From there I was involved with the innermost plans for the sewing party, and found myself totally in charge of the first one (I still wonder how that happened exactly?!?). I had only made one diaper personally, and had never been to a sewing party before. I am a novice seamstress at best, and couldn't believe that I was the one that was suppose to teach these women how to sew these diapers!. I said a prayer for help and my prayers were answered. We had a wonderful time! It was quite a success!
We sewed around 125 diapers our first day. We had a goal of 300 and were well on our way to fulfill that goal. We had about 30 people show up, coming and going. Older women, young mother's with children, teenagers - all came out to help in whatever capacity they were able to. I'm not sure how it happened, but our local newspaper got wind of our project and came and interviewed me. I was so nervous I was going to say the wrong things! But the article turned out great. Our first sewing day was a success! Lots and lots of work - but a success!

A little side note here.... I just have to say something about Megan Bradshaw, the president of Teeny Tears. When I first joined Teeny Tears I was on fire! I was really excited to get started and help out any way that I could. I made a few mistakes and rubbed some other volunteers the wrong way (including Megan!). Megan helped me smooth things over and reassured me that excitement and energy is a good thing, and they were excited for me to be a part of their organization. However,  experience goes a long way. She offered to be my mentor, and to contact her personally with any questions or concerns anytime, for help or advice. I love this woman! Megan is so approachable, professional, and yet fun and friendly. What a great combination to have in a leader of an organization. I've never met her but am so impressed with this organization and how she runs it. I have met so many amazing women through Teeny Tears and the Angel Baby Crafter's blog. I feel honored to know and work side by side these Christ-like women.

At the bottom left you can see the flyer I made for our sewing parties. A second sewing party was two weeks after the first one. Lots of projects had gone home in those two weeks and by the end of our second sewing day we had more than 300 diapers completed, and 200+ blankets, and 150+ hats. We were well on our way! The second sewing party got the attention of our local news. The journalist came and interviewed a few of us. I thought it was nerve wracking talking with a newspaper reporter! Ha! That has no comparison to having a HUGE camera pointed at your face as they interview you. Once again, I was so nervous I was going to say something wrong, but it turned out alright. Here is the link if you would like to see it click Here
From the beginning, when I joined Teeny Tears, I was so excited about sewing these beautiful diapers, but I felt a strong need to make matching sets of clothing for these little angels. I can only imagine that a matching set of a blanket, hat, gown, and diapers would be most comforting as a parent dresses their precious baby for burial. Doesn't every Mom want to dress her baby from head to toe in clothing that can fit them?

So over several months I gathered lots of advice and patterns. I tried many different things and finally was able to sew or knit every part of my matching set. I was so excited! The only problem left was time... it took soooooooo much time to get one set done! I already had so much on my plate with raising two small children, how was I ever going to have the time to get even simple 6 sets done for our little hospital here in Grants Pass, Oregon? I didn't give up. I puttered along and then Heavenly Father sent me an angel. That angel's name is Nancy.

Nancy lives just minutes away from me. She saw the article in our local newspaper about the Teeny Tears sewing party. Nancy had lost a baby of her own when he was just a few months old, and also had a grand baby that was a preemie and passed away. Nancy wanted to help! Nancy came to our diaper party and took home patterns and information about sizing. In a matter of a few weeks she had sewn 60+ diapers, and crocheted and sewed 50+ blankets and hats. After making these items, Nancy was ready to turn them into Teeny Tears, but could not get hold of the person that was coordinating our local Teeny Tears efforts. She didn't have any other contact information about Teeny Tears, and she does not get on the internet, so she felt quite deflated.

Nancy didn't give up. She contacted our local hospital asking if they had the contact information for the local Oregon Teeny Tears volunteers. Eventually someone looked on the website of the news station that had covered our Teeny Tears sewing party, and Nancy found my number. The rest is history! A partnership and great friendship was born. Nancy and I were instantly the best of friends.

I have often told Nancy that she was sent to me by Heavenly Father to help me fulfill my dreams of providing these sets of clothes to our Oregon hospitals, and Nancy tells me that I was sent to her by Heavenly Father. She too was struggling with depression like I was. She had been praying to Heavenly Father to give her a reason to get out of bed in the morning. God sent her Teeny Tears. Nancy is retired and spends 6-8 hours a day sewing and crocheting for Teeny Tears. It is amazing the amount of work that she gets done! She is an expert seamstress. I feel so blessed to be teamed up with her.

Nancy and I have met at Joann's several times and chat more than we shop it seems, but have a great time! We end up leaving with bolts, and bolts of fabric! We seem to chat at least every few days to talk about Teeny Tears, but also just to catch up on each other's lives. We truly are friends and I'm very grateful that I know Nancy. We get together at our homes to organize things, take pictures, sew, crochet or knit. In April we made four deliveries together, and mailed two additional orders.

My first donation was in the middle of March 2013. I sewed my first preemie and micropreemie gown just a week before the delivery. I had no idea what Heavenly Father had been preparing me for. As I said earlier, I had felt a serious push toward serving these little angels through Teeny Tears. In March I found out why. A woman that goes to my church went into labor suddenly at 23 weeks gestation. She gave birth to her little boy Henry. He fought for a day at a half and passed away. I was nervous and scared about approaching this sweet family about seeing if they needed me to make any clothing for their son.

When Henry's Mom called me back, she got chocked up letting me know that she would be grateful for my help. That night I went over to their home and let her choose the fabric she wanted (I nearly brought the whole Joann's store to her!), accessories on the gown, and she gave me the skein of yarn for the dark blue hats, the same skein that she had made her first baby blanket from - for Henry. Henry's Mom specifically wanted me to make a bunting on the gown, because that is the type of pajama's that she had for her other babies. She also requested the snaps, instead of the ribbon closure that is usually on the gowns.

I got home and I was terrified! I had never sewn a bunting on anything before, let alone a small micropreemie gown, and I had never put snaps on anything either. I immediately said a prayer and had a prayer in my heart the whole time I was sewing and knitting for this dear family. It was a humbling experience to make these clothes, knowing that they were going to a family that I knew. I went to work. I made a pattern specifically for the size that Mom and Dad had requested for Henry. He was a really tall 13.5 inch little 23 week gestation boy! He was tall just like his Daddy.

While I was visiting Henry's family, his Dad spoke about having one of the tiny commercial diapers in his pocket during the time that Henry was in the hospital, and ever since then. He was able to pull the diaper out of his pocket at any time and feel connected to his son. Right then and there I realized that I needed to make clothing for Henry, but that I needed to make more than one extra diaper for the family. I was going to make a diaper and hat for each family member. One for each parent and each of the four surviving children. I also made a second identical gown for Mom and Dad to be able to have as a keepsake.
I felt such a special connection to this family and to Henry. I felt like I was being guided and led, like Heavenly Father was literally using my hands to make these things for Henry and his family. Henry's Dad told me that Henry's Mom had been very anxious and seriously upset that they didn't have any clothing to bury their baby boy in. After I had let her choose the clothing I was going to sew for Henry, she was different. She was at peace. What an amazing service we give to these families.

When I was at Joann's to get additional supplies, I got an idea in the beading isle. I wanted to bead Henry's name onto the pin that holds each diaper together. If the family didn't like it, they could easily replace the pin with a normal one. When Henry's mom saw the beading she burst into tears. She said that the beading was perfect and exactly what she would have done herself if she thought about it. On the day of the funeral, Henry's Dad and older brother were both wearing these beaded pins as tie pins. It was really touching to see.

I looked up on the internet for some ideas about how to do the bunting for the gown. I did the same for the snaps. I wanted (and needed for the snaps) the gown to be thicker than just one layer. So I made a lining for the whole gown. Also, to give it a really nice finishing edge, I used a 1/8 inch white bias tape which I think really added a lot to the gown too. Henry's Mom really wanted something that felt like pajama's for her little baby boy to rest in. I still cannot believe what I was able to do. With God, all things are possible.

I think everything turned out beautiful. More than beautiful - I seriously could not believe that I could sew something so nice. I knew immediately that it wasn't because of me - but because of our Heavenly Father. I was used as an instrument to help this dear family, to let them know that He is mindful of them. I am humble and grateful to know that I was prepared and ready to help in such a capacity.

After I had finished everything and it was time to go to Henry's home, I was filled with anxiety and fear. What if I did something wrong? What if it wasn't exactly what they wanted? I said a prayer for comfort on both my part and the parents. My anxiety was put to rest, as both parents teared up when they saw the clothing. They were very touched by the extra diapers, hats, and beading of Henry's name.

I take no credit for the work I did for this family, or continue to do for these angels. I want to help in any way that I can, and inspire others to join in on this much needed work. That is why I take pictures of my finished work. I want to share with other volunteers to give them ideas, and to let them know that they are not alone in this work. I love seeing the beautiful work that other volunteers have done. I am so grateful that I am a part of this incredible calling to clothe the smallest of our angels.

We now have several members of "One Stitch at a Time Sewing Circle of Grants Pass, Oregon." Nancy came up with the name of our group and I think it's just cute! To the left you see a picture of my Mom, Cathie Owens. She is one of my best friends. Ever since I have been working on Teeny Tears, she has been knitting hats for me and sending them to me to add to the sets we are creating. She has contributed over 120 hats over the last few months.

The other members of our sewing circle include Nancy, her granddaughter, and me. I had some women in Medford, Oregon contact me a few weeks back to help out, so we might be expanding! The two sewing days we had back in January were mostly made up of women from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints in the Grants Pass Stake. What amazing women they are! Additionally we had some community support with lots of anonymous donations of fabric, and one women in rural Oregon contact me and donated $20 toward the cause.

Total Donations: 7
Total sets donated: 72
(149 diapers, 184 hats, 72 blankets, 72 gowns)