knitting to remember them.

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This is the story of two tiny sweaters, for two tiny sisters…

in memory.

…but it really starts with this sweater for their older brother. If you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you might have noticed that I mentioned, in that post I just linked to, knitting for a “niecephew-to-be”, and then never followed up on it. My nephew Ayden Parker was stillborn on April 18th, 2011, about 10 weeks before his due date, after my beloved sister-in-law was diagnosed with a severe case of pre-eclampsia (and later with a clotting disorder). He had my family’s nose (just like Maddy does), and even had different-sized feet like I do.

This was when I was in the middle of my first trimester with Madrigal, so as you might imagine, I had a very difficult time thinking about what had happened. It is so horrendously sad when people you love so dearly suffer such a terrible loss, and even moreso when you know that, should everything go as you hope with your own pregnancy, you will get to have something they didn’t: a living, breathing child. I was so angry at what had happened to them, and felt so guilty about what was happening to me. When my brother asked me if I would finish Ayden’s cardigan, so that they could have it to remember him by, I did – but I didn’t feel up to talking about it here at the time. But I’m glad I was able to use my knitting skills to provide them with something tangible to remember their first child, their son.

And that brings us to the sweaters at the top of this post. This Spring, we got the exciting news that they were pregnant again. Jenny was on blood-thinners, and her care was being overseen by specialists in exactly the sort of problems that had claimed Ayden’s life. I was so optimistic – well, cautiously optimistic. Then came the news that it was twins. Identical twins. Exciting, but also scary, since with twins comes a whole new set of potential complications.

Like TTTS, a rare condition that only affects identical twins, which I’d never heard of until they found out that they had it. The odds, the odds – the odds of what happened with Ayden are higher than you might think, but still low, and then this? So unfair. But it seemed like we could still be optimistic. The twins would almost certainly be born very early, but it seemed like they would make it.

But they didn’t. Their hearts stopped beating. They were supposed to have a surgery that would have hopefully helped them make it just the tiny bit longer they needed to make it before they could safely induce, but passed away just two days before the surgery was scheduled. So unfair.

My nieces Adelynn Lily and Abigail Iris were stillborn on July 1st, 2012.

I hadn’t started any projects for the girls. I’d planned about a million projects for them, but wanted to wait until they were safely here in the world to cast on for any of them. They didn’t make it safely, but my brother asked if I could knit sweaters for them, like I’d done for Ayden. As soon as I heard their beautiful, beautiful names, I had a spark of an idea, and it turned into this:

lily/iris motif.

It’s a slightly modified motif from an Estonian lace book. It uses a traditional “Lily of the Valley” motif, but the way the leaf motif edges up to it reminded me of the way an iris opens up. Both girls, two flowers, one motif. I used Beaverslide’s 2-ply sport/sock weight yarn, which is a beautiful lightweight version of their worsted-weight 2-ply that I used for Vahtralehed.

It was really important to me, as I was knitting these two sweaters, to make them “real” sweaters. Wearable details, for sweaters that would sadly never get to be worn. The sweaters have split hems:

vented hem detail.

And teeny tiny seamlessly set-in cap sleeves with lap shoulders:

lap shoulder detail.

The end result is pair of beautiful finished sweaters:

twin sweaters.

for a pair of beautiful little girls whose lives should be just starting, not already finished.

I’m not going to pretend it is easy to knit sweaters for babies who have died. It isn’t. Especially if you’re the sort of knitter for whom part of the joy of knitting for others is seeing them wear the things you’ve knit for them. But that isn’t why I knit these two sweaters. I knit them to remember my nieces. And they will not be forgotten.

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31 thoughts on “knitting to remember them.

  1. Cathy

    Oh, Whitney, I’m sorry your brother and sister-in-law had to suffer such terrible losses. These sweaters are such a beautiful way to remember your nieces. Hugs to you. xo

  2. I’m so sorry for your family’s terrible losses. It’s wonderful of you to knit such beautiful sweaters for your brother and sister-in-law. You are in my thoughts.

  3. Oh, this is so beautiful. When I was 23 weeks pregnant, one of my dearest friends had a still born little girl. I went through so many of the same emotions you did and we still grapple with how to talk to one another, me with a healthy, sweet little boy and her, still trying to cope with the crushing loss. There are no words to make it easier…

  4. mick

    Oh, Whitney, this is a beautiful tribute. The Bridgewater shawl I knitted last year was for two dear friends whose baby girl was stillborn during the second trimester, and I’ve had two other friends who lost their daughters literally days before their due dates. This is terrifyingly much more common than we realize, and I’m so glad that your brother and sister-in-law have such love and support from you. They are both in my thoughts, as are the sweet ones they’ve lost.

  5. What a lovely remembrance in the face of such heartbreaking loss. Your brother and sister in law are not alone – we’ll help you all remember them.

  6. Crying. My heart aches for your whole family — the whole thing is so unfair. Those three beautiful children will never be forgotten. Thank you for sharing their stories with us.

  7. How heartbreaking. I’m so sorry to hear what your family has gone through. I have friends who have gone through stillbirth before, but never multiple times. I just can’t imagine.
    Thank you for sharing with us.

  8. I was so sorry to read about your family’s loss. I kept thinking (hoping) for a happy ending. The sweaters are lovely and more so because of the tenderness that went into them.

  9. Kairsten

    Oh, the sweaters are beautiful. You know how much your brother and sister-in-law have been in my thoughts, both during the pregnancy and after, and I am still so sorry. I wish I could say something more helpful but please know that your whole family (including Adelynn and Abigail) have my love.

  10. Words cannot express how I feel after reading this post, as it is so unfair and heartbreaking. I truly believe that they will never be forgotten and your little sweaters are a tribute to them too. My heart goes out to your family, and I do hope that one day they will be blessed with another child who can be born healthy and happy, and give them the happiness of being able to hold their children forever.

  11. Oh, how very sad for your family :(, but what beautiful sweaters to remember their lost little ones by. My brother was a survivor of TTTS and I was my mother’s first liveborn child after six miscarriages. I can’t imagine that kind of heartbreak, but I do know that my mother was not encouraged or helped in grieving her loss or remembering her lost children–and so I do think it is very, very good that your brother and sister in law were able to ask for these to remember their children by.

  12. Tacy

    What love you have shown for your nieces, your nephew and their parents. Please tell them we love them and let all of us know how they are doing…and you. God bless!

  13. Diana

    What a gift to bereaved parents to have a family member knit such lovely remembrances of what was and what should have been… If your brother and sister-in-law want twin loss-specific support, I can recommend Center for Loss in Multiple Birth. (One of my twins was stillborn 9 years ago.) Thank you for sharing this part of your family’s reality.

  14. Nancy Sprouse

    Whitney, I am so glad you took the time to remember all three of your nieces and nephew. The sweaters are so beautiful both in style and meaning. I know this meant so, so much to both Jenny and Ryan. Thank you.

  15. I am so very sorry for your loss, and for your brother and sister-in-law’s loss. I will be holding all of you in my thoughts. I know that your knitting must mean the world to them at a time like this.

  16. Whitney, what a beautiful tribute to your brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephew. I am absolutely touched by this. Thanks for sharing, and congratulations on the arrival of your new niece! I can’t wait to see what you knit for her. :)

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