How knitting helped me cope with my daughters’ prematurity – Amy’s story

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Amy discusses how knitting helped her cope with her time on the neonatal unit, bereavement and her next pregnancy.

On Sunday 10 July 2016, Charlotte and Esme were born two and a half hours shy of 27 weeks. Between the pair of them, they had a very rocky start to life and showed nothing but courage, fight, determination and love.

Nobody could have prepared me for my journey into motherhood. There I was, a new mother, yet I was attached to breast pumps and spent my nights cuddling “fleece buddy blankets” instead of my babies. I couldn’t protect, hold, hear, kiss, feed or even dress them. The feeling that upset me most was that I didn’t feel like I was a real mummy or like the mother I so desperately wanted to be.

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When my girls were a few weeks old and we were no longer living by the hour, I began to relax into my new role as a mum. I developed a little routine and found “Mummy jobs” to do. I spent hours talking to the nurses, having skin-to-skin, comfort holding, doing their cares and making trips to the expressing room. It makes me smile to call these “Mummy jobs” because for so long I had felt like a visitor.

Whilst on the unit I felt like I was living two lives. In the mornings and evenings I had some sense of normality. I felt the fresh air of the real world and had home comforts around me. Yet I struggled to relax at all and switch off as I lived every minute in fear of the phone ringing and was overwhelmed by the guilt I felt not being with my girls.

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As a distraction, I worked with my mum to finish making the curtains that I had started for the twins’ room before my waters broke. I found sewing a great way to fill the time and it gave me something to focus my mind on. It helped me to relieve anxious thoughts about how critically ill Esme and Charlotte were and gave me hope that one day they’d come home.

Knowing I was making my daughters’ curtains also helped to relieve the guilt that I wasn’t at the hospital. I did worry about being away from them but a nurse told me not to be so hard on myself. I will never forget her wise words: “While you are away, you make sure you are building your strength up in order to continue being the strong mother you are.”

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Sadly, at seven weeks, Esme died due to her extreme prematurity, blood poisoning (septicaemia) and an inflammation on her brain (ventriculitis). Charlotte pulled through and 19 months on, continues to be my little warrior.

We were on the intensive care unit at Leeds General Infirmary for eight weeks before Charlotte was transferred to the high dependency unit at St James’s Hospital. She continued to go from strength to strength and at 13 weeks old, our big little miracle came home on oxygen, on her due date – 10 October.

After bringing Charlotte home, a dear friend taught me how to knit. I needed something to do during the hours where Charlotte napped. I had been advised to sleep while Charlotte was sleeping but despite being emotionally exhausted from the pain of losing Esme, my mind felt too on edge to sleep. Knitting suited me perfectly. I spent the next two months knitting and felt very proud of the hats, scarves and blankets I had successfully finished.

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In February 2017, Charlotte caught bronchitis and an infection which caused her right lung to collapse. For the first few days in Harrogate Hospital, Charlotte was on the highest ventilation that they had and if she deteriorated any more then she would need to be taken to intensive care in Leeds.

As we waited in dreaded anticipation, it was hard to see Charlotte so poorly. The feelings of hopelessness had returned and I hated to see her suffering. By day four, Charlotte had made an amazing recovery and we were out of the danger zone.

My husband returned to work and I spent the days alone with Charlotte. She spent most of the day sleeping on low flow oxygen and a SATs monitor. I needed something to provide an outlet for the stress that had built up whilst having to stay in the intense hospital environment. Through the window in Charlotte’s room, I spied a shop called Yarn Etc.

“Perfect,” I thought, “I’ll start knitting again.”

I was excited to get out of the hospital and breathe some fresh air. Knowing Charlotte was asleep, I enjoyed spending my time browsing through the knitting patterns in search of a hat to make her. I practically skipped back to the hospital, excited to have something relaxing to do for the day instead of staring at oxygen saturation levels and worrying. It wasn’t long before Charlotte came back home with us.

Knitting had first been a way to distract from the underlying deep grief I had for losing Esme in order to be a strong mum for Charlotte. This time I took up knitting in order to stay positive about Charlotte’s recovery, rather than being wrapped up in anxiety over how poorly she had become so quickly.

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After becoming pregnant again in September 2017, I started knitting again at 15 weeks in the hope of encouraging a happy, mindful and relaxed pregnancy. At 20 weeks, I set up a small business called Stitch and Star, knitting customised hats for adults, children and babies. I gain a lot of enjoyment knitting each hat.

Knitting encourages me to relax and help alleviate the anxieties I have over this pregnancy. After reaching my third trimester and experiencing the sheer pain of losing a baby, this pregnancy is simply about surviving each day. Accepting the reasons why I’m in survival mode is emotionally exhausting and accepting the fact that fear surrounds me is difficult and exhausting at times. Knitting enables me to focus on this pregnancy and let go of my worries about the past and future.

There has been no better feeling during this pregnancy than to enjoy knitting a hat while Charlotte naps and her younger brother wriggles around in my tummy.

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Read more about Amy’s journey on her blog.

If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this post and would like support, view our online support pages.

Craft 4 Bliss

This year we have partnered with Immediate Media for World Craft Week (16 to 20 April) to host Craft 4 Bliss. Host a craft session in support of premature and sick babies. Sign up and get a free downloadable magazine full of craft ideas.
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