When you first find out you are pregnant, you usually tell your spouse/significant other, family and friends. It’s a joyous occasion that begins a purchasing frenzy unlike any other! You begin to receive blankets, stuffed animals, and even onesies. There might even be a cherished article of clothing that has been passed down from generation to generation. You begin to hear all about family traditions, birth stories, and the anticipation begins to build. A few weeks later your anatomy scan date finally arrives, and the eagerness to find out a gender is at an all-time high. This is it! This is the moment you have been waiting for. Is it a girl, or a boy? The sonographer waves her wand over your belly and says…“Congratulations! It’s a Boy!” That’s all you needed to hear, the tears flow, and the text messages are sent out. Perhaps even a gender reveal party is planned.
Word begins to spread. The soft blue, boy themed everything starts to arrive. As you begin to clip tags and send items through the wash you might see a sweet article of clothing. One that pulls at your heartstrings. You run your hand over it, and immediately decide this will be the first outfit he will wear. It’s set aside, lovingly, and tenderly folded to be packed for the hospital. You might even hold it close enough to inhale and let that unique fragrance fill your nose. Ahhh. It even smells like a baby.
But what happens next isn’t exactly in your plan. Your sweet little man arrives early. You are overwhelmed with emotion, but the staff are so kind, guiding you step by step on what to expect, see, and hear. They show you how to “scrub in” when you enter the NICU, and they gently reassure you that it’s ok to touch your baby boy. With nervous trembling hands you do just that. After all, you’ve waited so long to do this, and even if it’s not how you pictured it, you still jump at the chance. Your nursing staff snaps pictures, and it feels like this moment goes by in an instant.
As you come to visit, you begin to establish a routine, and get to know some of the nurses. As much as possible they encourage you to participate in your little ones’ cares. After a few weeks they say “He is big enough for clothes. Would you like to bring something in?” A flurry of emotions comes rushing back as the outfit you picked out is not one that will fit. A bittersweet reminder of how far he must go, but more importantly how far he has come!
This is not uncommon for many NICU parents. As a NICU baby born in the mid 80’s my parents had the very same problem. Their solution was Cabbage Patch Doll Clothing. The velcro on the back made it easy to slip on and off and accommodate wires and lines. Even as recently as 6 years ago Build-A-Bear Clothing was often recommended as a clothing option for preemies who were in the NICU during the holiday season or special occasion. Carters and Gerber have preemie size onesies; however, the cut and style is more geared for an older preemie of a certain weight and gestational age and doesn’t always take into consideration that these babies have wires and tubes that need to be accommodated. There is however one post-NICU mom who has thought of all of this!
Amanda Huhta is a former preemie mom who founded the nonprofit organization Twenty-Five and Four, after her son W’s premature arrival. As you can guess, W was born at 25.4 wks gestation and slightly over a pound. After a few setbacks during their NICU Journey (and some weeks after birth) Amanda was told her son would finally be able to wear clothes. This revealed some emotions that Amanda did not realize were lurking right below the surface. Being able to wear clothing is a huge milestone that many NICU parents can attest to, and one that can also be an enormous symbol of hope. This was no different for her. There were just a few roadblocks. First, everything was too big and second, specialty items online that could fit, were too expensive. So Amanda enlisted the help of her mother and together they researched and modified some patterns and templates to make the perfect outfit. Complete with velcro, buttons, and snaps, W was finally able to wear clothing that fit! After making a few outfits for W, Amanda wondered if other NICU parents felt the same way she did. It wouldn’t be long before she got her answer. As another opportunity to create a few one of a kind outfits appeared, so did the idea for Twenty-Five and Four.
Twenty-Five and Four is flourishing, and will celebrate their 4th year of service in January. They have over 300 volunteers who assist in sewing, packing, and shipping.
To learn more about Twenty-Five and Four please visit twentyfiveandfour.org.
The first outfit a preemie gets to wear is just as special! What it means is this: We made it! We survived an “x” amount of months, weeks, days, hours, or minutes to get to this point. To get to this exact moment! Today we get to wear clothes. Today we look back at how far we have come. Look at all the hurdles we had to jump over. Look at what this teeny tiny human was capable of conquering. Look at how hard we fought. Look at this amazing baby!
Take pictures. Buy goodies. Decorate the isolette. Take a recording of it. Celebrate a tiny t-shirt, on a tiny human, because they deserve it! They deserve all of it… and so do you!
“Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments.” -Rose Kennedy