Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Well the end has come, for this year anyway. :) Yesterday when I was preparing the bags for Sherman, and after I had called to see how many babies they had, I knew I had plenty to share with another hospital. So my large original gifts went to Sherman, and I was able to give smaller bags to Saint Joseph.

For Sherman, there were 3 bag types. 1 for the parents, 1 for the nurses, and 1 for 'extra gifts'. That is where the outfits for the 2-4 pounders were... and if I didn't have enough of one thing to put in all the bags I put them in this bag for the nurses to distribute as they saw fit. Here is a pciture of the 'extra gifts' bag.

We delivered two of these to Sherman, one for the sbcu staff and one for labor & delivery staff. I put more savory snacks in there, like chips & salsa and cheesy pretzels, since I figured they'd get a lot of sweet stuff over the holidays.

This is the bag of 'extra gifts' that went to Saint Joseph. I explained my project a bit on the front, since they had never seen me or heard from me ever before. :) While I was there doing my delivery once of the nurses said a woman had just recently delivered preemie twins, so it felt really wonderful knowing one of my gifts was already going to be given out. :)

And these are the bags of gifts for Sherman filled with candles, glass votive holders, clothing, cameras, chocolates, socks and coffee.

These are the little bags that went to Saint Joseph. And even though they are smaller, they had almost the identical loot as the bigger Sherman bags, but the blankets were smaller.

A table full of gifts.

Again. :)

After months of preparation, we actually scrambled to get out the door this morning. Of course that meant I forgot something - namely my Christmas cards I wanted to give out - but those can go in the mail and be a little late. :) But the weather here continues to be INSANE and we rushed around this morning so that the kids were back home safely before the next pummeling began. Even still, I was sloshing and slipping around like nobody's business.
And the light is red don't worry, I wouldn't take a picture whiel I was driving!!

A cold and dishevelled Henry in the elevator up to the fifth floor.

Philip guarded all of the gifts.

And then we came home to undress, re-dress into pajamas, and gorge on Christmas baking.

Thank you a MILLION times over for all of you who helped me with this project! It was worth everything, and I can't wait to start preparing for next year already! My hope is to spread the warm fuzzies even further next year, and as always there will be a ton of different ways for people to get involved if they want. :)
Rather than let this website die for the next few months, I'm also going to chronicle a few other charity projects here that I'm going to do with my boys. For instance, I am planning on growing a cutting garden this summer so that I can make bouquets. Along with my flowers, and those that I can get donated, I'm going to deliver bouquets and a visit to people in the cancer units at the hospitals who don't have flowers in their rooms. When my mom was in the hospital, every time, she was guaranteed to have several bright bouquets to keep her comforted while she wa in there. And when she died my father & I delivered several of her funeral arrangements to the hospital to sit with people who could get an even better use out of them. My mom would have been thrilled. And so I want to take this on as another personal charity cause of my own, and see where the love can take me. If all I can do is give one sick lonely person flowers and a visit, then my mom would be proud.
There are also many times throughout the year that I donate my crafts to people who need cheer for whatever reason. And who knows. Maybe if I've found enough money, time, help, consultation by this time next year my dream of starting my own 501(c)(3) charity will be realized. Who knows!! :)
For now.... MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Twas the night before delivery...

Tomorrow is the big day! And I am up to my eyeballs in BUSY. I got an amazing package of knitted preemie hats today from England, cutest things ever! Lovely colors, different sizes... the tiniest preemie hats fitting an apple quite well. :)

Isn't that adorable and tiny??

I think I mentioned this earlier, but I had to buy new bags for the gifts to Sherman because the blankets didn't fit inside! So here are the new bags labelled with some text about the story behind the gifts along witha link to this blog.

Here are the two thank you cards i made for the nursing staffs. One for the SBCU/NICO nurses, once for maternity nurses. I also bought them big bags of food, but those pictures will be up tomorrow.

Also!!! I had enough donations to actually help another hospital! My main donation is going to Sherman hospital, but right after that I'm driving over to St. Joseph Provena hospital on the other side of town to donate 5 other bags! Their bags are smaller simply because their blankets aren't the larger knit ones, the rest of the contents is pretty much the same.

Here are the bag labels drying on my craft desk, I glitterized them all. :)

I'll have to post the text of the bags tomorrow, right now they are all in my bedroom and I've got sleeping people in there right now. Here is an image of one of the thank you cards I included myself.

And here is the card making process, complete with egg nog off to the far left.

So! Lots of pictures tomorrow and stories about the delivery. If I'm remembering this correctly, here is what everyone's outstanding generosity has put in each of these gift bags:
1 handmade blanket
Pack of handmade thank you notes
2 pairs of socks
1 onesie outfit
1 long sleeved outfit
1 bag of candy
1 bag of coffee
1 glass votive
2 tealight candles
1 Bath & Body Works soap
1 disposable camera w/video service
Also given to the nurses to distribute are hand knit sweaters, knitted caps, extra thank you notes, extra hats and socks, 10 complete outfits for the 2-4 pound babies, extra blankets, a few extra cameras, and extra candy!!
Isn't that amazing!!!!! I promise to wax philosophical when the whole deal is done. But for now, I'm off to bed.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Why I am doing this.

I end up doing a lot of quiet, alone, evening-thinking this time of year - especially when my husband is travelling for work like he is tonight. It is coming up to the 2nd anniversary of my mother's death and the 2nd anniversary of Henry's traumatic entry into the world. The two events are forever linked for me, and it is my hope that eventually Henry's birthday arrives and I feel more happiness than pain. I suspect that will take a while though.

In making these gifts, I've also been remembering how I felt when I was in these other parents' positions. And over and over again the overwhelming memory and feeling I have is Failure. Those three weeks (and beyond, truthfully) were lived with an all encompassing feeling of guilt and failure.

I had failed in my only job as a pregnant woman, to keep my child healthy and see him into the world safely. My body had failed not only him, it had failed me. What millions of women find easy, my body rejected. My body failed by trying to kill me first, then Henry. I failed at having a happy birth story, particularly because my eldest son's birth story is quite different but was equally traumatic. I failed at motherhood because I could only see my infant son twice a day at best and surely he'd grow up at a disadvantage for that as well. I failed at motherhood over again because I couldn't give my 2 year old what he needed and so surely he'd grow up at a disadvantage for that. I failed at life. I failed at the world. I failed at breastfeeding, though the desperate Pssssh Psssssh of the breast pump still rings in my ears.

When you have a sick baby, every single thing in the entire world is absolutely and unbendingly WRONG. It is the most unnatural feeling in the world to lie in bed at night, your child having just been surprisingly removed from your body, and you are miles and miles and miles away. To feel like the nurses are the Real mothers, you were just a host. And a bad one at that. To feel the deflating of your soft, battered stomach and have absolutely nothing to show for it. To be going about your daily business without your infant seems so absolutely alien and wrong... it is just impossible to not feel broken into pieces.

My feelings about Henry's arrival are far from numbed, and far from happy. He is now (as the pictures indicate) a gorgeous, happy, healthy, talking, running, bounding, joyous, funny, delectible, chubby, adjusted, NORMAL little boy. And yet here I am crying as I type this because the pain of his time in the hospital is still very fresh. Forever tied to the pain of my mother dying exactly 2 weeks prior to his arrival, and feeling like an abandoned kitten, having no idea how to deal with this tiny baby and my failing body, and having no mother to talk to about it. And even though my sense tells me otherwise and my brain knows better, part of me - that irrational heartstrong mommy part of me - will always feel a sense of failure and guilt when thinking about Henry's birth.

And that is why this project exists. I watched my mother die an agonizing death. I watched her suffer through cancer for 7 years, and in the end I watched her practically melt before my eyes. And yet through it all she held an optimism that everyone found shocking. No amount of pain could stop her from being her best self, her best mother, her best wife. And as long as she had anything to do with it, nothing was going to stop her from making people laugh, taking care of her friends, and showing her unrelenting compassion.

Lesson learned, mom. Seeking comfort in your own situation by bringing light to others going through the same thing. Saying yes, life DOES suck and it IS unfair, so what are we going to do to make it better? Offering hope to people who are easily lost in the dark. Knowing that the smallest acts of kindness are often the ones with the longest effects, and often the ones that prompt even more giving. And so yes I am doing this project for Henry, my shockingly perfect nearly 2 year old... but I am also doing it for my mom. Both of them amazing people. Both of them worth honoring.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Less than a week to go, many more goodies!

I've had another couple of awesome deliveries! I now have very close to everything I need for these bags. To start off, I received more knitted preemie hats, booties, gloves, and a sweater made by my amazing mother in law. This is what her amazing skills did for Henry when he was off for his first doctor appointment after coming home. This is the preemie size, and he's almost 4 weeks old in thie picture.

Here is what she sent for the Christmas bags:

Absolutely AMAZING. And holding them makes me think very much of when my tubby nearly 2 year old was tiny and fragile and new and skinny.

Secondly, I received my package from www.preemiesrus.com. With donations I was able to buy 10 of these outfits called Sweet Ts. These outfits are geared towards the 2-4 pound baby who won't be out of the hospital any time soon. The parents will still be receiving 2 preemie outfits that the baby will fit into when they are ready to go home, but it didn't seem fair that the super tiny babies didn't get their own clothes while spending time in their incubators.

I have 10 of these sets in non-holiday gender neutral colors, that way they can be used after the holiday season as needed.

Next, I was able to buy the mini bags of yummy coffees.

And I've received several more card packs from the wonderful people over at www.etsygreetings.blogspot.com.

Then, my friend Gwen came deliering her crocheted blankets in person, along with some thank you cards and a plate of cookies for my family! The cappucino ones were my favorites. :D

There are 6 of these amazing blankets, all of them different, and all of them very cuddly indeed.

She also added these very sweet little tags to each blanket.

I also have 2 extra fleece blankets to deliver, I love this green polka dotty print.

More recent additions are these glass tealight candle holders, each will have 3 yummy gorgeous smelling tealights included with it.

And finally, I had to go out and buy 15 new MUCH bigger bags to hold all of the donations!! There are 15 blue bags that I'll decorate, and the 2 white bags are to be filled with yummy foods for the nurses in the NICU/SBCU and also for the nurses in the maternity ward.

And for my final picture for now, this is what everything looks like together piled up on the blanket chest in my bedroom. :)

The time is getting near! I need to package the cards and put notes on the front about who made them. I need to make my own cards, 15 of them or maybe 30 if I feel a crazy burst of unexpected energy. I need to make tags to put on the bags that say what is inside and where the gift is coming from. I need to make my cards for the nursing staffs. Philip needs to draw his pictures for the nurses. I need to do all the packing. I need to finish doing the grocery shop for the nurses, though that is almost done.
That is all for now!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

HUGE awesome in the mail!

In the last few days I've been floored by generosity. By how my little idea of helping these parents has sparked so many other people into giving and caring. I know life really sucks sometimes, and everyone has times in their lives that feel monumentally overwhelming and just not worth it... but this project really does prove something that I've known all along. People are GOOD. People are WONDERFUL. And life is completely awesome, just sometimes you have to go looking for it.

And I've been pelted with awesome lately! A few days ago I had the best mail day ever. Julie from www.alittlepregnant.com sent her donations, as did Donna from www.mymiraclebaby.com. The day before that I received the wonderful package from www.fodeo.com. And I've collected my donation money and am using it to purchase more clothes at a deep discount from www.preemiesrus.com. And I got new thank you cards from www.nypapercrafter.etsy.com as well! HOORAY! More on the clothes and cards after the photos.

Julie from www.alittlepregnant.com went overboard on awesome. Seriously. These 8 handmade blankets are completely huggable and outrageously soft. I'm a big believer in the power of hand made. About how love and affection is literally made solid when you give someone something you have created. And these blankets are precious.

(I wrote a little bit about why Handmade Matters a while ago at my craft blog, here: http://coffeebeancards.blogspot.com/2008/03/my-exploding-box-and-why-it-means-so.html)

Here are the 8 blankets folded neatly.

I LOVE the monkey + banana one.

But I think this bright doggy combo is my favorite.

Along with the super fuzzy blankets she sent some winter preemie sleepers.

And here is some of the precious donated items from www.mymiraclebaby.com. So cute! She sent along 14 onesies plus 4 long sleeved gowns. I now have enough clothes to put TWO outfits in each bag! A chort sleeved onesie and a long sleeved ensemble. Isn't that amazing??

Here is everything put together:

And on top of Julie's gifts it makes one big happy bundle of mail received in an afternoon!

Here is what the www.fodeo.com gift looked like when it arrived. These are the tubes that contain a disposable camera. Once the photos are taken (by the nurses in the parents' absence or by the parents themselves) it gets popped back into the postage paid tube, dropped in a mail box, and in a few weeks they get a well crafted musical DVD montage of their photos!

All of that totally went over Henry's head though, and he just thought it was a drink.

Nevertheless it made him quite happy!
NEXT, with my final financial donations, I am going to be buying several of these:
These are called Sweet T's. They are designed for the smaller babies, those around 2-4 pounds, those who won't have the blessing of a going home outfit for a very long time. Many babies spend months on end in the hospital before being able to come home and those little precious kiddos need clothes too. So these Sweet T's are adjustable, the fold up through the legs and fasten at the sides, they have loads of space for all the tubs and monitors and patches that are attached to these little babies.
I will be donating these Sweet T's directly to the nursing staff. When they hand out one of our gifts to a baby who is only 2, 3, or 4 pounds big they will be able to add an additional outfit to their bag. The parents can keep the "lerger" preemie outfit designed for a 5 pound baby, but in the meantime they can keep their ultra tiny baby in a sweet new outfit while still in ths hospital.

And last but not least, I received a LOVELY parcel of thank you cards from Debbie over at www.nypapercrafter.etsy.com! Thank you so much Debbie, you'll see photos of your cards in the next round. :D
And so! That was a pretty big post, but a lot is going on. Before I go, I've decided not to return the anti-bacterial soaps in exchange for the hand sanitizers. The truth is that several parents who were there for Thanksgiving will still be in the hospital for Christmas, and for those few families who are there for both holidays I'd like to make sure they are receiving different items. So Sanitizers for Thanksgiving, Soaps for Christmas!
I'm off for now, more very soon I promise. And thank you to Everyone who has helped!