Knit Stories: Declan’s Sweater

I’ so excited to welcome you to the first installment of Knit Stories! Knit Stories will be a regular feature, with a different knitter each time talking about a project that was especially significant for them. If you would like to submit a knit story, you can read all the details here. Submissions are ongoing, feel free to send in a story any time.

“The little sweater in this photograph is worn. It needs a good washing, and maybe some love from a sweater stone, but otherwise, it still has plenty of life and wear left. I love how knitted objects can rekindle feelings and memories of when you knit them and whom you knit them for, and this little sweater is no exception. I knit this little sweater for my son. After a complicated labor with his older sister, I knew that the likelihood of a natural birth was nearly out of the question; my body didn’t cooperate the first time, and the combination of small stature and
large babies is not always a complementary one. I sat through a tedious explanation of why the doctors would not risk a labor and scheduled my surgery. Four weeks later, I dutifully returned to the hospital to have my scheduled c section and to finally meet this little boy who
was so eagerly anticipated.

I cast on stitches for this little sweater as I waited for the surgeon to come, knitted the little collar as they explained the procedure, and chatted with my mother as I switched to a larger needle and placed my stitch markers. I used an earthy green superwash wool, strong but soft, thinking it would be perfect for this late spring baby. My first child had been born in late August of an Indian summer, so hand knits were superfluous for the first few months of her life, indoors or outdoors. As they prepared to take me to surgery, I kissed my mother and husband, knowing that we were all excited but a bit anxious for this to be over. Despite the excitement and anticipation that surrounds a birth, so often we forget about how terrifying it can be, and I had not forgotten how difficult my previous delivery had been, and how thankful I was for a healthy baby with no complications at the end of it.

My beautiful boy came into this world, nine and a half pounds of sturdy little man, with ten perfect fingers and toes. He gazed at my husband as the surgeons began to put me back together, and I cried, wishing I could hold him right there and smell his perfect little head. Within fifteen minutes of that moment, he needed to be moved to the neonatal unit. The kind pediatrician assured me his issues were routine, and that his lungs needed a little help after his less than traditional entrance to the world. I didn’t believe it was as simple as that, because
despite her calm assurances, I could see the concern in her eyes. As I was wheeled back to recovery, my husband went to the neonatal care unit, hoping for more information. My mother shortly followed, and I stayed in recovery, crying onto the beginning of the little sweater I had
knit, seeing nurses and specialists who assured me things were progressing and that I would be moved closer to my son as soon as possible.

I waited, alternating between knitting a few stitches here and there between checking my phone for updates and allowing the medical staff
to tend to my incision and bring a pump in to try and get colostrum for my baby. In a few hours, I was taken to the postpartum floor, where I was only a corridor away from the neonatal unit. Upon finding out that I had yet to see my son, the sympathetic nurse immediately put me into a wheelchair and slowly wheeled me down the hall, with my husband helping wheel the IV poles and bags along behind. I was frightened of what I would see. As we entered the unit, there was my son, covered in tubes and sensors, connected to machines that beeped and helped him breathe. He was suffering from respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) due to a deficiency of surfactant in his lungs. It was almost comical to think my nearly ten pound child was suffering from an issue found in preterm babies; all of the masks and tubes in the unit were too small for him due to his size, and the tubes had to be taped to his face since he kept pulling them off.

Over the next week, I sat by his crib, watching machines breathe for him, jumping with anxiety every time an alarm went off, and holding his little hand when I thought it would calm him. Holding him was difficult due to all the tubes, and less than two days after his birth, his lung
collapsed, necessitating a tube to be placed in his side to help him breathe. As I sat, I added stitches to his little sweater. When I couldn’t knit, I held it on my lap, like a security blanket, or a lovey that a child insists on taking everywhere.

I knit as I watched my mother hold him for the first time, singing the same lullabies she had sung to me as a child, and years later, to my daughter, her first grandchild, smiling as she made up new verses to each song. I knit as I watched my husband snuggle his son, telling him dad jokes and explaining to him how the machines around him worked. I knit as I pumped milk, exhausted by the frequency with which it had to be done, but glad to know that this was something I could do to help, since it felt as though I had failed my child in so many ways at that point.

I held the little sweater in my hands as I cried on the day I was discharged from the hospital but my son had to stay. It came back
and forth with me as I went from home and back to the hospital each day, sometimes multiple times a day to bring milk or to just sit with my son. By the end of our weeklong stay at the hospital, most of the nurses knew I was a knitter, and they usually checked in on my progress
as they came to attend to my son.

My son came home, perfectly happy and healthy one week after his hectic entrance into the world. I finished the sweater much later, although I don’t remember when. By the time he was six months old, it fit perfectly, and I became emotional as I put it over his head and
remembered all the tears, hopes and wishes that had gone into knitting it, and how much I had been comforted by the simple rhythm of knit and purl.

Declan is now almost three years old, a happy and rambunctious little boy full of life, with no long term effects from the eventful first days of his life. His sweater is far too small now, and he has since received many other sweaters, which he wears constantly. I still have his little green sweater, and have set it aside, remembering how it came to be, and what it meant to have it there.”

Knit Stories is written by a different knitter each time, talking about a meaningful project and how it came to be. This one is written by Karina Sweeney, and you can find her on Ravelry, her website, and Instagram

17 comments

  1. Tanis   •  

    Beautiful. What an amazing post to jump start this new feature. It had me crying and smiling and nodding the whole way through. I’m really looking forward to reading more knit-stories going forward. This is why we knit!

  2. Jennifer   •  

    Gosh, what a lovely story. I’m sitting here choked up, with tears in my eyes. The intimate connection and empathy mothers have with each other’s stories always makes my heart both ache and rejoice. Our handknits can be such tangible memories of certain times, places, and events. I can still envision myself sitting on a sofa in our first house, diligently knitting a baby blanket for my son. He’s now nearly 21 years old, but this memory is as fresh and sweet as if it was only yesterday. What a lovely feature, Julie. I look forward to reading more. xo

  3. Melanie   •  

    Beautiful.

  4. Jeannie Gray   •  

    What a happy ending for a beautiful little sweater. The story is a perfect example of Elizabeth Zimmerman’s quote, “Knit on….. through all crises.” I’ll never forget sitting in the ER, waiting to hear if my mom was alive and knitting with a stolen roll of toilet paper & a couple of borrowed pens because in my rush to get to the hospital, I’d failed to grab my knitting bag. I got some Very strange looks but it helped to calm me. Can’t wait to read others’ stories.

    • Julie   •     Author

      OMG, you need to write that story and send it in! Thatsounds unforgettable.

  5. Christine   •  

    Wow what a lovely story. Thanks for sharing it. Knitting is so powerful.

  6. Laura   •  

    Thanks to Karina for sharing the story of her and her son’s sweater. What a read. It just goes to show that there is so much more to knitting than some needles and some yarn. I look forward to the next Knit Story; what a great feature, Julie!

  7. Loulou   •  

    What a good story, with such a happy outcome. That adorable sweater is certainly a treasure for life!

  8. Lee   •  

    What a beautiful feature and amazing first story! It will be a tough act to follow. But it proves how important this craft is …while we create and the product that we create. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Clark (Grandfaffer)   •  

    I remember that scary time. He is my grandson and we saw the little monster cradled in the most high-tech medicine in the world. We knew for certain that he had come to the wisest parent and best nurses and doctors the planet could hope for. To this day, he fills his succession of sweaters with heat and energy, always ready to go.

  10. Suzanne   •  

    Sweet!

  11. Anna   •  

    What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it.

  12. Snow   •  

    Sweetness! Great feature idea!

  13. miss agnes   •  

    A most beautiful and moving story. What a great way to kickstart this new feature.

    • Julie   •     Author

      So glad you enjoyed it! I hope you’ll submit one day. 😉

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