Friday, June 15, 2007

Women stitch for ailing babies

With needles and thread, a group of women shines a light of hope for families of babies born prematurely and families whose babies have died.

Johnson County Threads of Love, part of a national Christian ministry, makes special items that are distributed to hospitals for families.

Members of two Cleburne churches, Field Street Baptist and First Baptist, and Cross Timber Baptist Church in Burleson meet monthly to make the items, said program coordinator Glenna Fowler.

Most members make the items at home and bring them to Cross Timber Baptist Church to be delivered once a month, she said.

Threads of Love began in 1993 in Baton Rouge, La., when a pediatrician asked a pastor if he could ask church members to make burial gowns for babies. The ministry grew, and now 130 chapters deliver clothing to hospitals throughout the United States and Canada.

The mission statement for Threads of Love says it is “a sewing ministry meeting the needs of tiny premature infants and newborns who die due to stillbirth, miscarriage or infant death. The ministry is about healing and binding hearts together of parents at a time of uncertainty about their baby’s health or when they lose an infant. Our mission is to show parents the love of Christ at a time when their personal pain is hard to endure and let them know that God is faithful.”

In discussing her own miscarriage, Fowler said she would have loved to have someone bring her items to acknowledge the loss and to show he or she cared.

“This is a Christ-based sewing ministry,” she said. “Every time I talk about the ministry, people get excited. We want people to know that God cares and is with them through every trial they have.”

Charlotte Howton, a member of Field Street Baptist Church, agreed.

“This brings hope to parents and families to let them know that they are cared for during a difficult time,” Howton said.

Most materials are donated. People give yarn, fabric, thread, cash and gift cards, Fowler said.

Howton said she often looks for materials when she goes to garage sales. One women sold her a large bag of yarn for $1 because the yarn was going to be used for the ministry, Howton said.

Another woman donated a Viking sewing machine she bought at an estate sale, Fowler said.

“If we can’t use the items, we pass them onto other organizations that can,” she said.

Some of the items the women make are booties that open in the back so tubes can be inserted while babies are in the neo-natal unit. Hand mitts they knit protect babies from scratching themselves. Velcro-closing, flannel-lined vests allow nurses to assess babies without waking them, and crocheted hats keep the newborns warm.

Lovie dolls are special items made for mother and baby. When a baby is taken to neo-natal care, the mother is given a lovie doll to hold. The mother can place the doll next to her bosom, so it carries her scent. The lovie doll is then placed next to the baby so he or she can become familiar with his or her mother’s scent. Because the sense of smell is one of the first senses to develop, it is important for the baby to know his or her mother’s smell, Fowler said.

Threads of Love members also make the Helping Hand, a closed glove filled with lightweight stuffing. The glove can be used as a positioning aid for the baby, a tool to separate tubes placed between the glove’s fingers or a comforter if placed on the baby’s back. When a baby is restless, he or she will often calm down if the Helping Hand is placed on his or her back because it feels like someone is touching the baby, Fowler said.

Threads of Love also makes miscarriage wrappers for parents who lose a baby. The blankets are folded around the baby or a card bearing the baby’s hand prints and footprints.

Some babies are buried in the wrappers, Fowler said.

Other special baby items made by Threads of Love are blankets, quilts, bonnets and day gowns. A prayer written on a card is always included with the gift to comfort the families during their difficult time. A different prayer is attached to each item to remind people that God is with them during their time of trouble, Fowler said.

Women who cannot sew, can print prayer cards for the group, Fowler said. The ministry is good for women who desire to serve but may not be as mobile as others, she said. Jannie Engleman, a woman who makes miscarriage wrappers, said it is wonderful to have something she can do for the Lord.

In 2006, Johnson County Threads of Love donated 839 items to hospitals. The goal for 2007 is 1,000 items. For information and to participate, call 817-266-3186.


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