SAGA members sew and smock simple bishop-style gowns and donate them to local hospitals to clothe babies who die at birth or shortly after. Many groups also donate smocked bonnets for premature infants. For a parent holding a dying baby, sorrow is often overwhelming. Life isn't supposed to end before it's really had a chance to start. In those moments, even the strongest have their faith tested. What comfort there is often comes in simple acts - an arm wrapped around grieving shoulders, shared tears, the gentle touch of a hand. At many hospitals across the country, comfort also comes in the form of small gowns lovingly hand-smocked by members of local smocking chapters. A social worker at one hospital stated, "We use them almost exclusively for babies that have died or are going to die. We're able to cover up a lot of the medical equipment with the gowns so that the parents get to see their baby looking great. Sometimes, the parents keep the gowns as a keepsake; sometimes, the babies are buried in them. I try to let the parents pick out which gown they want on their baby. Sometimes, it's the only parenting they get to do."
The idea for the Wee Care gowns came in 1986, from Rose Trellis Smockers chapter in Portland, Oregon. Members Chris Owings and Nancy Newell were looking for a distinctive public service projects for chapter members that could be made quickly, would require inexpensive materials and would teach beginners new techniques, yet be worth the time of more experienced members. Owings, a registered nurse and childbirth educator, and Newell, a pattern designer, seemed chosen to discover the need for these gowns and determine a way to fill that need. The Wee Care project members sew and smock these gowns and bonnets, embroider blankets, and create beautiful garments to donate to local hospitals to clothe babies who die at birth or shortly after.
It did not take long for the Wee Care service program to be adopted by SAGA chapters across the United States, Canada, and Australia. It has even expanded further with chapters providing gowns to be used in hospital neo-natal units for preemie babies that survive and must have an extended hospital stay. Often, hospitals request these gowns in prints and brighter colors and use them on a daily basis.
The Wee Care projects seem to have opened many unexpected channels for communication and emotional healing, as women have noted that stitching the tiny gowns helps them to talk about their own losses. The project is a gratifying experience for many chapter members to participate in, especially when letters like the following are received: "This note is to say thank you to the individual who donated their time to smock a small gown for our local hospital. My grandson was born on February 3rd. How excited we were until about four hours later when he became critically ill with a genetic disorder. We said good-by to him on February 5th. He was dressed in a white gown with blue smocking at the neckline and on the sleeves. We were grateful for the donation of this gown as we did not have knowledge that our time was to be so short with him. His parents have the gown as one of the few things actually used by their son. Again, we thank you for this gift of love."
If you would like to participate in the Wee Care Program but have no place to distribute the gowns, please contact the Wee Care Chairman.
Wee Care PatternsAs part of SAGA's continuing commitment to the ideals of the Wee Care Program, we are offering a downloadable version of Wee Care patterns at no cost. SAGA, the hospitals that receive the items and the bereaved families all thank you for your participation in the Wee Care program. If you would like to participate in the Wee Care Program but have no place to distribute the gowns, please contact the Wee Care Chairman.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: SAGA provides this Wee Care Program free of charge for your use for the donations of gowns to hospitals for the express purpose of bereavement. Any other use is a violation of the Copyright. This Program, or any of its contents, may not be reproduced, copied or offered for sale, without the express written consent of the Smocking Arts Guild of America.
By downloading these Wee Care Programs, you agree to abide by the requirements of the above notice.
Wee-Care Pattern #1
Wee-Care Garland Smocking Plate By Maggie Bunch
One-Piece Preemie Gown By Tina Schuman Smocked gown with angel wing sleeves.
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