Tag Archives: inspiration

Holy Sews: Tiny layettes comfort grieving parents of stillborn children

26 Feb

 “I sewed and I cried and I sewed and I cried” — Regina Binz

BY RHONDA OWEN

    On the day after Thanksgiving in 2008, Regina Binz and a friend visited hospitals in Northwest Arkansas to offer them something she wished she’d had the year before, when her son, whom she named Ryan Henry, died in her womb 17 weeks into her pregnancy.

(Holy Sews photo)

    During the months since his death in 2007, Binz had been working through her grief by designing an outfit suitable for miscarried and stillborn babies, who are unimaginably tiny and fragile.
    She had refined her concept and created a tunic open on the sides, which could be placed over a baby’s head, then secured with a ribbon. Fetuses in early stages of development are simply too delicate and small for typical baby clothing. Even doll clothes don’t work because they have small arm and head openings, plus fasteners that could tear a baby’s gossamer skin.
    After much trial and error, Binz had a prototype for a workable garment. Her goal was to make and donate them to hospital delivery units so they would have something pretty, soft, durable and small in which to wrap the little ones before showing them to their parents.
    Her first stop was Mercy Medical Center in Rogers, Binz recalls. “We took our stuff in to show them. The nurse at the desk looked at us like we were crazy and she said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ Then she told me they had a mother delivering a stillborn baby at that moment and they needed the tunic right then.”
    Binz had been planning to keep the prototype, but handed it over — with an unexpected feeling of gratitude — after hearing the nurse’s words. Being able to offer such a gift to another mother was a balm to her grief. It also meant she was on the right path with her plan for the garments. Until that point, she had been ambivalent — she needed to find an outlet for her grief but she also knew she needed to focus on raising her daughter, Torrie, then 7 years old.
    “When I found out that mother was having a boy, it was like a moment of affirmation. The sense of affirmation and liberation is hard to describe.”
   

Handmade layettes by Holy Sews volunteers

 Since that day, Binz and the group she founded, Holy Sews, have made and furnished 700 to 800 layettes — each one with a tiny tunic, blanket, knitted cap (petite enough to fit the narrow end of an egg) and miniature teddy bear — to 32 hospitals in the state.
    The group meets once a month at Our Lady of the Holy Souls Catholic Church in Little Rock, where Binz lives, to cut, sew and embellish layettes. Many of the women have lost babies themselves, while others just want to help. The ecumenical group of volunteers spends an afternoon cutting, sewing, assembling and packaging the layettes.
    On a Sunday in October, the parish hall at Holy Souls was filled with the jackhammer-like sound of sewing machines and cheerful chatter. Binz pointed to a blue gown for a baby born prematurely on a stand next to a smocklike tunic about one-third the size of the gown.
    “This is what my son was wrapped in,” she says. “That was humongous, but that wasn’t on my mind when they brought my son to me. I wasn’t thinking, ‘I’ll make clothes for all the babies of the world.’”
    Her son weighed 3 ounces and measured 7 inches, barely the length of her hand. Binz and her husband, Kevin, wanted to see their son so the nurses brought Ryan to them wrapped in a regular-size hospital blanket.
    “My son was handed to me with his head folded over like it might break off,” Binz says. “It was very startling. That’s what I kept in mind when I was working on the tunic and blanket. I wanted to make something that would support the head so that wouldn’t happen to another mother.”
    With that in mind, she worked on her design, discarding idea after idea until she was sure she had created the ideal garment.
    “I sewed and I cried and I sewed and I cried,” Binz says. “It’s a simple design, but it took me forever to get right.”
    Among the first mothers to receive the Holy Sews layettes was Megan Garrison, who gave birth to stillborn twins Bella (6.8 ounces) and Paschal (7.2 ounces) on April 10, 2009. The boy and girl were 21 weeks old. Babies who die after 20 weeks of pregnancy are considered stillborn, while those who die earlier are termed miscarriages or “pregnancy loss,” according to the National Stillbirth Society.
    “As soon as I got them, I was so touched,” Garrison says of the layettes. A video montage of photos shows the twins first wrapped in white washcloths, then dressed in blue and pink tunics with matching caps and blankets. One photo shows Garrison smiling and holding both babies.
    

Doll-size knitted caps are part of each layette

Being able to see her babies, hold them and examine them — “they have all your features already” — was a “nice closure,” Garrison says. And seeing them dressed like other babies instead of wrapped in a piece of cloth used for bathing is a measure of comfort during an immeasurably painful loss.
    Treasure Grier, a nurse for four years in the labor and delivery unit at the UAMS Medical Center, says having the layettes on hand is a blessing for the nurses, who must present the stillborn and miscarried babies to devastated parents.
    “We love them, we love them, we love them,” she says of Holy Sews tunics. “They’re easy to place on the babies, they’re beautiful and we feel like we’re giving parents a pretty baby. That’s important because they don’t always look as beautiful as parents would hope or expect.”
    She said parents are always appreciative. “We’ve never had anyone respond negatively” to seeing their baby in a tunic and cap. “It creates a beautiful memory and we send it home with the family,” Grier says. “For the parents, it’s a tangible thing that their baby wore, their baby held.”
    Sometimes the babies are cremated or buried in the layettes at parents’ request.
    The need for the layettes is greater than you might imagine, Grier says, explaining that a week earlier, there were six pregnancy losses within two days at the hospital. “It’s never-ending. All we can do is try to make it easier on the parents.”
    Money for Holy Sews’ supplies comes solely from donations — sometimes from people who have received layettes but also from people who just want to help. Holy Souls church also provides funding, Binz says. Each layette is blessed by a Catholic priest before being given to a hospital.
    Word has spread about the project and Binz is mentoring four women in other states who want to begin Holy Sews programs. “Every day, I send them an e-mail. I’m trying to use that as an opportunity to write a procedure manual,” she says.
    Binz says the project has healed her and is doing the same for the other mothers involved. And she’ll always remember the day the healing began.
    “I never met that mother at Mercy Hospital, but I always think about her the day after Thanksgiving. After that day, I could move again. I became excited about Christmas again. I was liberated.”

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
This article originally appeared in the Nov. 30, 2011, Family section of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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Serenity in motion

10 Feb

Last weekend, my boyfriend and I spent an evening at a couple of casinos at Tunica, Miss. I’ve never been a fan of casinos — the energy is wrong.

Tension that pierces the nerves like glass needles, over-the-top emotions, desperation, despair … that even more than the gloomy haze of cigarette smoke tightens my chest and steals my calm, my breath. And I just know some of the glassy-eyed people slumped at the slot machines had slipped way, their spirits lost in some soulless triple-line exchange. Made me wonder if there was a body detail lurking behind some door, waiting to slip in and scoop up the dead losers while the ones still breathing were distracted by a frantically wild craps shoot.

Many might consider the drive back to Little Rock through the winter-bare Delta to be a bleaker experience, but that’s where the beauty lives, the energy feels right, I’m able to focus and breathe, recapture calm.

Setting things right were sweet moments of serenity in motion like this on Hwy. 70 near Brinkley, where we happened upon a flock of geese resting in a flooded field.

What casinos?

Catching a breath

Serenity in motion

Today’s resolution, from Simone: Expect treats, but watch the hand that feeds you

14 Nov

Ever the optimist, Simone shares these words from I Ching 25, Innocence (The Unexpected):

“Man has received from heaven a nature innately good, to guide him in all his movements. By devotion to this divine spirit within himself, he attains an unsullied innocence that leads him to do right with instinctive sureness and without any ulterior thought of reward and personal advantage. …

But, Simone warns, temper optimism with realism. A dog knows these things instinctively:

“However, not everything instinctive is nature in this highest sense of the world, but only that which is right and in accord with the will of heaven. Without this quality of rightness, an unreflecting, instinctive way of acting out brings only misfortune.”

Simone at the rose garden, Clinton School of Public Service. Simone notes that the metaphor here is too obvious to mention. (2011/RO)

Today’s resolution: Sustain my world

4 Nov

Just a short thought for today as I’m buried in work, playing catch-up after 10 days 0f vertigo. This sums up perfectly what sustains me — and what I am trying to sustain — at the moment:

“The three immovable and perfect rocks on which the judgments of the world are sustained: the poet, the written word, and nature.” — Irish triad from Senchus Mor

Colorado rocks on the deck rail, 2011 (Photo/RO)

Today’s resolution: A little mind dance

20 Oct

There have been times when my imagination has gotten me into trouble or thrown me into an anxious looping frenzy. Mostly, though, imagination has been my salvation. The world of my mind is a bright, brilliantly intense place of dance, color, light and song (yes, there, I can actually sing … and I dance, dance, dance in the music video of my life), and it’s full of imaginative people with the faces of flowers. As you may imagine, I have never needed hallucinogens.

Imagination means I never run out of ideas for articles and stories, and I never tire of interviewing interesting people. I marvel at my life sometimes, amazed that I’ve managed a career that allows me to run with my imagination.

So, today, I share with you another favorite passage from J. Ruth Gendler‘s The Book of Qualities:

“When Imagination walks, she writes letters to the earth. When she runs, her feet trace postcards to the sun. And when she dances, when she dances, she sends love letters to the stars.

“Some people accuse Imagination of being a liar. They don’t understand that she has her own ways of uncovering the truth. She studied journalism in junior high school. It gave her an excuse to interview interesting people. She was surprisingly good at writing articles. When in doubt, she just made things up. More recently, Imagination has been working as a fortuneteller in the circus. She has this way of telling your fortune so clearly that you believe her, and then your wishes start to come true.

“Imagination is studying photography now with an eye toward making films. She has no intention of working in one of those factories where they manufacture images that lull us to sleep. Her vision is more complex, and very simple. Even with the old stories, she wants us to see what has never been seen before.”

I very much want to meet Ms. Gendler.

Dancing statues near the Clinton Library, Little Rock, Ark. (2011/RO)

Today’s resolution: Love Whimsy

9 Oct

From The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler. The first time I read this passage, I thought, “This is me!”:

I painted my bathroom a bright shiny purple and put a huge gecko on the wall. It's a little crazy, but I like it..

“Whimsy is not afraid to be outrageous but she is basically shy. She has all kinds of books, and she arranges them on the shelves by the color of the cover or how the titles sound next to each other. She was especially pleased to put a book on African dyeing called Into Indigo next to a dark blue book on Jewish mysticism. Her clothes are also kept by color in the closet.

“When Whimsy was a little girl, she would stay in the museum with the marble walls talking to the statues after everyone else left. She has trouble keeping her shoelaces tied but in every other way she is as practical as your next door neighbor. Because she is wild, people expect her to entertain them. She is not encouraging anyone else to live like her. Remembering how abruptly her brother was locked up for being a troublemaker, she fears people who treat her like a curiosity. Freedom is her lover.”

Today’s resolution: ‘After the mystery’

5 Oct

As a writer, I’m always interested in other writers — why they write, what they get from it, what they hope to convey. Sometimes I look to them for explanations of myself, of what I do. Today, I turned to Wallace Stegner and his essay “The Law of Nature and Dream of Man: Ruminations on the Art of Fiction” (Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs) and found this:

“The writers I admire, and still admire, are not carpenters but sculptors. Their art was and is a real probe of troubling human confusions. … They were after the mystery implicit in the stone.”

Yes, the “mystery implicit in the stone.” That’s what I hope to uncover while writing. I want to reach a deeper meaning of something, of anything, of everything. I want to dig into those “troubling human confusions” that confound me and create currents of anxiety that are somewhat soothed by the perception of having touched upon a pebble of understanding.

The writing process is a struggle for I can never be satisfied with knowing just the facts. I have to find the why — more than the why, in truth. I often compare myself to other writers and wonder what satisfies them and if I’ll ever be satisfied with what meaning I manage to uncover through thought and language — or thought through language. So many doubts.

I find some comfort and inspiration in Stegner’s words: “By now I am prepared to guess that any method that lets a writer lay bare a moment of mystery is legitimate. Skill is whatever works. Different skills will work for different writers, and upon different readers, but any skill must work toward something.”

I have work to do.

Today’s resolution: If there is no choice?

3 Oct

As we begin another work week, here’s something to think about from one of my favorite poets, W.B. Yeats.

The Choice

The intellect is forced to choose
Perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it take the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.
When all that story’s finished, what’s the news?
In luck or out the toil has left its mark:
That old perplexity an empty purse,
Or the day’s vanity, the night’s remorse.
(1932)

Entering the woods of the river walk at Two Rivers Bridge (2011/RO)

Today’s resolution: The task at hand

27 Sep

“We should do every task for its own sake as time and place demand and not with an eye on the result. Then each task turns out well, and anything we undertake succeeds.” — I Ching 25, Wu Wang/Innocence (The Unexpected)

My plan today? Surprise myself by not worrying about the future and results; instead I’ll focus on the task at hand.

 

Lovely surprises such as this are alternately known as Surprise Lily, Magic Lily, Naked Lady and Lycoris squamigera. (2011/RO)

Today’s resolution: Paradigms reordered

26 Sep

“You will have written exceptionally well if, by skillful arrangement of your words, you have made an ordinary one seem original.” — Horace

Old bricks made in Malvern. (2011/RO)