Posted by: mindyourknitting | May 1, 2009

For your daughter, and my daughter (updated)

This was difficult to start because it is a bit odd to write a post about someone else’s child.  When Madeline Alice Spohr, the 17-month old daughter of Mike and Heather Spohr , was suddenly hospitalized, and then died, I was more heartsick for her and her parents than I thought would be possible.  I do not know the Spohrs, and  I never had the obvious pleasure of meeting Maddie.  But through Heather’s blog I saw Maddie’s face and heard her voice and read about her struggles and adventures.  I cried for Maddie and for her parents, and I still cannot conceive of the grief they are being forced to bear. To be honest, when I think of the possibility of losing a child, my child, I am horror-struck at the idea.  To lose a vibrant 17-month old baby is cruel, but to have those 17 months was surely a gift, and that Heather and Mike have tried to honour Maddie’s 17 months by turning the attention given to their baby  towards a good cause is a true act of grace in the most difficult of times.  Heather’s blog is an amazing record and tribute to Maddie’s life.  I will strive to do the same for my child.

The outpouring of generosity and kind acts that followed Maddie’s passing reinforced an idea that I had been bouncing around for some time – I wanted to give something back to acknowledge the effort and care given to our daughter when she arrived eight weeks ahead of schedule.  I won’t get into Abigail’s story here, but I started reading a number of blogs early on in my maternity leave, and was particularly drawn to The Spohrs are Multiplying and Flotsam because their authors are moms to premature babies.  Their babies were more premature and faced far more challenges than my daughter, but I felt some kinship with their feelings about the trials their daughters faced from the minute they were born, if not before.  If my Abigail had been a little earlier, a little smaller, a little weaker…if I had gone into labour as soon as my water broke instead of three days later, after I had steroid shots for her lungs…well, you get the idea.  I was thrilled about these babies’ triumphs, and saddened more than I would have thought possible when Maddie died.  The heartache in Heather’s posts since Maddie’s passing has been palpable and I’ve wanted to respond or comment, but didn’t have the words.

I was reading some of the tributes to Maddie when I came across this post.  These clever ladies put together parent care kits based on a list that Heather Spohr made of things that are essential for parents who spend any time in the NICU, then donated them to their local NICU.  It was the perfect idea, and I gladly stole it.  When I saw Heather’s list I recognized all the things that I would have liked to have with me, if I hadn’t arrived at the hospital totally unprepared with only the contents of my purse (more on that in another post).  Premature and sick babies are almost never expected, and the last thing you want to do is leave the NICU to get hand cream to relieve the itching and cracking caused by washing your hands umpteen times a day.  I have a vivid memory of standing by my daughter’s incubator, wiping my tears on my sleeve because I couldn’t find any tissue.  Oh, to have had my very own package of kleenex. 

 So this week I got started.  I picked out some baby-themed gift bags (20 in total, as I think our NICU has 18-20 beds) that have a silly elephant surrounded by purple bubbles. 



 The purple is for Maddie, and the silly elephant is in recognition that, no matter what else is going on a baby has been born and congratulations and good wishes and silly elephants should be offered.  As many others have pointed out, this is often forgotten amidst the many comments like “WHAT?,” “Oh my god,” and “Is she going to be okay?”  So many items on Heather’s list are indispensable, but during our NICU stay we had to scramble to get them or do without or we didn’t think to ask for them because we were foggy-brained with worry and sleeplessness.  These included a pen and notebook, since information comes at you a mile a minute and I’m never that quick after childbirth, and I think the disposable camera idea is genius, because when my daughter was born and the doctor asked if we wanted to take a picture, we were heartbroken that we didn’t have a camera with us (see previous comment about arriving at the hospital with nothing but my purse).  This is the first picture we have of Abigail, and it’s not the one I wanted (but isn’t she gorgeous?): 



Newborn Abigail

Newborn Abigail


So this is what I have so far for the care packages (pay no attention to the wrinkled bedding):



 I’ll be completing these parent care packages in the coming weeks.  We’ll deliver them to our NICU around Abigail’s first birthday in July, and I’ll be sure to share some pictures then.  I know this gesture is small, but it will be for the daughters and sons who will be in the NICU of the Ottawa Hospital, General Campus, shaking their tiny fists and kicking their tiny legs and waiting to go home.  And for the parents who can’t wait to spring them.  It will be for my daughter, and also for Maddie.

 *This paragraph seems to have disappeared from my original post (I’m new to this…):

 The Spohrs have drawn attention to the US March of Dimes and their “March for Babies” that takes place in several US cities.  The Canadian March of Dimes does work with children and adults with disabilities, mainly those with cerebral palsy, but they don’t hold a March for Babies and they do not focus on the healthy pregnncy/healthy babies programs that the US March of Dimes does.  I have contacted the March of Dimes headquarters, however, and am hoping to volunteer for some local events.  They do amazing work.  And for those who want to directly honour Maddie, you can purchase a “Maddie’s Monster,” with the proceeds going to the US March of Dimes.



  1. What a great idea, one that will truly have impact on those you are trying to help!

  2. I loved this idea and think it is great that you are doing this. I had a package given to me when I was at CHEO for a week with Matteo and it was a godsend.

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