Shortly after my first baby was born, my parents-in-law and sister-in-law swooped in for a visit, bearing gifts for our adorable baby girl. There was a stuffed bear, cute clothes, things for the nursery, and one very special present: a handmade quilt.
Mom explained how her mother, a lifelong quilter, had made a baby quilt for her first three great-grandchildren. Shortly before the fourth one was born, she passed away. Her daughters, my husband’s mother and aunt, decided to carry on the tradition. They made one quilt for the new baby, and then made another for my husband’s first child, despite the fact that he didn’t have a child, wife or even a girlfriend. (I came along much later!)
The quilt is gorgeous: pastel pinks and yellows and blues and greens, intricate patterns, a border of tiny triangles of fabric echoing the colors in the center. As my sister-in-law said, “It’s a work of art.” What makes it even more special is that it is hand crafted. Each stitch was sewn, each seam pieced together, each piece joined together with love for a child whose face was unknown and whose heart had not yet begun beating.
Not every child receives a gift such as this. Not every child has a pair of knitted booties on his feet, monogrammed garments with her initials or a baby quilt created just for them. Not every child even receives the basic medical care he or she needs to survive. Mamas watch their babies struggle for life; far too many bury their infants, when the diseases are preventable with proper prenatal care, good nutrition and modern medicine.
In some ways, this reality is far, far away from my world of monogrammed bibs, disposable diapers and beautiful quilts. But here’s a deeper reality: the mamas could be me, the babies could be mine. I didn’t pick America as my birth country; I could’ve been born in Afghanistan, speak Persian or Pashto, be an old woman at the age of 33, and watch my baby die, like 151 out of 1000 do there each year. It’s a haunting thought.
For the past few days, two thoughts have woven together in my head: the handmade quilt made for my daughter and the astounding need of these sick children. I flipped on my favorite radio station, and Brant Hansen, the morning show host, was talking about his latest project. It’s called Knit, Pray, Love.
Brant is going to visit the CURE International Hospital of Kabul later on this year and wants to take gifts for the babies in NICU: knitted blankets, booties, hats. With the bitterly cold Afghan winters, the hospital can always use blankets to warm the babies. Not store-bought blankets, mind you. Not second-hand from a consignment sale. Not pulled from the bottom of a drawer of outgrown baby clothes.
Handmade especially for these little ones.
Brant urged the gift makers to think about the child who will receive this gift, and perhaps even include a note with the maker’s name on it. His theory is that the families of the sick babies will be touched by the gesture: Someone far away made something special for my baby. Someone cares what happens to me and my child. Someone thought about us.
Who wouldn’t be moved? Who wouldn’t be changed, even just a little, to know that someone else cares? And who wouldn’t be changed by being that care-giver, love growing inside with each click of the knitting needles?
Like my mother-in-law created the baby quilt for a child she had never seen, so these knitters will create a beautiful blanket for a baby they will never see in this life.
The blanket won’t be the only thing that’s beautiful about this gift. The true beauty lies in the kind gesture, the warmed bodies, and the way people are joined together by a gift crafted with yarn, needles and love. There’s the true beauty.
(No, neither baby in the photos is my daughter! Both pictures are from CURE International’s website.)