I often tell friends that my daughter’s health problems drove me to knit.
Within 24 hours of Savannah’s birth, I was torpedoed into a medical abyss of emergency rooms and intensive care units. Born with a medical condition that affects only 1 in 250,000, my life for the next 4 years would yo-yo between near fatal emergencies and the quest to get her properly diagnosed and treated.
Having yet to find a hospital with a bar, I mindlessly knitted my way through every surgery, test and doctor’s appointment, more often than not losing the projects before completion.
“Whatcha knitting mom?” doctors would ask when they finally appeared at the bedside, ignoring the small, tightly wired body between us, and fixing their eyes on the fuzzy pink wool I was working.
It was a common delay tactic.
I’d start knitting faster while bracing myself for the inevitable: they want to run more tests, they’re not sure why Savannah had a seizure, or we need to see a specialist.
I’ve heard it all.
What started as therapy, eventually became appreciate gifts and bargaining chips – “Here’s a scarf for you, doc. Oh, by the way, do you think you could write the Board of Education a letter?” – and then a volunteer project.
“We got a grant,” the hospital’s social worker called one day to say. “Are you available to teach knitting to the moms with babies in NICU [Neonatal Intensive Care]?”
The pressure was on, but I was thrilled.
NICU is the haunted house on the “mommy block,” complete with strange dungeon-like contraptions that blink and ring. Though my daughter is older, there’s still a rush of emotions on the days that I volunteer. The NICU moms, as I, always look shell-shocked. Often, it’s not until I pull out the soft pastel yarns, and show an example of the hat and bootie set, that the mood lightens and the room fills with “oohs” and “aahs.”
“Do you like volunteering?” a 30-something Jersey mom asked at a recent class, locking eyes and forcing me to stop knitting.
I note the bloated face and thin hospital gown and choke up.
Later, a grandma from Boca, observing the class from afar asks: “How long are you going to be here? My daughter really needs to here.”
“Get her,” I encourage.
I volunteer only a couple hours a week. But, given my daughter’s condition, will be knitting a lifetime.