Over a year ago, at Christmastime, my niece and her husband shared the news the entire family had been eager to hear—they were expecting a baby, their first child, in early July! My fingers began to itch, eager to start knitting for this very special baby. And yet, it took me some time to start; it was late winter or early spring before I decided what to knit. I wanted to make a blanket, something the baby could use for a long time, so I chose the yarn carefully: soft wool, fine, lightweight, warm; colors suitable for a boy or a girl.
As I designed and began to knit the blanket, I didn’t know yet that this baby would be Ruthie, but I thought about her as I worked. I imagined her as an infant, sleeping under the blanket in the cool of autumn. I saw her snuggled under the blanket in her stroller, or car seat. I envisioned her parents holding her late at night, wrapped in the blanket.
And my imagination travelled further. I saw a toddler softening the bumps and bruises of life with a quick cuddle with the blanket; later, I imagined the blanket, rather tattered now, stashed out of sight but accessible in the bedroom of a tween. And, thinking of my own child getting ready to leave for college, I allowed myself to envision this baby nearly grown, packing a trunk for college, slipping a fragment of the blanket in among the clothes and sheets and towels.
In short, I imagined how my love for this baby, caught in the stitches of the blanket, might accompany her throughout her life, the blanket a comfort and steady reminder of how well loved she was. But first I had to finish the blanket. And as my niece’s due date approached I knew I wouldn’t finish in time for the birth. Well, I thought, no problem. The baby won’t need a wool blanket in the summer. I’ll finish it by fall, when the nights are cooler. There’s plenty of time.
And then these dreams and imaginings shattered on June 13, 2014. My niece had suffered a rare, sudden, and catastrophic complication, just three weeks before her due date. The baby—Ruthie—was lost. In my own pain, and in my anguish over my niece and her husband’s inestimable loss of their daughter, at first I thought I would throw the unfinished blanket away, bury it, burn it. The very sight or thought of it, holding as it did all my love for Ruthie, was scorching. But as the days passed I realized the blanket had a new purpose, and I had a new reason for finishing it.
What had begun in joy became a blanket of grief, and comfort, and of remembrance, a labor of love and loss and hope. Into every stitch I knit not just my love for Ruthie, but also my bottomless love for her parents, my hope for their healing, for their future—without Ruthie, but forever changed and enriched by her brief time with them. I finally finished the blanket a few weeks ago, and I have now given it to my niece and her husband.
As a memorial to Ruthie as we reach the first anniversary of her death, I have written the pattern for her blanket and it is available here as a free pdf. I hope some of you will make it, and I would be happy for you to share the pattern with others. But in return, I hope you will make a small donation in Ruthie’s name to Empty Arms (click on the “Donate” button), an organization devoted to helping families coping with the loss of a baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or other cause. Ruthie’s parents and I thank you very much.
Edited 6/14/18 to add: in 2016, thanks to the miracles of modern medicine and a wonderful surrogate, Ruthie's sister Olive was born. She is now 2 years old and a delight to all!