BILLINGS — Losing a child is many parents' worst fear. And for the Veazey family, that fear came true on New Year's Day.
The Veazeys were expecting their fourth child, Zoe Jane, to enter the world in early 2023. But the family was instead faced with heartbreak.
“Zoe passed away on New Year's Day of this year. So it’s been almost exactly a month. She was 36 weeks," Morgan Veazey said on Tuesday. "There weren’t any signs of anything wrong. I went in on New Year's Eve, I couldn’t feel any more movement. And the nurses, they checked, they couldn’t find a heartbeat."
So Morgan was induced and delivered her daughter stillborn.
"I had to be induced. I had to go through labor, and I delivered her. But I came home with no baby,” Veazey said. “It was just the worst moment of my life and any parent’s worst fear."
Morgan delivered Zoe at St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings. Through self-reflection, she decided to honor her daughter's life in a special way: crafting handmade hats for the babies at St. Vincent.
“I’m actually a nurse. I worked in Labor and Delivery for four to five years before having kiddos. So I’ve always had a love for little babies, premies," Veazey said. "I love children. I thought it’d be great to donate some hats in her name."
Veazey explained she has been knitting for years but felt it became her and Zoe's "thing" during her pregnancy.
“I’ve always loved to knit. It’s been kind of the thing I do when I’m pregnant. Just because I’ve had really hard pregnancies, and it’s something you can do while you’re sitting down,” Veazey explained. “It kind of became a nighttime tradition when I couldn’t sleep during my pregnancy. Zoe was usually awake, just dancing around in my belly. It just kind of became our thing."
Veazey started a hand-knit apparel shop on Etsy in September of 2022 while pregnant with Zoe to share her art. The shop was originally named "Sparking Serendipity", but this tragedy has inspired Veazey to rebrand.
"I decided to change the name of my brand to Little Strawberry Knitting Company. The strawberry has kind of become a symbol of Zoe for me," Veazey said. "I craved strawberries a lot when I was pregnant. I was wearing a shirt with strawberries on it when I delivered. I had picked out some fabric with strawberries on it to make a blanket for her."
And with the rebrand, Veazey is introducing a new feature to her Etsy: a donation tab for newborn hats.
“I talked with the midwife who delivered Zoe. We’ve been in touch ever since. She’s fantastic. And she said it’s a definite need that they have for hats, for newborns and babies in the NICU and everything,” Veazey said. “Right now I think I have enough donations to make almost 75 hats. So I’ve got a lot I need to make. They’re really easy to make."
Veazey said she plans on making them as long as there is a need.
“There’s no timeline to get these donated. I see it being something I want to do for a long time. I’ve had thoughts about maybe starting some kind of, I don’t know, call it the Zoe Jane project or something," Veazey said. "If other knitters around the US or something want to contribute too, I’ve thought about opening it up in that way."
But this journey has not been easy.
“It’s been extremely hard. You know, I still have to do all the things that a mom does. I still have to take care of my other kids, keep a house, all those things,” Veazey said.
But through knitting, Veazey says she feels closer to her daughter.
“It’s hard sometimes, but at the same time, I feel like it helps me to keep those memories alive that I have of her,” Veazey said. "If anything, it helps me feel close to Zoe. Just because it’s something I did my whole pregnancy with her. It was like our time at night. Because I didn’t have any of that time with her alive when she was born. The only memories I have of her are when I was pregnant."
On Tuesday, Veazey made a Facebook post in a Billings group asking for donations for this project. She said she received an outpouring of support following her post.
“A lot of strangers have reached out through social media sharing their stories with me, sharing encouragement. Because it does feel like you’re going to be stuck in this grief forever,” Veazey said.
And while the loss of their daughter has been traumatizing, Veazey is grateful for her faith and is trying her best to move forward.
“I feel like there’s one of two things that you can do in an experience like this. One, you could get super bitter, angry, and just let yourself be consumed with the grief. But the other way you could go is try to take what you’ve learned and help others through that and honor God in that way.”
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“I want her life, as short as it was, I want to share her life and her memory in a way that will help others too,” Veazey said. “I don’t think it’s taken my mind off of it, if anything it helps me feel close to Zoe."