Knitting for Leo – A Short Story

We’d like to thank Alex Grey of the UK for her touching short story “Knitting for Leo”.

After a lifetime of writing technical non-fiction, Alex Grey is fulfilling her dream of writing poems and stories that engage the reader’s emotions. Her ingredients for contentment are narrowboating, greyhounds, singing and chocolate – it’s a sweet life. Her poems and short stories have been published by a number of ezines including Siren’s Call, Raconteur and Toasted Cheese. One of her comic poems is also available via a worldwide network of public fiction dispensers managed by publisher Short Edition. Alex is not a mum, but she works in healthcare and this story comes from her compassion for the women who have shared their lives with her over the years.

You can read Alex’s blog HERE

Note: this story mentions still birth and is a work of fiction and not based on any identifiable individual.

This page contains affiliate links which may earn me a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase. Affiliate links are how I keep this blog running, thank you. 

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Knitting For Leo

My mother taught me to knit. 

Back then, knitting was a necessity, not some artisan craft like it is today. She would get patterns from Women’s magazines and cheap wool from the market. She knitted my clothes – sweaters, cardigans, even skirts. I was the eldest. As soon as I could hold a pair of needles, I was knitting booties for my baby brother and sister. 

I got married in 1969, when you could buy wool in every colour that you could imagine. I was eighteen, but I already knew how to keep a house. Calum worked long hours, keen to get on in his career and be a good provider. I had a part-time job in our local greengrocers. In the evenings, we’d sit by the fire in our terraced house. It was before we had a television, so we’d talk about the future, about the children that we’d have. I’d knit and he’d do the crossword in the newspaper. I knitted tank tops for him to wear to work – he had a different one for every day of the month.  Years later he admitted that he got teased by the other juniors. But my Calum was a hard worker, and the teasing stopped when he kept getting promoted. 

Calum was already a manager by the time I fell pregnant. Lucky that he had enough tank tops, because as soon as I started to show I stopped knitting for him. I bought some new wool, all soft pastel yellow and lilac, and started knitting for the baby. My friends said it was bad luck to knit for the baby too soon, but I wanted to be ready. 

I thought I must be carrying a boy, a footballer judging by the kicking. Calum was very modern, he liked to lie by my side with his hand on my bump, feeling every movement. The basket I kept in the new nursery soon filled with clothes – judging by the size of the bump he was going to be a whopper. I started getting nervous about giving birth, but the midwife said I was young and had nothing to worry about.

The kicking stopped when I was 37 weeks. 

I remember that night – I slept for 8 hours, my longest sleep since I fell pregnant. I woke up all rested and, for a minute, everything seemed fine, but my bump did not wake up with me. I begged for my baby to start kicking again, but he was still. The hospital induced the birth, I had to go through it, but they knew it was all for nothing. I caught a glimpse of him before they wrapped him in a towel and swept him away. He looked so perfect, like he was sleeping. I wanted to hold him, but they said it was better for me not to see him, to move on quickly, a strong young girl like me could try again soon enough, these things happened.

There was no death certificate because he had never lived. Yet in our hearts, he was always Leo, due in August, our fierce little lion who almost made it.

We carried our grief out of the hospital door and swaddled it with our hopes in the little basket of baby clothes I’d knitted. I burned them all.

Of course, we tried again and within the year we had a beautiful baby girl; two years later, our son was born. I stopped knitting. Honestly, who has time to knit with two young children and a husband working all hours? 

Late at night, though, I’d hear Calum sobbing quietly beside me and knew he’d never got over losing Leo, just as I’d never got over the feeling that my knitting had cursed our firstborn. There was no emery board that could remove the festering hangnail of our hidden grief. 

Calum lived long enough to walk his daughter down the aisle and to stand shoulder to shoulder with his son when he was wed. When our first grandchild was born, I realised that I had not seen Calum smile like that since the day that I first fell pregnant and our future had sparkled with undimmed hope.  

I brooded on it after Calum’s funeral, how his poor heart had flexed with grief and joy, like the metal fatigue in those planes that crashed, destroyed by a hidden stress.

It was then I decided to tell my children about Leo. They didn’t know, you see, because we didn’t talk about these things back then. They were…surprising. They cried, but with relief, they said they had always felt that there was something, someone, missing. We had Leo’s name carved onto Calum’s headstone and I started to knit again.

I live with my daughter now. I have a lovely apartment with plenty of space for my comfy recliner chair. I have everything I need, a TV, my knitting needles and a pile of wool given to me by kind donors. It’s all colours and textures, but that doesn’t matter. Once I picked up the needles again, my fingers remembered the old patterns, so I can sit here watching my favourite shows while I make babygro’s, bootees and cute berets to keep the babies’ heads warm. 

My daughter knocks on my door.

“Mum, the driver’s here.”

“That’s fine love, I’ve got a load ready for him.”

I hand her a neatly wrapped box, the label says “Knitting for Leo” along with a charity registration number. This batch is going to our local hospital, but I send parcels to maternity units all over the country. You see, Leo’s charity got quite big once my daughter mentioned it on the internet. We must have over a hundred volunteer knitters now, each with their own sad tale to tell. 

I knit tiny clothes that would fit a doll, or a baby born too soon and too still. I finish each little outfit with a ribbon and put it in the basket by my side. I imagine how parents will take these tiny clothes and dress their stillborn babies. They will hold their precious bodies, take photographs. In that moment, the quiet infants will become part of their families forever.

I raise a cup of tea to the dead who never lived.

You never lived, but you were loved. Rest easy my son.


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Big Brother Syndrome


What is Big Brother Syndrome?

Is your baby irritable, frustrated, easily upset? Are you finding it difficult to leave baby on his/her playmat for more than 5 minutes before the screaming starts? He/she could be suffering from a common condition called ‘Big Brother Syndrome’. This syndrome is more common than you might think and sufferers can experience symptoms for as long as 18 years or in some cases all their lives.

Before the days when my 8-month-old could sit-up confidently on his own, he really didn’t have much drama in his life. He had a steady supply of warm mummy milk and was never short of cosy cuddles (he had two parents and three teenage siblings) and every need was catered for. He never had to lie in a soiled nappy for more than a few minutes, his clothes were kept dry with many changes throughout the day, he had milk on tap as mummy was always close by and without a real schedule, he could nap anywhere, anytime, without fuss.


Something changed however when he made the huge leap in his development to sitting confidently on his own. He now spent more time on the floor, playing with toys, practicing his rolls and planking the floor in an attempt to figure out the whole “crawling” thing. I noticed a dramatic change in his behaviour at this point. He was continually frustrated, giggling one moment and crying the next, sitting one moment and the next taking a nose dive toward the floor. Some of this could be attributed to wanting to do more than he was able, but as I observed his activity throughout the day, I realised his problem was much more serious than that.

He appeared to be suffering from the unwarranted attention of his 2-year-old big brother. I’d walk out of the room for a few minutes to prepare breakfast or lunch etc and return to find said toddler ‘riding’ his brother, who was prostrate on the floor, tummy to the ground, arms out to either side, a look of desperation on his chubby little face. Sometimes the more shocking scene would confront me (a nightmare for any parent), with the toddler trying to pick his little brother up, his short little arms wrapped around the babies chest from behind, grunts of effort echoing from his pursed lips, the baby squealing either in ignorant delight or perceptive fear, reacting in turn to mummies terrified expression. This would happen 2 or 3 times a day at the beginning until the 2-year-old realised that such actions would equal less than positive attention from Mummy.


The 130-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

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This was just one of many incidents leading to my babies ‘Big Brother Syndrome’. Other offenses toward the baby by his big brother include: 

  • Snatching toys from his hands and mouth, only to throw them outside of his reach.
  • Bending fingers and hands backwards to test flexibility.
  • Smothering with sloppy open-mouthed kisses.
  • Interrupting milky time by sticking his hand between babies mouth and Mummies milky bottles. (This is followed by giggles from both boys as milk squirts everywhere and drenches both Mummy and Baby).
  • Throwing food at him in his adjacent high chair, breakfast, lunch and dinner time (a hit between the eyes earns a hearty chuckle).
  • Stealing his dummy, teething ring, rusk or sippy cup.
  • Screaming at him to ‘go way’ when he attempts to touch ‘his’ toys.
  • Poking his wobbly bits when they share a bath.
  • Patting (or hitting) his head in attempts to pacify him when he is crying.
  • Physically forcing him to play with his age-inappropriate toys.
  • Running circles around him till he gets dizzy and falls over.
  • Continually removing his socks in the middle of winter.


These and other offenses have led to the irritability, frustrated cries and attention seeking gestures that are symptomatic of ‘Big Brother Syndrome’. The only known treatment which may reduce the severity of the syndrome is to encourage the ‘Big Brother’ to decrease the problematic actions and increase the positive ones, such as:

  • Gentle cuddles, sitting down only.
  • Sharing age-appropriate food and toys.
  • Kisses on the cheek or forehead.
  • Holding hands.
  • Telling stories.
  • Shooshing baby when he’s upset
  • Helping mummy fetch things to take care of him

Basically if you treat the toddler the baby with subsequently show a reduction in symptoms. You cannot cure “Big Brother Syndrome” but most babies will eventually grow out of it or learn to manage the symptoms and go on to live a full, happy life!


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Accomplish more IN a fraction of the time

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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