I started this post the last week of June, but as I am learning it is hard to write photo heavy posts with an infant… sooooo by the time this publishes Levi’s Baptism has already happened. Oh well.
Mr Levi is going to be baptized into the Catholic faith this weekend and Matt and I couldn’t me more excited. Our faith is very important to us individually and as a couple so it is no surprise that it was important to us that Levi receive the sacrament of Holy Baptism. My brother and sister-in-law will be Godparents and both sets of grandparents will be in attendance.
We started to plan the baptism about half way through my pregnancy. With family coming from out-of-town we needed to have the date set well in advance, we also needed a lot of time to track down the family baptism gown and to find out if I could use it. Rumor was it was going to be donated to a museum. Growing up I thought that long, elaborate baptism gowns were the norm. I had only really ever been to family baptisms and well, everyone in my family was baptized in our family gown so that must be normal right? I understood that the gown was very special, but I didn’t realize how lucky we were to have such a family heirloom.
The gown is 124 years old. It is part of a baptism trousseau made by my Great Great Grandmother in Biddeford Maine for her eldest son, my Great-Grandfather. My Great Great Grandparents had recently moved to Maine from Montreal. The gown was hand-made from wool Challis and french flannel imported from France and purchased in Montreal. The wildflower silk hand embroidery is stunning.
My nephew barely fit in to the gown. It was made for small babies and babies were also baptized usually 1-2 days after birth because of high infant mortality.
My niece shows off the beautiful details fo the gown.
This gown is very near and dear to my heart. There was always an excitement around the time of a family baptism. The mom would arrange to be sent (or to pick up if she lived in Maine) the family gown. Sometimes multiple pieces of the gown came with it. In all the trousseau contained a petticoat, gown, undershirt, short jacket, quilted robe, hooded cape, two receiving blankets and a bonnet. The aunts would get the baby dressed in the gown and take lots of photos. There was a reverence with which the gown was treated and it was apparent to me as a small child that it was something special. Growing up I took for granted that my children would also wear the same gown. The last person I knew to wear the gown was my nephew. My sister-in-law was the last to communicate with the part of the family who was responsible for caring for the gown and she said there was talk of retiring the gown and donating it to a museum so it could be properly preserved.
With the investigative help of my aunts I was able to get in contact with the “keeper of the gown”. The big question was would Levi be able to wear the same gown that I was baptized in and carry on the family tradition. Not knowing was stressful and I went through a grieving process as I came to terms with the knowledge that the original trousseau was in delicate condition. Ultimately the answer was that it was best for it not to be wore anymore. While this was disappointing, Matt and I decided that for our branch of the family tree we wanted a new tradition, a new heirloom. In Levi’s generation his two older cousins both wore the gown. I decided that it would be nice to have an heirloom gown created for my children, and my cousins future children to be able to wear. I wanted the gown to be similar to the original in design but with some key differences. I contacted Mary & Peter Designs Inc on Etsy to commission a custom piece. I was impressed by the baptism gowns in her store, especially the elaborate embroidery. I provided her with photos of the original set.
On the left is my rough sketch of what I wanted. The cross was an element not on the original but I thought it would be a nice element. I also wanted to make it in cotton- the original was wool and very very hot for summertime babies. We also made it to fit a 2 month old because the original was made to fit a 6 lb baby 1-2 days after birth. My nephew and many other chubby babies had trouble fitting into it. Thank goodness we did- Levi is near 13 lbs now.
On the left, the finished product. I am so incredibly pleased with it. The most amazing thing is that from the first email I sent to the day I received the finished product was just over a month in time. I cannot believe the fast turn around and the amazing craftsmanship.
In the back and forth with the “keeper of the gown” we discussed being able to use one of the blankets which was in pristine condition. I really liked the idea of the old and the new coming together for Levi’s baptism.
Before all the family came into town Mr Levi and I had ourselves a little photo session. When I got him in the gown I had trouble fastening one of the back clasps- Mr Chubs! I hope he fits into the gown on baptism day!
The baptism was beautiful! He fit in the gown (just barely) and was so well behaved through Mass. We had an amazing time with our families. We are so blessed.