Lucas Ternovatsky is just days old and weighs a little over five pounds, but he fits in perfectly with his crime-fighting brothers.
Born about five weeks early, the newborn slept peacefully while his mom, Stephanie, gently laid a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume, emblazoned with a capital L, across his tiny frame.
“Ready to fight some crime? Yes!” she said to her third son, who arrived Oct. 27. “One of his brothers is going to be a police officer for Halloween and his other brother is Dash from The Incredibles. They’re superheroes and fighting crime, so we thought Leonardo would be a perfect choice. And when I saw that L on the back, I knew.”
Lucas’ mask and turtle-shaped blanket is one of 32 Halloween costumes specially made for babies who will be spending the spookiest day of the year on the Neonatal Intermediate Care unit (NICU) at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital. Two registered nurses, Jenny Blood and Karine Leclerc-Keshwani, volunteered a combined 30 hours to create the colourful felt-based costumes, which included a jellyfish, pumpkin, penguin, sushi and Elmo. Triplets on the unit received a themed costume set of milk, a cookie and Cookie Monster.
“It really is my goal to make the experience of having your baby in the NICU the best that I can make it. It’s very stressful to have your baby in the NICU,” says Jenny. “I think if we can bring a little normalcy, a little bit of happiness, it’s nice to do that for the families.”
It’s the third year the unit has seen team members volunteer their time to ensure families don’t miss out on celebrating a baby’s first Halloween.
Getting ideas from the internet and their own brainstorming, Jenny and Karine worked together at each other’s house. The costumes are blanket-shaped for a purpose.
“Our babies are a lot of different sizes,” explains Jenny. “We have babies that are two pounds. We have babies that are 10, 11 pounds. We decided to do blankets that lay on top. Sometimes our babies are sick as well, so we don’t want to manipulate them too much.”
Parents likely wouldn’t have much luck finding a costume, particularly in the smaller sizes. Plus it’s a positive keepsake for families.
“I don’t think there are commercially available costumes in this size,” says Karine. “Most parents are just so excited that someone has thought of it and thought about them.”
For Stephanie, who was experiencing health issues that prompted Lucas’ early delivery, the costume was a welcome gift that will be enjoyed by her entire family.
“I kept telling my kids that baby wouldn’t come until after Halloween because he was due at the end of November and then surprise, he’s here for Halloween,” she said. “We’re excited that he has a costume now. That’s awesome because I was like, 'Aw, he’s got nothing to wear.' This worked out really well.”
She’s grateful for the extra touches like the costumes she’s experienced on the NICU. Lucas, who is doing well, is expected to go home in the coming days.
“They took their time to make these costumes for these babies. You can see they really care,” she says. “My experience on NICU has been great.”