Springfield, Mo. -- Dozens in the Ozarks are spending Christmas gathered around the hospital beds of some of the tiniest patients. They are praying and hoping their newest family members survive.
The premature babies in the intensive care unit at Cox South could be considered tiny Christmas presents, but arriving early can create many complications.
"He was due January 24. He came nine weeks early," said Amanda Houtz, the mother of a baby named Logan.
Houtz spends about twelve hours a day with her son. Logan weighs just four pounds.
"His being born so small was frightening, terrifying to come in and see him attached to all these monitors and tubes and things going down his throat," Houtz said.
But some of the simplest things can make spending holidays in the hospital just a little more bearable. Glenna Muse spends hours knitting miniature hats and cuddlers for premature babies in the hospital. Her knitted baby pieces create a festive environment in what can be one of the most stressful of places.
"I want them to be invidividual. I want them to reflect the personalities of the babies," Muse said.
Many of the the babies in the intensive care unit are facing the fight for their lives, and it is a struggle for their little bodies just to stay warm. That is one of the reasons behind Muse's creations.
"They don't have enough fat to maintain their body heat. So the hat actually helps us maintain that body heat for them," Muse said.
The hats keep the babies warm. Muse also makes cuddlers, zippered body suits, that recreate a womb-like experience for the babies. Muse said the cuddlers are the most difficult items for her and the other knitters to create, with each one taking nearly 20 hours. The knitters create hundreds of them every year.
"It makes you remember there is Christmas. Christmas can still be good. The holiday season can still be nice," Houtz said.
Five years ago, Muse created her own patterns and enlisted lots of friends to help her dress the babies for every holiday. The outfits are sized small, medium, and large, with the biggest ones for babies weighing just more than four pounds.
"Just because the baby is here in the NICU doesn't mean it's not their first Christmas," Muse said.
Volunteers said they are helping these families celebrate Christmas with the hope the little ones will be able to hold on, grow stronger, and get to go home soon.