Angel Gowns for Babies Who Die in the NICU

The loss of a baby is one of the most heart-wrenching experiences that can happen to a family. Often, a baby is delivered stillborn or dies shortly after birth. Each year, 626,000 babies are born this way in the United States. For many parents, this is a devastating and confusing time. The grieving process can be overwhelming, and it is very hard to find hope during this time. For many families, the cherished memories of their tiny loved one can help ease their pain and bring comfort.

During the hospital stay, these newborns are dressed in angel gowns to be photographed for their family and friends. In a society where infant mortality is much higher than in the past, it is essential for health care providers to provide families with a special memory of their baby. The angel gown is a keepsake, a reminder of their little one and the love they share with their families.

As an NICU nurse, Judi Gibson saw the need for these gowns in her local community and began recruiting seamstresses to make them for families who needed them. Edith Moniz, an avid quilter and grandmother, volunteered to sew the tiny dresses and was surprised by how gratifying it was for her.

Currently, there are over 200 angel gowns and outfits in the program at Riley Children’s Health. Each dress takes about five hours to make. Judi and her team are working to expand the program to other hospitals in Indiana. The goal is to make sure every baby who dies at any gestational age can be provided with a special gown for photos and a final farewell.

A similar initiative has emerged in Long Beach, California. Volunteers and seamstresses take donated wedding gowns and deconstruct them to create beautiful, one-of-a-kind angel gowns for babies who die during or shortly after their birth. The garments, which are made of lace and satin, are presented to the baby’s family for a photo and a last goodbye.

After the death of her daughter, Brandy Spurgeon received a gown from Riley’s bereavement program. It helped her heal, and she started an organization to spread the word about this heart-warming initiative. She now serves as a coordinator for the NICU Helping Hands Angel Gown program, which accepts donations of wedding gowns and bridesmaid’s dresses (in light shades of blue, pink, purple) to be remade into an angel gown.

Stacy McClain also serves as a seamstress coordinator for the program. She is inspired by the women who donate their dresses, and says she feels blessed to be a part of such an amazing cause. She also volunteers to tutor at the Life Enrichment Center in her local community and serves as a Corresponding Secretary on the Portsmouth City Commission for Museums and Arts.

For more information about how to donate a wedding dress to an angel gown organization near you, visit Adorned in Grace. The store accepts bridesmaid’s dresses and flower girl dresses less than five years old and also supports Success in Style, a nonprofit that helps people rebuild their professional wardrobes.