The moment a mother learns her baby will not live is a terrifying time. It’s even more devastating if that child is born in the NICU, where nurses and families have to care for infants with life-threatening conditions. One of the hardest things is finding clothes for the tiny babies. That’s why some nurses and others are turning wedding dresses into outfits for the ones who won’t make it home.
NAPLES, Fla. — Lori Gulley lost her daughter Laura Lee when she was just four days old. She remembers trying to find clothes small enough to fit her daughter, but it was impossible. She never wanted another grieving family to have that problem. So she started sewing these small gowns from donated wedding dresses. Now, she’s one of many seamstresses nationwide who do the same.
A lot of the gowns go to Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. They are part of a program called Project NICU Helping Hands, which was started by two neonatologists in that hospital. Judi Gibson oversees the program, and she says they’ve had a need for the gowns for a long time.
They can be used as baptismal gowns or burial outfits, and they help parents cope with the loss of their infant. Clarke-Pounder says some families don’t know what to do when they lose a baby, but she hopes the angel gowns will give them something that’s very special.
Gowns can be made from a variety of materials, but the most popular are satin and silk. A lot of people donate their own wedding dresses for this purpose, but there are also places that collect dresses and make them into these outfits. Some of these groups offer their services in the United States, while others are international.
One of the international organizations is called Sunshine State Angel Gowns. Its founder, Edith McCall, was a retired schoolteacher from an Indiana town of around 40,000 people. When she read a newspaper article about the need for angel gowns at Riley, she was moved to act.
She recruited a friend and fellow seamstress to help her, and they quickly started getting orders. But the need eventually became too much for one person to handle, so Edith reached out to others in the community.
Now, more than a dozen women volunteer to wash, cut and sew dresses into these special outfits. Some of the dresses go to a place like Guatemala, where indigenous seamstresses are paid to make them, and other gowns are sent to the US. The gowns are then delivered directly to a hospital or a grieving family. It’s an amazing way to bring a little love and comfort to a very sad time. You can donate a dress and make a financial donation on their website. If you choose to do the international program, you can follow your dress as it goes to its destination country (currently Guatemala), meet your seamstress, and see the impact your donation has made.