If you’re a parent who has suffered pregnancy or infant loss, you know how devastating it can be. The pain is all-encompassing and sadly, there isn’t much that medical professionals can do to ease the pain. But, there are organizations that help parents by providing comfort and raising awareness. One of those organizations is called Angel Gowns, which repurposes donated wedding dresses and prom gowns into outfits for babies who do not make it home from the hospital.
Angel gowns are a special garment that is worn by families as they say goodbye to their baby, or sometimes after a funeral. The gowns are designed to look like an actual baby and are meant to bring comfort to grieving parents who have to dress their child for the last time. The Angel Gown program at Levine Children’s Hospital is an important part of their care for families who suffer pregnancy and infant loss. “The idea that you can have something to hold onto and remember your little angel is so precious,” said Tom Williamson, who lost his son at 20 weeks gestation. Williamson said that he and his wife were grateful for the gown that Levine Children’s gave them for their son, Eli, to wear when they had to say their last farewells.
The gowns are handmade by volunteers and sewn by people who have experienced loss. Many of them say that they do this because they want to help other families in their difficult time and it is also a way to honor their own losses. They are passionate about this work and often don’t even get recognition from the hospitals to which they provide the gowns.
Almost every hospital now offers the service to families who have experienced a loss. However, the supply of angel gowns isn’t keeping up with the demand. “We always have more requests than we can make,” said Alisha Neal, who runs the nonprofit Angel Babies in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts. Her organization provides angel kits, which include a gown, blanket, keepsake and two hats to families who have lost an infant. Last year, it gave out 175 kits.
Making these garments is not an easy task for everyone, Bauer says. Creating such tiny pieces of clothing can be too emotional for some and she has seen many volunteers drop out over time. She is trying to encourage more volunteers by creating kits for them, which contain fabric that has been pre-cut to the needed size.
For those who do not have the resources to make their own angel gowns, there are a number of nationwide ministries that will accept wedding and prom dresses to be repurposed into sleeping angel outfits. The seamstresses who run these ministries have specific needs, but a standard wedding dress can yield eight to 16 gowns, according to Bauer. She is always in need of white and ivory thread, fabric ribbon, tiny buttons, Tide PODS, OxiClean laundry spray and Ziploc bags in one to two gallon sizes.