Angel Gowns For Stillborn Babies

angel gowns

In a world filled with inconceivable pain, a handful of selfless brides are handing down their dresses to serve a bigger purpose. They are turning them into “angel gowns” to give families of babies who die before leaving the hospital.

Every year, more than 626,000 children in the United States are stillborn or lose their lives through miscarriage or other complications. And for parents of those tiny souls, there are no words to describe the unimaginable grief.

Among the hardest hits are infants who are born too small or too soon and never make it home from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). “They will never have birthdays, Christmases or any other special occasion to look forward to with their child,” says nurse Judi Gaber, who founded the nonprofit organization Sunshine State Angel Gowns in Florida. “So these gowns allow them to hold their child in love.”

It wasn’t until a friend posted an article about the initiative on Facebook that Mangiaracina realized she could help. She immediately started gathering the donated dresses and turned them into the one-of-a-kind burial gowns that are sent to hospitals across the country.

One dress can typically make about 30 angel gowns, she says, and a back closet in her home is overflowing. But she’s in constant need of more material, ribbons, thread, gallon zip-lock bags and a baby model to remind her why she sews.

As she works, Mangiaracina remembers the heartbreaking stories of grieving mothers and their babies who never get to leave the hospital. “As a labor and delivery nurse, I have seen many families come to our unit in shock and devastation because their child didn’t survive the gestation period,” she says. “And to not have a gift for their little angel — it’s devastating.”

And as a mother who lost her daughter at the age of 17, Mangiaracina understands how hard it can be. She says her mission is to “provide a little bit of comfort for these families, because it’s so sad.”

“The NICU nurses are the ones who really feel the hurt when these families are going through this tragic time,” she says. “And it’s a way for us to offer them something that they can take with them and cherish and remember.”

Mangiaracina’s efforts have spread to other parts of the country. She recently shipped a box of angel gowns to the hospital where she worked for 37 years, UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. The hospital’s NICU Manager, Jennifer Wenzel and NICU Nurse Silvia Noriega are photographed below displaying the first package of gowns they received.

The gowns are also delivered to hospitals in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, as well as other locations in California, Oregon, Texas, Montana, Minnesota, and Idaho. But she hopes to expand her reach even further, and she’s seeking out seamstresses who can help her. Click here to learn how you can donate a wedding dress or become an angel gown seamstress yourself.