Angel Gowns For Stillborn Babies

In the United States, 24,000 babies are stillborn and miscarried each year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics. For parents, the loss of a baby is one of the most heartbreaking moments they can experience in their lifetimes. The loss can be devastating to both the mother and father, and many couples choose to memorialize their lost child with a keepsake. One North Dakota seamstress wants to help comfort those families. She transforms donated wedding dresses into special memorial or burial gowns for infants who are born too soon. The gowns are called angel gowns, and they are made from wedding silks, satins and other fabrics. Embroidery, pearls, beads and lace are used to decorate them. They are designed to fit tiny babies, often weighing less than three pounds.

The gowns are offered to hospitals, birthing centers and funeral homes free of charge. They are often the first keepsake a family receives for their lost baby. Mayo nurse Lynn Gaber works in the cardiovascular surgery ICU and has seen a need for these gowns at the hospital. She has worked with a seamstress to make these beautiful gowns, which are made from donated wedding dresses and other dress wear.

Gaber and the seamstress, who has a name that she prefers not to use, have made dozens of the tiny angel gowns for the hospital’s patients. They also offer a blanket and sleeping bag for the infants. The outfits are provided to the families and can be used for final photographs, for a memorial service or for the baby’s casket.

“As a nurse, you know how precious life is, and when a family loses a baby, it’s so hard for them,” Gaber said. “The gowns allow them to hold onto a memory and cherish their baby.”

The gowns have also been sent to other hospitals in North Idaho, and Gaber is looking to expand the reach of her work by reaching out to communities across the country. In fact, a man in Puyallup, Washington, who read Gaber’s story, told her his wife had died and he wanted to do something to honor her. So, he donated her wedding dress to the cause.

A Hot Springs Village woman, Colleen Angel, known as Grandma Angel, has also found a way to pay it forward. She uses the first floor of her home as a workshop and makes these angel gowns from donated wedding dresses. She said she began her project after a cousin lost her premature baby and she saw the need in hospitals everywhere.

“We want to provide a gown that will be used for the last photo, the first time a mom holds her baby,” she said. “We hope that it will help her remember their baby.” The gowns are also given to families who travel to other countries, and she has a program to ship them abroad to Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador and others. “It’s like sending a little piece of heaven with them,” she said.