Has your wedding dress been taking up too much space in your wardrobe? Have you been wondering what you could possibly do with it that has some meaning? Angel Gowns is a not-for-profit charity that supplies angel gown garments to families who have sadly had a baby pass away.
Remember when you were in the last stages of pregnancy, being both anxious and excited in the arrival of your baby? The actual birth is now a blur, and what you remember is the immense joy of seeing your baby for the first time, bringing your child home and the happiness that continues to this day.
Nyssa Edwards recalls the birth of her daughter, Clara: ‘Once you have a tiny human come into your life, the world becomes a far different place, and teaches you a whole new form of love you never knew existed,’ Nyssa remembers.
Three weeks later, the unimaginable happened when Clara died suddenly and unexpectedly.
‘I read a story similar to Nyssa’s and as a mum I felt a real connection about her tragic loss. What then struck me is how these angel babies are presented to their families for the last time, in whatever is available, in one case twin baby girls were dressed in blue, hospital grade outfits. I’ve even heard of a child being wrapped in butchers’ paper’, says Fiona Kirk, the founder of NICU Angel Gowns.
‘I thought that these young souls and their parents deserved more.’
NICU Angel Gowns began in March 2014 with their NICU Helping Hands Angel Gown Program and already there are a large, passionate group of volunteers across Australia. The organisation seeks donations of wedding or formal dresses, as well as materials like lace or cotton, to handcraft unique gowns for babies who were born sleeping, have not survived an illness or are born premature and did not make it home.
The Angel Gown Program volunteers are mostly mums, some of whom have had an ‘Angel baby’ themselves. Fiona Kirk is in awe of her talented volunteers.
‘The gowns are already so full of love, and then seamstresses sew love into every seams’, she says.
Angel gowns are gifted to neonatal intensive care units and hospitals around Australia.
‘Recently, one of the families in my care experienced the devastation of their baby dying unexpectedly,’ says Sarah Henderson-Smith, a registered midwife.
‘When this happens, it can be very hard for parents to make decisions. One of their concerns was about what their baby would wear. I felt fortunate to be able to tell them about NICU Angel Gowns. Despite it being a weekend and late at night when I contacted Fiona, she came straight to the hospital the following morning with a selection of exquisite angel gowns to choose from. The parents were able to have some beautiful photos taken. It was truly special.’
As for Nyssa Edwards’, she was with her daughters Sarah and Amanda when they farewelled baby Clara.
‘Clara passed away just as the world and ourselves were getting to know her. In my grief and sorrow I reached out for someone to help me dress her in something beautiful and personal to her.’
She has a family photo of that day: Nyssa is seated with Clara in her lap, dressed in a beautiful soft lace gown. Her daughters Sarah and Amanda are by Nyssa’s side and her partner stands behind her. We can’t see their faces as they are all turned toward Clara.
How to donate your wedding dress for an angel baby
If you’d like to donate your wedding dress, help make an Angel Gown or to find out more, click here to go the Angel Gowns website.