Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Angels Above Baby Gowns: Delivery At a Birthing Center

Readers of The Condolence Coach may remember my introductory post, Angels Above Baby Gowns: Soothing a Terrible Loss. This organization uses donated wedding dresses to sew burial gowns for infants. 

Garden City Hospital
A bright, welcoming lobby
 On a late summer Monday morning, I arrived at the Garden City Hospital. It is bright outside and inside, too. Rushing past, a man chases boredom by giving his toddler a wheelchair ride. "Watch out for the crack!" he warns, though he's not referring to his drooping jeans.  

Angels Above Baby Gowns is making a delivery.

Once the Angels Above Baby Gowns team arrives, we head to the Birthing Center. Founder, Dawn Lafferty, organization secretary, Karen Pangborn, volunteers, Marie McNallen, Jennifer McDonald, and Andrea Moss are bringing 25 lovingly packaged gowns and keepsake gifts for distribution. The number delivered varies, as each contacted hospital will estimate their need for one year. Certainly, more--including special needs, can be requested.  
Roxanne Sweet, R.N.
We are met by registered nurse and bereavement counselor, Roxanne Sweet. On staff at Garden City Hospital for over nine years, this woman has extended herself, often at her own expense, with passion and purpose since 1982. 
Roxanne reminds us that 50% of all pregnancies are lost in the first three months. "One is too many," she laments. 

When a baby does not survive, she initiates steps to support the grieving parents.
Door tag
1. A simple tag is placed on the door of the mother's room to remind staff and visitors of the bereavement.
2. Roxanne creates a decorative certificate called a Record of Birth, honoring the birth no matter the survival outcome. 
3. If culturally appropriate, she will take inked impressions of the infant's hands and feet.

The Bereavement Gown

 Angels Above Baby Gowns are frequently used during the farewell period. At Garden City Hospital, parents are invited to bathe, dress, and cradle their baby. Roxanne explained:

"This is something you can't fix. There is no timeline and we don't rush a family. After dressing a baby in a beautiful gown or wrap, we take photos. A 'bereavement gown' provides tremendous comfort to parents and later, that gown will be a special keepsake--even bearing the scent of their child. 
Gowns for boys are accessorized
Even though they are in shock, parents love every keepsake." 


When a baby does not go home from the hospital, memories should.

Roxanne describes this need as: "Too painful to remember, too precious to forget." She coordinates the creation of hand painted memory boxes which are given to parents at the time of discharge. Each box is filled with mementos:

A creation of The Village Painters of MI
Inked impressions, the gown or wrap, remembrance cards, and special gifts provided by Angels Above Baby Gowns.
Handmade bracelet sets: one for mom, one for baby.
Volunteer, Andrea Moss enlists her 3 kids in beading!

Angel baby ornaments, made by volunteers
Jennifer McDonald (above, left) washes donated dresses and prepares them for cutting; she also cuts gowns, sews, and helps take pictures of finished items. Marie McNallen (above, right) also helps wash wedding dresses, cuts out pattern pieces, and assists with photography. 

Marie spends countless hours, at home, crocheting hundreds of hats, and many wraps, using numerous crochet stitch styles. A hat is included with each gown.
A wrap is suitable for a tiny infant

Garden City Hospital's Birth Center Director, Jennifer Schaible, R.N. (left)
joins Roxanne to thank Dawn Lafferty for the generous supplies. 

Wedding dress donations are so important to this mission of comfort! 

Roxanne and Dawn marvel at a gown made from
the beaded bodice of a donated wedding dress.
 "Our goal was to do 200 gowns by the end of 2014, and we've done 600!" Founder, Dawn Lafferty 
I wanted to learn more about the women who gave their wedding dresses in support of parents whose baby didn't come home from the hospital…Teri and Melanie shared their stories in Angels Above Baby Gowns: Someday I'll Meet My Brothers. You will also be moved by the stories of Pamela and Sharlene shared in Angels Above Baby Gowns: A Time to Tear and a Time to Mend; and Janene tells the story of her son, Keegan, in Angels Above Baby Gowns: Heartbeats and Lightening Bolts.

LEARN MORE! Angels Above Baby Gowns, Garden City, MI
November 2017 UPDATE:  In the words of founder, Dawn, "Angels Above Baby Gowns is still going strong. We are now in over 350 hospitals and in 5 countries. We grow bigger everyday."
The Condolence Coach learned about Angels Above Baby Gowns by a reporter who lost two grandchildren to miscarriages. Read When Grandparents Grieve.
Readers may also wish to visit this post about baby and children's death:  Two Too Many: Gone But Never Forgotten.

When siblings experience the death of a baby brother or sister, these posts may provide good condolence guidance:  Grieving Children, Part 1,  and  Grieving Children, Part 2. 
If you need a good review of responding to any child's death, read: 5 Things to Say When Death Strikes the Young

This link provides resources for parents grieving the death of a baby.

This is a peer support blog by and for grieving parents: Wanted Chosen Planned

Keep the conversation going--share this post, and Thank you for caring!

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