Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Angels Above Baby Gowns: Someday I'll Meet My Brothers

[Source]
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.
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...

Someday I'll Meet My Brothers...
Part 1. 

"As she was dying, I told my mother:  I can't wait for you to see the boys!"

Carol Amundsen Noe and Teri Joseph
August, 2014
Remembering the final August days they shared, Teri Joseph's voice thickens with emotion. "I was born 40 years ago (in September)--a triplet! When my brothers, Russell and Frederick, and I left our crowded but happy womb, we each weighed two pounds."

Teri laments that in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) of the 1970's, parents were not permitted to enter the Unit to touch, hold, feed, or change the diapers of their delicate newborn. Skilled nurses assumed all care responsibility. But when the babies were 5 days old, Carol and John Noe were told that the boys had died. Baby daughter, Teri, after awhile, made it home. 

"Russell and Frederick were buried in diapers."

Their whisper-quiet departure--sterile from birth to burial, flooded Teri's heart when she discovered the Facebook page for a Garden City, Michigan organization called:

Angels Above Baby Gowns

"I had sold my wedding dress at a garage sale, but now I was settling my mother's estate and here was her lovely gown, still in amazing condition. During her engagement, she had traveled to Rome to witness her brother's ordination as a priest. So her dress was a real Italian creation in satin." Teri slipped the dress into a Priority Mail envelope and mailed it from her home in Arizona.
Teri and her mother, Carol
Christmas, 2012
"My mother was a very strong woman of Norwegian heritage. She developed epilepsy in her youth, so she took the bus everywhere. My dad died when I was 14, and mom raised four kids (I have an older brother and two younger siblings) alone! More health crises occurred in her later years, but she never cried or felt sorry for herself.
We buried Mom next to Russell and Frederick, and I know she would love for her wedding dress to become beautiful burial gowns for babies."


Someday I'll Meet My Brothers...
Part 2.

On Christmas Day, an 11 year old girl does not want her Mommy to be in the hospital.

[Source]
But that is where Melanie Steelman's mother was in 1990. Happily expectant with twins, Julie's preterm labor could not be stopped and she delivered Aaron and Benjamin at 23 weeks.

"I had been rushed to my Grandma's house. She told me mom was very sick and that my baby brothers had died. I felt awful. Today, 20-some years later, it still makes me cry because we loved them, we named them, but my brothers just disappeared from our lives."

Her parents had chosen to donate their sons' bodies to science. No pictures were taken, and though the family attended a hospital memorial service later on, the closure of a service became a closed subject. "We never talked about Aaron and Benjamin again."

But Melanie believes that bad memories can be healed with good memories. 

Melanie Steelman with Michael
and daughters Kaitlyn (L) and Ashlynn (R)
When girlfriends posted on Facebook about ANGELS ABOVE BABY GOWNS, Melanie was inspired by the dedication of founder, Dawn Lafferty, "Everybody's time is precious-- Dawn amazes me!" 
Melanie was inspired to donate her own wedding gown. She also become a Downriver Pick-Up Point for area dress donors. "I get at least one donor email each day!" [See Angels Above Baby Gowns' Facebook page for details.]  With Dawn's help, Melanie explained the reason for the gowns to her daughters: "sometimes the babies just don't get to come home." They have cheerfully joined their mom to collect beverage cans for a DOLLAR CHALLENGE fundraiser.

"My mother would have loved using the gowns with camo bow ties for the boys." 

Melanie continued, "hospitals are doing more supportive things for grieving parents, like offering these sweet handmade burial gowns, taking baby photos and creating mementos. I know my two daughters won't want my dress when their day comes. This is how a heart can heal."

LEARN MORE!  This link provides resources for parents grieving the death of a baby.
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."
Read more stories of women who support Angels Above Baby Gowns: 
A Time To Tear and A Time To Mend
Delivery At A Birthing Center
Heartbeats and Lightening Bolts


The Condolence Coach was inspired to write about Angels Above Baby Gowns by a woman who lost two grandchildren by miscarriage.  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.
This post is a good review of responding to any child's death: 5 Things to Say When Death Strikes the Young

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

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