The beautiful 'angel gowns' for babies who have grown their wings

The death of a baby is an unimaginable tragedy. It's impossible to comprehend the pain felt by parents whose child never got a chance at life, either due to being stillborn or dying as an infant.

Now one Victorian mum, with the help of more than 80 other women around the country, is doing her best to comfort grieving parents by helping them give their babies a beautiful farewell.

Sarah McVeigh is using donated wedding dresses to make 'angel gowns' for babies who have passed away to be buried in.

She says her experience as mum to two premature babies who were fortunate enough to pull through made her want to help families whose children were not so fortunate.  

"After having my youngest at 27 weeks and enduring the long hard road of 107 days in NICU I saw how this service was needed in Australia, after talking to mothers and families that had lost their baby," she said.

"Some people think that it's not polite to talk about the loss of a baby, or clothing to be worn in the baby’s funeral. I've found the opposite - families do want to talk about their experience, and they want to remember their baby.

"Our gowns are about giving something beautiful, that's all."

In an ideal world, it's a service which would be unnecessary. But sadly, most recent official figures show that about 3000 babies die in Australia each year either due to stillbirth, neonatal death and sudden infant death syndrome.

Sarah came up with the idea to create angel gowns from wedding dresses locally after reading about several groups in the US who do the same thing there. She got in contact with a group creator in the US who was willing to share her patterns for the tiny outfits.

"Beautiful women all over Australia have donated their stunning wedding dresses to be transformed into angel gowns," Sarah says. "A single wedding dress can make anywhere from 12 to 20 angel gowns."

Many women donate their wedding dresses in memory of family members' or friends' babies who passed too soon. Others may not personally know someone affected by such loss, but feel touched by the project and just want to help others.  

In other cases, young woman have donated their formal gowns.    

As interest in her work grew, Sarah realised she would need help to deliver gowns to each Australian family who would like one. There are now 80 people around the country volunteering as area representatives, seamstresses and knitters, all helping to create and distribute the delicate gowns to those in need.

"I could not do this without all these beautiful ladies and also the lovely ladies who donate their dresses to our much needed service," Sarah says.

"Angel Gowns For Australian Babies is a voluntary by donation group; any money that is donated is spent on further materials."

Each pack sent to families includes a gown, bonnet, booties, angel wrap or blanket, as well as a keepsake for families.  

"For a baby that is unable to be dressed due to being fragile, we have created a wrap to cocoon this precious soul for the parents and families," Sarah says.

"We do offer urgent gowns if requested by a close family member or friend who knows of a baby who will be growing their wings, as well," she said, adding that these gowns have been in the mail within 24 hours of the request being made. 

In addition to managing wedding dress donations and making as many gowns as necessary, Sarah is kept busy looking after children, 15-month-old Oscar and three-year-old Tiana.

"I'm spending nearly every second of my time [on Angel Gowns] when I am not looking after the kids, but it is all 100 per cent worth it," she says.

"We have received over 100 wedding gowns so far, and many more are on their way." 

Anyone wanting more information about Angel Gowns can contact Sarah on email at angelgownsaustralianbabies@hotmail.com or via the Facebook page at Angel Gowns - For Australian angel babies who have grown their wings.

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