by Heidi from Angel Babies
Heidi, Alan and their children at the time of Elizabeth's birth.
Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Heidi, wife of Alan, and mom of 4 great kids – three that I hold in my arms and one that I hold in my heart. It’s been just shy of 5 years since Elizabeth Jane was born. She lived for 3 hours, 3 very amazing hours. We found out at the 20 week ultrasound that she had no kidneys, a condition that is incompatible with life outside the womb. We had 11 ½ weeks to prepare before I went in to preterm labor and she was born. That sounds like a long time, but it didn’t feel like long enough. We had a lot of emotional processing to wade through, and by the time I finally felt like I could breathe again and start focusing on actually preparing blankets and things for her birth, it was almost too late. One of my dear friends wound up putting the binding on the last blanket while we were already at the hospital.
We did not know whether Elizabeth was a boy or girl until she was born due to the lack of amniotic fluid. She was scrunched up inside of me in such a way that even with multiple ultrasounds, we couldn’t tell for sure. I had a hard time finding suitably sized clothing to take to the hospital. I wound up purchasing two outfits, one boy and one girl, just to have something.
Once she was born and we dressed her in her outfit, I realized that I wanted to keep the one that she wore while she was alive. As a result, we found ourselves wandering around the aisles of Babies R Us on our way home from the hospital trying to find a burial outfit. It was pretty much the last place we wanted to be at that moment. Again, it was hard to find something the right size. We wound up burying her in a newborn sized shirt with a newborn sized sweater over the top, sleeves tucked up inside themselves. It fit her like a dress.
Each year, we have done a project of some sort to celebrate her birthday. The first year, we wrote a brochure, published 1,000 copies for local distribution and posted it on our web page, along with Elizabeth’s story – www.angelbabiesinfo.com. Five years ago, there wasn’t that much information available about how to handle infant loss. With the increasing popularity of blogs, that has changed in a very positive way. We have since done a revision (not posted yet on the webpage, but will be soon, and hard copies are now available), and hope to have a Spanish translation done next year.
Two years ago, I realized that the hospital I worked at had very little in the way of blankets, gowns, and other supplies to help families with infant loss. That spurred me to take on a one time blitz project of getting volunteers to help me sew blankets, gowns, crochet hats, and make bracelet sets. A frenzied two months later, I was pleased to drop off several bins full of items. I thought that would be the end of it. But word gets around, and every month or so, I’d get a phone call or an email from someone looking for an extra small gown or one with short sleeves for a baby with a particular condition. Each time, I pulled out my sewing machine and worked frantically to get one done to fill the need.
As a result, this year, my birthday gift was to commit to having a sewing session each month to keep a steady supply of gowns and blankets going. I am pleased to say that even through a massive construction project at our house, I have met that goal. I am now also a volunteer photographer with www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org, and it has been extremely satisfying to be able to give these handmade items to families that I serve. At one of our recent gatherings of the photographers, I was able to distribute dozens of blankets and gowns and hats for them to have on hand and also to take to the hospitals that they serve. My stash is low now, so I am anxious to get back to work to get it built back up.
I have devised a pattern that is suitable for boys and girls, is very economical with fabric, and is relatively simple to put together. The pattern and step by step instructions with photographs are available on my Angel Babies website. It is purposely open all the way down in the back to allow for easy dressing. This is an issue I have seen with several other donated gowns.
Girl gown shown above.
The boy gown is similar in style but has white ribbon and two blue buttons.
I live in the Salt Lake valley, and welcome anyone that wishes to come join me at a sewing day. I post the dates on my personal blog – www.thevawdreys.blogspot.com – usually a week or so in advance. It is open house style, from 10-3, and kids are welcome. Best of all, I always feed my helpers. If you can join me, please send me an email at hvawdrey (at) gmail (dot) com so that I can send you directions to my house. The next scheduled day will be Tuesday, December 7th. For those of you not in my area, I would encourage you to make some and donate to your local hospital or perinatal hospice organization. It’s a wonderful feeling to make something beautiful for an angel to wear.