WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - Strangers are donating wedding gowns to provide families some comfort after unspeakable pain.
Each year, 23,000 families face the death of their infant.
When Connie Spaid was 12 weeks pregnant with her son Judah, she learned he was developing with a chromosome abnormality called Trisomy 18.
The doctor said Judah’s little organs were growing outside of his body. He would most likely pass away before his due date.
Judah’s heart did stop beating at 30 weeks.
“We knew that we weren’t going to have much time with him. And that his life would be very short. But we chose to just allow his life to continue as long as God allowed him to be with us,” said Spaid.
After Judah’s death, Spaid needed a solution: “I remember thinking my son’s not going to have anything to wear. I’m not gonna have anything to bury him in.”
Surprisingly, Spaid’s doula, Jillian Freeland, gave her an infant gown for Judah’s burial. A sense of peace came over the mourning mom after she saw her baby dressed in the infant gown at the funeral.
“Providing something – the only outfit that he was ever going to wear, that was very important,” said Spaid.
Judah wore a white, infant gown made by Forever Angels of Virginia. The organization creates infant gowns for babies who pass away from a miscarriage, stillbirth or death. Each infant gown is made from donated wedding dresses.
Kim Violette, the founder, created the free service after experiencing the pain of losing a baby. She saw an idea for infant gowns on Facebook and created Forever Angels of Virginia. Her daughter, Jenna, donated the first wedding dress.
“I thought this is some way I can pay it forward and help other mothers that are going through the loss of a baby,” said Violette. She asked for seamstresses on Facebook. They came “one, two, six at a time.”
Then Violette asked for more wedding gowns on Facebook for her cause. There was a strong response as strangers donated dozens of old wedding dresses at a time.
Many women give their wedding dresses in honor of a baby they’ve lost. Some include letters, photos, even donations.
Since 2015, Forever Angels of Virginia has shipped 1,400 gowns to individuals, hospitals and the March of Dimes.
Today 15 volunteer seamstresses cut through tulle that’s too harsh for the baby’s skin. They volunteer hours to take apart bows, snip through layers of lace and beading to create one-of-a-kind gowns. It’s a bittersweet mission.A local minister has performed a prayer service blessing the deceased babies wearing the infant gowns.
“Knowing I did something that worked for them and made them happy, that makes me feel good,” said one volunteer seamstress. Each infant gown identifies the name of the bride and the seamstress who made the outfit.
As Spaid honors baby Judah’s memory, she sits listening to the wind chimes hung on her house.
“I’ll just sit there and listen to it and close my eyes and just think about him in heaven.”
How you can help: WUSA9 is teaming up with Forever Angels of Virginia to collect wedding dresses, May 2, at WUSA9 from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. You can also volunteer to create infant gowns or make a donation. The dresses are free. They can be shipped to families or hospitals and organizations directly.
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