Angel Gowns for Angel Babies
BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show about 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage and about 24,000 babies are stillborn every year in the United States.
When parents are faced with this tragedy, the last thing they’re prepared for is a funeral, but that’s where angel gowns come in.
Seven years ago, a moment of joy occurred for Michelle and Richard Thomas from Lincoln, N.D.
Their baby boy, Richard Thomas Junior, was born with gastroschisis, which is a condition where the baby’s organs were growing outside of his body.
Michelle Thomas said: “He lived for seven weeks and three days. And then he passed away. We were holding his hand when he passed away.”
The funeral industry was just as unprepared as they were, as Michelle said, “funeral gowns aren’t made for infants.”
So, she became a seamstress for ND Angel Gowns, making burial gowns or keepsakes for the angel babies out of donated wedding gowns.
Michelle said repurposing the gowns is special because they already come with so many happy memories. Happiness which they can then spread to grieving parents, like Joshlyn and Jeff Bjornstad from Langdon, who lost their baby last year.
Michelle presented Joshlyn with an Angel Gown for her baby, Emerson Sloane. Joshlyn exclaimed “Oh, wow, thank you! That means a lot, it really does,” in between sniffles as she took in the moment and realized the significance of the gesture.
ND Angel Gowns also distributes the garments to hospitals like Sanford and CHI St. Alexius Health.
The Clinical Lead Nurse at Sanford, Bethany Bernhardt, said “These moms now have something to put their baby in instead of seeing their baby with maybe a diaper on, maybe without even a diaper, because we don’t even have diapers small enough for them.”
While the Interim Director of Women and Children at CHI St. Alexius Health in Bismarck, Amy Raider said, “It’s nice to be able to give these families who’ve had such a loss, such a beautiful keepsake.”
The special garments help families grieve and grow.
“I still wish Richard was here,” said Michelle.
"But, beautiful things do come from it, " said Bjornstad.
The Thomases have two happy, healthy daughters and the Bjornstads now have two boys whom Joshlyn describes as “full of life.”
Michelle said she doesn’t think missing her baby boy will ever go away but making the gowns has been healing for her.
Bjornstad said it’s nice to know other people have been through it, too, and encourages more families to speak up about it, saying she’s sad it’s such a taboo subject.
But the angel gowns are a special way to remember those lives lost too soon and let grieving families know that they’re not alone.
Michelle says Angel Gowns is always looking for seamstresses, especially in rural areas.
She says for parents who don’t receive a gown at the hospital, they would be happy to send one out.
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