SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Oct. 15 is a day for families to remember an enormous loss in their lives: the loss of a child. It’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Angel Wings Memory Gowns is a nonprofit that helps families who’ve lost a pregnancy or baby. They make special gowns and wraps for families to bury their baby in. Jennifer Jones founded the organization with her husband Ben after one of her friends lost their 15-month-old.
“Watching her mom and family struggle to find an outfit, first of all, what’s good enough in a store? And then just having to go there and see all these pregnant mommies and happy babies, it’s just really difficult to do,” Jones said.
So they wanted to take away that struggle for parents who are grieving. They do so by making those gowns out of donated wedding dresses. Jones said she wanted to take a special moment and create that into another special moment.
“The beading and that the gowns are made, they’re perfect for the little angels,” Jones said. It’s something very unique that you can’t find in a store. Just about every part of the dress is used.
When her and her husband first started the organization, in their home using their dining room table, they never thought they would reach so many families. They started only sending gowns to LeConte Medical Center. Then, the University of Tennessee Medical found out and asked for gowns.
Now, they service about 50 hospitals all over the U.S. and Virgin Islands, plus several villages in Guatemala. Their work load also requires a lot of volunteers who help cut, sew and package. Jones said about 6 babies in every 1,000 births die. About one in four women miscarry. She later learned how truly common that was when she had her own miscarriage, a few years after starting Angel Wings.
“It’s a very difficult journey to walk. There’s a lot of shamefulness. You feel guilty, like what did I do wrong, oh I shouldn’t have had that sushi before I was pregnant, you know, that kind of thing,” Jones said.
Jones said the stigma around pregnancy or infant loss has changed for the better over the years. She said her mom lost two babies, and back then during surgery, they would put the mothers to sleep.
“They took her babies while she was sleeping, and she never got to see them. And you know, it was something you didn’t talk about. You just forgot about,” Jones said.
She said now, there’s something called the cuddle cot, which preserves the babies body for a longer period of time, so mothers can have that time with their baby. Jones said having a special day to remember that loss of a child is important for the grieving process.
“You’re baby existed. And you need to remember that to help yourself go through the struggle. And I think that just having a day to celebrate the life of your child. No matter how tiny he still, or she, still existed,” Jones said.
She said we still have a long way to go when it comes to being better for these families who have lost a pregnancy or infant. Jones said family and friends can’t be afraid to talk about it with mothers.
“Mom needs you to bring that up. They need you to talk about their baby, so that they know they’re baby isn’t forgotten,” Jones said.
She said for mothers, remember that the fathers are also grieving, even though it might look different. Take comfort in knowing you are both dealing with the loss of your child. Jones said Angel Wings helps with more than just providing special gowns or wraps for babies who died. In every bag (which is also made out of wedding dress material) there is printed material with books and resources for families grieving.
Each Memory Wrap package includes one Memory Wrap, a bunting for the parent’s memory box, a hat, a handmade diaper, a teddy bear, a mommy keepsake bracelet and printed materials.
Each Memory Gown package includes one Memory Gown, a handmade diaper, a matching hat, a stuffed animal, a ‘stay with me’ blanket, a mommy keepsake bracelet and printed materials.
Jones said over the years, there have been so many more options for parents, including podcasts and priests at Christian radio stations, praying with families. She said most churches have a resource called GriefShare. Jones said the most important thing for grieving families to do is to reach out and talk about their struggle, and remember you’re not alone.
“When you’re down, they can help lift you up. They can help get you off the couch, get you off the bed,” Jones said.
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Angel Wings is 100% nonprofit, which means they solely rely on donations and volunteers for their work. The organization is hosting a gala on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. at their home location, which is located at 560 King Branch Road Sevierville, TN 37876.
They will have dinner, dessert and entertainment, which will be a Jeff Foxworthy impersonator. They’ll have a live raffle, and all proceeds help fund the organization to continue their mission. It’s their 2021 Denim and Diamonds Gala, which means you should dress up in jeans and sparkles!
For more information, you can head over to their website at this link.