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A trio of Darlington friends have launched a project to try to ease the trauma of miscarriage.

Abra Wood, Avryl Taylor and Helen Gordon started Angel Gowns With Love two years ago – attracting a team of volunteers who turn donated wedding dresses into burial gowns for stillborn babies.

Since then they have helped hundreds of bereaved women, even making a tiny gothic gown after one grieving mother made the request.

And now they want to help women who suffer from early miscarriages, by providing County Durham hospitals with comfort packs: each one made up of an organza bag containing a tiny knitted teddy, an angel pin, seed paper butterflies, and a card with the quote: “There is no footprint so small that it cannot leave an imprint on the world.”

How it all Began

Angel Gowns With Love came out of Abra’s own personal tragedy, when she lost her second daughter, Esmae-Grace in the 34th week of the pregnancy after the cord compressed and deprived her of oxygen.

Abra, 26, explained: “It was very unexpected. I was living out in Cyprus with my husband, who’s in the army, so we had no friends and family around us.

“We then had to have her repatriated back to the UK. It had been such a good pregnancy, with no sickness and no problems. We’d just bought our first house in Darlington and we had no furniture, nothing. We had a TV that somebody lent to us and I remember watching the EastEnders storyline about the stillborn and just bawling my eyes out. It was horrible – like a nightmare. I was in agony. I started to make memory boxes for hospitals as a way to cope and give something back, but there were already a few organisations providing a good service with these, whereas with clothing there was literally nothing provided in nearly every hospital we spoke to.”

To fund the new project, Angel Gowns With Love was awarded £543 from County Durham Community Foundation’s Micro Grants programme.

Abra explained how the idea came about: “When ladies have a miscarriage they don’t have anything to remember the baby by.

“I’ve had two miscarriages. There’s nothing there but it’s still your baby. For me it would have been nice to have a candle, a teddy or an angel to help remember those babies. When you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a long time – and then you finally are and you lose the baby, it’s just so hard. You think you’ll never be a mum.

“Miscarriage is so common – these packs are wanted and needed. If the baby is less than 16 weeks old then ladies are sent home with nothing.

“Since we started Angel Gowns we’ve spoken to lots of older women who had miscarriages or stillborn babies years and years ago and they never knew the sex of the baby, or even where the baby was buried – which is heartbreaking. They’ve never forgotten – it’s stayed with them.”

Making a Difference

Angel Gowns with Love has attracted 15 seamstresses from all over the country who give their time and talent to making burial gowns. And because the project has grown so much, Helen, Avril and Abra are now looking for premises to keep up with their storage needs and ways to fund the project.

Helen Gordon explained: “Our volunteers work at their own pace and every few months we get together and put together packs.

“Grants like this are very important. We’ve always managed to keep our costs down but our volunteers often can’t afford to buy materials and we wouldn’t expect them to either.

“A lot of our volunteers have lost children or grandchildren and I think it’s therapeutic for them because they can talk about it, whereas otherwise they might not. We don’t see it as a morbid thing. We talk and discuss the gowns, which is useful, because you learn that everyone has different tastes.

“We want to take away the stress of parents having to think how to dress these babies. People have had to resort to using doll’s clothes which is awful, or a sleep suit that is enormous.

“The reality is that this happens to many families and many of us know someone who has lost a baby.”

With Thanks to You

“It’s hard to raise money as we don’t have charity status and we really need more storage for all the dresses and the materials but it’s something we really care about. I think we’ve sent out more than 1,500 packs since we started and had more than 200 dresses donated. In fact we have been so overwhelmed with offers of wedding dresses that we have a two year-long waiting list.

“It’s something I love to do. I’ll sit up until midnight checking each pack is perfect and there’s no stray thread anywhere. I like them to be perfect.”

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