A baby’s last moments, wrapped in love
These women transform wedding gowns into clothing for a baby’s last rites.
Too soon, too small - and the clothing he wore only emphasised this heartrending fact.
It’s been some years, but Felicia Tan can still remember the clothes given to her by a nurse for her baby Dominic, who died minutes after being delivered early at 23 weeks.
It was the smallest size for a newborn, but even so, “the smallest size was still very big”, said Felicia.
“But at least he had something to put on.”
An estimated one in four to six pregnancies end in a miscarriage1.
And sometimes, parents whose babies are premature — like Felicia — have to bury their children in clothing too big for them.
To address this, a group of women formed Angel Gowns Singapore in 2016, painstaking repurposing donated wedding gowns and other bridalwear into tiny pieces of burial clothing, called angel gowns.
So far, Angel Gowns — now known as Angel Hearts — has given close to 1,000 gowns, wraps, bonnets and beanies to bereaved parents, sewn by dedicated volunteers.
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Felicia would go on to suffer one more miscarriage, before finally conceiving and delivering her son Titus in 2015.
By volunteering with Angel Hearts, she has found a way to turn her grief into a source of support for other parents. While Felicia doesn’t sew, she helps with the group’s logistics and paperwork.
She also reaches out to parents within the group who are grieving to offer a listening ear. “I lost my baby Dominic prematurely, but now I use my experience to support others going through the same journey,” she says.
Angel Hearts now offers sewing courses for parents who wish to sew and help make angel gowns. It also plans to hold grief recovery programmes run by counsellors to further support parents.
The gowns are given to parents through various hospitals, but from time to time, volunteers hear from grateful parents.
One parent wrote a letter in the voice of her child, who died at 14 weeks, describing her pain of having to decide whether to see her child one last time. “But in the end, Mama did,” the letter reads.
“She knew in her heart she would regret it if she didn’t see me for that one last and only time.
“Thank you for making me the beautiful angel gown and beanie. It brought Papa and Mama great comfort, in seeing me clothed in them.
“Because of you, I could be sent to heaven dressed with dignity.”
1 — Data taken from KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital
There are a variety of ways to help. Read more on Yong En Tay's experience in getting involved with Angel Hearts.