It must be one of the most heart-wrenching experiences for a family to go through – to lose a child at birth, but grieving parents often seek solace in giving their lost little one a touching send-off, made easier for those in Lincolnshire by a woman who lives near Sleaford.
Shellie Blow, 51 of North Kyme, is a trustee and representative of a little-known national charity called Cherished Gowns UK. She co-ordinates a small team of volunteers in this area who make burial gowns for premature babies who fail to survive.
The gowns are made of the recycled material from donated wedding dresses.
It originated in Dover four years ago when a bereaved mum asked a friend to make a gown for her baby from her wedding dress and realised that many other grieving parents often find themselves with the added humiliation of having to scour toy shops for doll’s dresses to fit the tiny babies to be put to rest as nothing that small is stocked in baby shops.
Shellie first heard about it in 2016. She said: “It really touched my heart.
“I have been a seamstress for 30 years doing everything from childrenswear to bridal and London fashion designers.
“My work has been on the cover of Vogue a couple of times.
“I cannot work properly now because of health issues but thought I could do some good here.
“I also had a very early miscarriage in 1989 when there was nothing like this service then.”
In an ideal world she would like the charity to not be needed any more, but there are 38,000 babies a year who need it nationally
Shellie said: “There is a great demand all over. Every day approximately 17 babies are born too soon or too poorly in the UK.
“We make gowns in five sizes plus wraps for babies even smaller. They are packaged up with a blanket, hat, boots and a cloth nappy with a simple card.
“We put together 35 varying sized packs into a box and supply them to hospitals every six months to be offered to bereaved families, or sooner if they run out.”
Boston Pilgrim and Lincoln County Hospitals have both stocked the packs since December 2015 and have received 175 packs each to date.
The charity is also putting together a catalogue for funeral directors.
Shellie said: “The gowns are beautiful. We have a hashtag called ‘wrapped in love’.
“The fabric from a wedding day is filled with love and we put a lot of love into making the garments as it is the only time the parents will dress their baby.
“When I made my first gown I cried all the way through every stitch. It was a very emotional process, but it gives you a sense of satisfaction knowing that the parents are going to be able to put their baby into something beautiful and very fitting. We get so many letters and emails and calls thanking us for providing these things.”
She hopes to raise awareness of Cherished Gowns UK and recruit more volunteers. Contact them at: www.cherishedgowns.org.uk or www.facebook.com/cherishedgowns