Last week I was surprised to see a press release from a group called ‘B.C. Angel Dresses.’
I first covered the so-called ‘Angel Dresses’ initiative when I was living in Saskatchewan in 2014. At the time, I spoke directly with Becky Panter, the person who started this initiative in Canada.
This all began when Panter, who suffered a miscarriage in February 2014, stumbled into a Facebook page from Texas called ‘Helping hands’ angel gowns.’
The Facebook page connected women willing to donate their wedding, bridesmaid or grad dresses to volunteer seamstresses, who then transformed these dresses into delicate outfits given to parents whose babies were stillborn, premature, or passed away.
Panter thought this initiative was worth supporting, so she created a Facebook page of her own called Angel Dresses. Little did she know how successful this initiative would become in such a short period of time. In only two months, her Facebook page had over 2000 members.
The Angel Dresses initiative has now spread to different parts of the country, with over 100 volunteers in B.C. But you might be wondering why so many people relate to this initiative.
After someone in my own family suffered a miscarriage, I learned that miscarriages are actually a lot more common than what most people think. According to The Globe and Mail, one in every four pregnant women experiences a miscarriage. That’s a staggering number.
If this issue is so common, why are we not talking about it more often?
The fact that we don’t talk about it means that women are often left to deal with their pain on their own. Just think about the ways that society helps people cope with the loss of loved ones: we have funerals, people bring you flowers, people make speeches, people check on you to make sure you’re okay, your friends call you, and sometimes it’s even acceptable to take time off work. But what happens to women who experience miscarriages?
First of all, many women don’t even tell their friends that they are pregnant during the first few weeks of pregnancy. They don’t mention they’re pregnant exactly because they know how fragile those first weeks are, and they don’t want to risk having to tell people they lost a baby.
When women do suffer a miscarriage, there are no funerals, people don’t bring them flowers (unless they are close friends), and many people won’t even know they’ve had a miscarriage. That is why Angel Dresses is so important to many women – because the simple act of receiving an ‘angel dress’ from a complete stranger reminds them that someone else acknowledges their pain, someone else cares.
“It’s knowing that other people care enough about lost babies and the families that are experiencing that,” explained Bobby-Jo Kowalski, administrator of the B.C. Angel Dresses. “It warms my heart to know that people care about people they don’t even know; people care about those babies that didn’t get a chance.”
I’m sure a lot of women in the Burns Lake area will relate to this initiative and find it meaningful. Kowalski said some people in the Lakes District have already expressed interest in donating their wedding, bridesmaid or grad dresses so that they can be turned into angel dresses.
The B.C. group is now looking for volunteers – dress collectors, seamstresses and area representatives – to complete the transformation of dresses in the Burns Lake area.
People can connect with B.C. Angel Dresses on Facebook at facebook.com/groups/bcangeldresses/, on Twitter at twitter.com/bcangeldresses, or on the group’s website at www.bcangeldresses.ca