As Alice was blessed on Sunday I made it my goal prior that I would make her the little white dress that she would wear for it. I pondered a lot on Poppy of course whilst making it and remembered the gorgeous little white dress my sister in law had made her. This project tested my mediocre sewing skills and certainly gave me a new appreciation for the gorgeous dress she had not only so carefully sewn for her burial but then replicated for my memory box – a gift I have suddenly treasured more so after this weekend. This week is “Baby loss Awareness week” and whilst we can be more open to sharing miscarriage, premature birth, neonatal death and stillbirth stories and videos on social media, the reality of infant loss stretches far beyond the week we have been allotted to talk about it, and it certainly goes beyond being one of the statistics discussed each year. It is the reality that I have 3 little white dresses but only 2 little girls. It is seeing your newest baby looking beautiful on a special day and you cannot help but think of the fact that this is just the start for her and that her big sister never had any of this. It is the gaps in every aspect of life…where I can make my kids many more dresses and clothes but for her I can do nothing. Baby loss this week for me is whilst I have had 3 daughters who each have worn their own special little white dresses as babies, only 2 will be dressed in white again in the future…
This pain of loss, this feeling of missing out on things with that child is the exact reason why I wanted to make Alice a dress for her blessing. I wanted it to be special and I wanted to put the work in this time like I had done to get her here safely. I wanted love to go into it because of what I felt in my heart for her and I wanted to use my wedding dress because it was a symbol of our union as a forever family! It didn’t seem fitting to just go buy her one (though I had looked) and Megan’s was a traditional one that I had chosen just for her. No, I had to make Alices, or at least try! And whilst my sewing skills are not outstanding they are forever improving and challenges like this are what I need to keep that going. I have never sewn a dress before and had little idea on how to put a sleeve in, but I knew I wanted to do it. I wanted long sleeves, a fancy layer and for it to be rather simple and classic. Thankfully it wasn’t as tricky as I thought and in fact it was a joy to make it.
Working on such a small scale was tricky at times but of course the plus there is that it only used a little fabric and to actually cut out, pin and put it all together only took me a couple of hours. The whole thing cost just £2.35 – £2/mtr for the white poly-cotton and 35p for a mtr of white ribbon, both from the market. The top layer was taken from my wedding dress and so has a sentimental element to it too. I have considered, and probably still will, of donating my dress to be used to make burial gowns for babies, and so by doing this it meant a piece of it remains in the family. I may take the whole top layer off before I do that and keep it to make the girls baptismal dresses when they are older, but I am still not 100% ready to part with it AND plus I am digressing!!!!
To make this dress I measured the dress Megan wore and then drew out the pattern on some heavy white paper. For the sleeves I used Pinterest and then drew it to scale on said paper. I then cut it all out, sewed binding onto the collar (there’s a first) and then front to back at just the shoulders. Next I sewed in the sleeve and down the side seams…shocker that it worked!! And finally after sewing up the sides of both skirt pieces I then attached them into the top I had made…finished with a hand sewn ribbon waistband.
I am very aware of the imperfections…the shoddy hand sewing that we joked about looking like Megs had helped, and the binding that’s not that amazing either. I can see the mistakes in it right down to the rough edges on the seams and how I even messed up the back trying to figure out how to make an opening for her fat head to go in. But these things are only noticeable if (a) you are a sewer and (b) if I was to show you. To anyone else looking at it, its a huge well done and rather impressive and to me, whilst I criticise it and joke, it is a great accomplishment; I not only made my 1st baby dress, but I made a little white dress for our daughters special day. I made a dress that she will hopefully keep forever, and I made a dress for an occasion that her sister never had the opportunity to wear.
There will be many many more occasions from starting school, to birthday parties and even down to special outfits our other children all get to wear.. it is the Christmases and the holidays we take, the days out and photos that are all the reminders of what we have lost and what we miss with that child. That is our life’s experience of baby loss … it transcends beyond one week a year because we want to talk about them daily and miss them daily. We hope to have them remembered and we want it to be acknowledged on the occasions like this, that whilst joyous carry pain! I have 3 little white dresses each belonging to my 3 daughters, but unfortunately because of still birth I only get to see 2 of them (and my son) grow up!