A grieving mother finds comfort and purpose in creating clothing for children lost through pregnancy
When Keira found out she was pregnant with identical twin girls, her joy doubled. There were two car seats, two cribs, two minds — Keira’s and her husband’s — coming together to figure out how to help these girls find their individuality in the world that would label them “the twins.” After learning that the chance of having identical twins was only .003 percent worldwide, they were in awe of the miracle that was taking place in their family.
But soon their joy was clouded with apprehension; they learned that their precious girls were at risk for a rare and dangerous condition called Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS), that would put both of their lives in danger if it progressed. TTTS occurs when twins receive unequal amounts of blood from the shared placenta and blood supplies. In more severe cases, the abnormal amounts of blood, one receiving too little and the other one too much, may result in heart failure and death.
Emberly and Adelaide in utero
In the days that followed, Keira’ family hoped for the best, but the news kept getting worse: she found out that she did have a severe case of TTTS, and it was progressing. A laser ablation surgery, in which a laser device severs the veins and arteries in the shared placenta, had to be urgently performed to give both babies a chance to survive. The heart of tiny Adelaide stopped four days later, and Keira could no longer feel one of her babies kicking. She felt a complete lack of control, a sense of having failed Adelaide as a mother, whose most important job was to keep her child safe. The danger of losing Emberly was still present, and Keira did everything she could to keep her little survivor safe while preparing for birth – and for death.
“Having clothing appropriate for her size and condition provided invaluable experience for my husband and me, an opportunity to do something for her as her parents.”
What is a parent to do when the remarkable journey of bringing a new life into the world instead results in a death? According to Scientificamerican.com, stillbirths in America add up to about 26,000 each year, with each little life ending before it began, without leaving any tangible trace of their existence, except for touching the hearts of those who loved and welcomed them.
Keira recalls waiting for the arrival of her daughters, “I started to try to figure out what clothing I would be able to use, so that she wouldn’t be buried naked, and what keepsakes I wanted to try to gather in our brief time with her.” During the fleeting moments she had with Adelaide, Keira wanted to wrap her daughter in clothing made just for her. She also wanted to have something that Adelaide has physically touched in this world to hold on to forever, but she knew that there was no commercial clothing that would fit.
A tiny tunic by Angel Outfitters
Keira’s search led her to Teeny Tears Bereavement Diapers and Angel Outfitters – two volunteer service organizations that provide appropriately sized and easy to use diapers and clothing to hospitals and bereavement support groups, offering them free of charge to families who have suffered a loss of a child through pregnancy or in NICU. Being able to dress Adelaide was empowering, and made a difference for Keira, “Having clothing appropriate for her size and condition provided invaluable experience for my husband and me, an opportunity to do something for her as her parents.”
Angel Outfitters’ beautiful tunics, hats, baby bunting, and Teeny Tears’ diapers are handcrafted by volunteers, who are often angel families themselves. They refer to their lost children as angels, since for the brief time they were with their families, love was their only experience in the world. Every clothing item comes with a card, which allows the volunteer to donate in memory of their own angel, creating a personal connection between the newly grieving parent and the donor.
Keira’s art for Chalk It Up, a chalk art festival in Sacramento, CA
Christine of Angel Outfitters explains the importance of having this connection between the donor and the bereaved parent. “Our buntings, made with love, tell parents that someone understands that their child existed, that they are special, loved, real, and that they matter. The love that goes into these outfits tells a grieving parent that someone understands that their loss is tremendous.”
“The love that goes into these outfits tells a grieving parent that someone understands that their loss is tremendous.”
Angel Outfitters does much more than provide a unique and much needed service for parents who have lost a new child — the process of creating these Angel Outfits allows the volunteers to heal from their own loss. In time, Keira herself began to create clothing for Angel Outfitters and Teeny Tears. “Sewing these beautiful, tiny clothing items was/is my therapy.” Working with fellow loss moms has led Keira to meaningful friendships, and she takes comfort in knowing that through the outfits made in Adelaide’s memory, she is helping other families feel less alone.
“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”
— A.A. Milne