They come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Sparkles or no sparkles. Lace or no lace. Long, short, flowy, clingy, ballgowns, a lines and so many other choices.
To a woman, a wedding dress is the gown of all gowns. It's the one day of your life when you get to dress like your own kind of princess and get away with it. On a deeper level, the wedding dress is a symbol of purity, of hope for your future, of love, of tradition, of family.
To me, it was pretty much that. My wedding dress was 'my dress'. It was just the right amount of sparkle, of princess, of elegance, of simplicity all rolled into one poofy, sparkly dress. I can even recall very clearly the day that I picked it out. It was a little over 14 years ago. I went to a little store in Rexburg, Idaho with my mom and my grandma. Just them and me. It was a special day spent with women that I admire most in the world. I tried on a few dresses...and then that one. I had 'the moment'. Tears and the whole shebang. All of it.
I also remember very clearly the day that I wore my dress. We arrived at the Mount Timpanogos temple in the morning and went directly to the bride's room with my mother. I made sure my makeup was okay, checked my hair, I put on my dress and my temple clothes and went to meet my Superman. I remember sitting with him waiting to go into the sealing room and feeling so content and so incredibly happy.
In that moment, that dress absolutely was about tradition, hope, love, purity and family.
The rest of the day is a blur, but throughout the whole day, that dress was about tradition, hope, love, purity and family.
Fast forward 14 years.
I had always dreamed of passing that dress on to my daughter. I had always loved the idea of it. My dress was a timeless, classic a line- which will always be in style. I've kept it in the bag in my cedar chest in hopes that a daughter would eventually come along. And she hasn't. For some reason, that dress has become less and less of what it was meant to be. It is a reminder of hopes and dreams that will never come true. It's a reminder of my naivete. And to be frank, it makes me feel like I've let everyone associated with that dress down.
Even as I write this, I know that those words are so untrue. I haven't let anyone down. I'm a good woman with an amazing husband. It's just...sad sometimes.
As I looked at my dress recently, I felt saddened and ashamed. Saddened at the loss of the idea and dream of seeing my own daughter wear it one day and ashamed that I've let it sit there for 14 years, ashamed that I'm letting that dress go to waste, ashamed that my beautiful grandma spent so much money on it for one day.
It has recently come to my attention that old wedding dresses are being repurposed to make bereavement gowns for babies who die right after birth or who are stillborn. This is something that is incredibly close to my heart. I have many friends who have suffered this exact thing. I myself had a miscarriage that I've never quite found peace with. I've struggled with this decision for a year or so. I've been holding on to this dress that once meant everything to me for 14 years. It doesn't fit. It never will fit again I'm sure, and there's no one to give it to. It only seems logical.
But, then, it tugs at my heart strings. It's my dress. I can never relive those days again and it's the only tangible thing I have left of that day with my mom and grandma. Once it's gone, I can never get it back. Ever.
But then my heart gives me another answer....which has really guided my decision. The loss of a child is something that no one should have to suffer. All their dreams and hopes and love for that baby are suddenly turned into a daily nightmare that you can't walk away from. And in order to ease that burden for that grieving family, a beautifully made bereavement gown is given to them for their child. And it brings it right back to hope, purity, love, tradition and family.
I believe that families are forever. I believe that when we get to the hereafter, those of us that have lost babies will be able to raise them. I believe this with all my heart. And how better to show that belief and love and hope for an eternal family than to help another family through their time of need? I can't bring our children back. I can't make that hurt go away. I can't wipe every tear of every mother who suffers. But what I can do is donate my dress, my dress full of love and hope and tradition and purity and FAMILY, to a family that desperately needs those things.
Which is why I've decided to donate my dress. I've found a semi local organization (as opposed to a larger one that is currently not accepting dresses...) and have now dropped off my dress to a woman with a kind face. I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried. I cried all the way there and all the way back. I cried for many reasons. I cried for the loss of a dream, mourning my baby, for the pain of a family that I will never meet. I cried for the absolute healing in my own life. I cried because I know that families are forever and that all of us will be able to hold those babies in our arms one day.
I know it sounds incredibly silly, but it's almost like I am giving my dress to my child vicariously. I know that this isn't a solution for everyone, but for me, it's brought an incredible amount of healing and comfort and peace that I needed badly. It's the first step on the road to acceptance and healing and I, for one, am eager to get that journey started.