When Stephanie Parria and her daughter Courtney make Angel Gowns, they never feel alone.
“I never got a chance to meet Layla … every time I make one of these, I feel like she’s with me,” Parria said.
Courtney Fasola was 27 weeks pregnant when she tragically lost Layla. The day it happened, the hospital Courtney was receiving care at had only gauze to wrap Layla’s body in.
“She said her only regret was not having something better to put her child in … her wish from that point has been that no mother ever has to go through having to wrap their baby in gauze as their last outfit again,” said Parria, a Des Allemands native. “It’s already a traumatic experience that it made that much worse.”
The experience inspired Fasola and Parria to begin making Angel Gowns to donate to hospitals and parents who have lost a child. The name of their collaboration is Layla’s Angel Baby Gowns, honoring the daughter and granddaughter the family lost far too soon.
This month, the two delivered and donated 10 sets of Angel Gowns to the NICU at North Oaks Hospital in Hammond.
“Courtney asked me if there was anything we could do, and I started researching,” Parria said. “I came across a few sites where people were making Angel Gowns, and I thought that would be a good place for us to turn.”
Angel Gowns are infant burial gowns made to comfort bereaved families who have lost a child. These gowns are often made from wedding dresses, and Layla’s gowns are much the same, made from wedding dresses, formal gowns and other dress wear that have been donated to make angel boy and girl burial outfits.
Parria and Fasola include thoughtfully filled memory boxes with the gowns, and offered those to hospitals, birthing centers, funeral homes and directly to grieving families free of charge.
The package includes an angel outfit for the baby, a bunting or a wrap, a tiny blanket, a tiny hat, a card for the parents, and also keepsakes including mommy and me matching bracelets, angel wings or a heart made from the same material as the angel gown, a pouch for the keepsakes and a tiny toy for the “angel.”
The two have donated to several hospitals, including Ochsner locations and Children’s Hospital, and have even sent packages to out of state hospitals. Local volunteers have also helped Layla’s Angel Gowns expand its reach of families to comfort.
Parria called the process of making the gowns therapeutic.
“The way that it all happened … it just blindsided all of us,” Parria said. “It’s something we can do to help babies who are born an angel.”
Parria and Fasola are working on securing a building to store the gowns, which are beginning to take up considerable space at Parria’s home as the project grows larger.
Parria also noted anyone in need of the service can contact Layla’s Angel Baby Gowns on Facebook or email email@example.com. She added more volunteers are sought.
Layla would be four this year. Her name continues to live on in the service of others thanks to her mother and grandmother.