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Gracie's Gifts: Hand-made items help grieving parents deal with infant loss

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Carrie Verdeyen believes “there is no foot so small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world.”

The anonymous quotation is commonly shared by parents who have suffered a loss either by miscarriage, early pregnancy, stillbirth, or in early infancy.

Having experienced six losses, Verdeyen feels this hurt often, and through this pain she has reached out to others in similar situations.

“When you lose a baby, you lose (a part of) your future. You lose the plans you have made. And every loss is different for each person,” said Verdeyen, 36, of Toledo.

Named for Trinity Grace, her daughter that she carried the longest, “Gracie’s Gifts,” is a way to give grieving parents a remembrance.

Verdeyen, along with the help of her mother, Denise Light, 59, also of Toledo, hand-makes tiny blankets, booties and hats; tiny burial clothes for boys and girls; and even small soft pouches for the tiniest and most fragile of all babies, in which to be buried.

Or the outfits designed at about the gestation size, could become a keepsake for bereaved parents.

Verdeyen’s six pregnancies each ended at different levels of gestation and each one due to different complications.

She and her husband, Luke, are now approved to be adoptive parents, and are now awaiting a baby, but they also want to try to get pregnant again using In Vitro Fertilization.

Through resources and social networking tools such as Facebook, she learned that couples in this same situation felt a common bond, in that they have nothing to hold onto, after the loss.

“This is a project that sprouted from love, in memory of one of my sweet angels, Gracie, and all the other angel babies, loved and lost too soon,” said Verdeyen.

Gracie’s Gifts was born about 1½ years ago.

“This is how she gets through her grief. Nobody wants to talk about this (infant loss). It is something that makes everyone uncomfortable,” said Light, whose husband is Tom.

The clothes are designed using a doll clothing pattern and the best attempt is given to fit even the tiniest babies.

While the front may feature delicate lace or fancy buttons, the back is closed by a small piece of Velcro.

“It isn’t just a dress, or a blanket. A lot of tears go into each one. They are each made with a lot of love — and tears. Sometimes, a break needs to be had in the process,” Verdeyen said.

Ten years ago, she lost her first baby. Five other losses, including a set of twins, came in the past three years.

“Helping other people, helps me. It helps heal my heart when I can help someone else. Sharing keeps it real.” Verdeyen said.

Gracie’s Gifts works because of donations of wedding gowns, bridesmaids dresses and other formal wear. Each piece is carefully used to create the delicate wears for infants.

The mother-daughter duo also accept and appreciate crocheted and knitted items. They said they have plenty of yarn and thread, but skills are needed to create hats, blankets and outfits. They welcome help by someone who can knit or crochet.

Verdeyen said after the loss of Gracie, she went searching for resources for infant loss and pregnancy loss families.

She learned many of them wished for a blanket or little clothes, but because often the loss wasn’t expected, and they had nothing.

“She didn’t have this when Gracie died. She didn’t have any remembrances to keep. She is now finding other parents who are in this same situation. What she didn’t have, is what we are now trying to give other people,” her mother said.

The little dresses and small suits are also gifts Verdeyen and Light make to keep as a remembrance or as a burial gift.

They discovered hospitals don’t have access to these kinds of clothes for babies born too soon and don’t survive. After she approached several hospitals, and the administration at these facilities, most are interested.

“I’ve been in touch with 15 area hospitals and they almost all want these items. There is a need,” she said.

Light said the pair carefully cut away lace designs and re-stitch it to the new infant dresses.

“If we can use it, we cut it into pieces. But, sometimes the fabric isn’t suitable for a baby, and then it is passed along to someone or another organization that can use the dress in another way,” she said.

Both Light and Verdeyen understand that talking about infant loss is sometimes thought as a “taboo topic.” But they believe each baby counts and each one existed for a reason.

To date, the two have made about 50 dresses and outfits and 75 blankets and pouches, which are given away at no cost.

Gifts have been given to people whose loss came several years ago, and who live out of state or out of the area. At least one of Gracie’s Gifts went to a mother in Canada, who had requested.

Material is donated by friends and others learning about this mission. Time, talent and shipping costs are donated by Verdeyen and her family.

Infant loss isn’t just about the mom and dad.

“These losses affect our whole family. My mom and dad also lost grandkids,” Verdeyen said.

Contact Schabbing at or 217-238-6864.


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