The Perfect Outfit

As a loss mom, unfortunately, there’s not too much that people ask me to share about my daughter.

I certainly don’t have as many memories to share as other women whom have living children, but the precious moments I do have will last me a lifetime, and I love to talk about them.

Perhaps people think it will be too sad for me — or even for them — to talk about but another loss mom inspired me to, so I’d like to share about my daughter Alyssa’s one and only outfit –the one she wore at her wake.

Before Alyssa  died, when I was still blissfully pregnant and after I found out she was a girl, I had bought a few onesies for her. One of them was purple, with a pink heart that said “Dad” in purple letters. I loved this shirt and I thought Alyssa’s daddy would love it, too. Of course, he did. He literally would sleep with the shirt under him. Little did we know just how much this shirt would mean to us later.

You see, even for babies, you still have to figure out what they will wear for funerals or wakes after they die. After she died, we made the painstaking trip to two different baby stores, looking for an outfit for her to wear in her casket. Not only had we endured every parent’s worst nightmare of hearing their child had died, now we had to actually plan our child’s wake.

Right away we decided that she would wear the onesie that says Dad. It was big for her, but that was fine. We needed the rest of the outfit.

I wanted to get a blanket and hat for her, and pink footsies so she could be warm. Her one and only outfit had to be perfect, and everything had to be pink. And the hat and footsie had to be for a preemie baby.

So we went to a baby store, mourning our baby, while other moms walked along with their happy smiling babies. Aisles upon aisles of things we would never buy for her loomed in front of us, smacking us in the face with each passing look. We could not find pink preemie footsies for the life of us. My husband was getting upset, rightfully so. He wanted to get out of the store. I finally gave up and had found preemie pants and grabbed some socks. For some reason it didn’t feel right — I wanted pink footsies –but I had no choice. I literally felt that she would be uncomfortable with socks on instead of little footsies. I knew she had died, but my a mother’s instinct — even in death — is always to protect your child.

We looked for blankets, but once again, there was not a big selection.

By some sort of miracle, I finally found the “perfect” blanket: pink, with two little birds, a mom and a baby. That blanket –although I’ve only touched it twice since then –has been an important item for me, as I soon came to believe that Alyssa’s sign to us that she is near are birds. We also found a pink hat with white butterflies.

Lastly, I searched for a memory box and a memory album for her. That also proved impossibly hard–as the books always goes on to say things like “first Christmas”, “first birthday”, “first day of kindergarten”, etc. But I wanted some sort of memory album and so I bought it. Feeling disappointed but resigned to the fact that her outfit wouldn’t be totally perfect, we walked over to checkout. As we passed there were boxes closer to the cashier with small toys and other items. In one box, where it shouldn’t have been, I spotted a pair of pink footsies. I picked them up. It was for a preemie! I look back at that day regularly and I feel that my daughter, knowing how important this outfit would be to me, was there with me in the store. I knew exactly what I wanted and I think she helped me find it. Finally, I had her perfect outfit.

There is not much we can control when we lose our children. And so having control over something like this –a lasting memory–is priceless to us.

That Friday, not even a week after she passed, we saw her in her little casket with the outfit I had dropped off at the funeral home. She looked absolutely beautiful. This would be the second and last time we would ever see our daughter in person, and of course, we took pictures. I have those pictures now in frames up in my apartment, and I am grateful that I can say that I picked out her outfit. Our closest family members looked upon her face and her Dad onesie, and her birdie blanket. Then they put toys, letters, books and flowers in her casket too, and I had bought a sleeping lamb that went right next to her to sleep with her in eternal slumber. I am grateful for that image, though heartbreaking as it is — with the choices we had — came out more beautiful than I ever imagined.

It’s the only outfit she’d ever wear, but it was exactly the one I wanted for her.

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I want to add that I did get ideas for how to memorialize my daughter from a book called “When Hello Means Goodbye” by Paul Kirk and Pat Schweibert. Also, I wrote this post in tribute to my daughter’s second anniversary of her due date, which is 2/15.

Melissa Ayala gave birth to her beautiful stillborn daughter Alyssa Jordan Henderson in November 2015 at 6.5 months gestation. She is a part-time school nurse, trying to take life one day at a time. She is always looking for news ways to get support in this journey without her daughter.

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