Rose Ann Milbert: Clothing “Littlest Angels”
The pain that parents experience when they lose a baby at birth cuts them to the core. Rose Ann Milbert is a retired obstetrics nurse who has walked with many parents during this painful journey. Today, she devotes herself to helping those grieving parents make the time with their “angel babies” as special as possible.
In 2014 Rose Ann heard about an organization in Texas that provided beautiful burial gowns for babies who never made it home with their parents from the hospital. Her own children were grown and, also being a professional seamstress, she said, “I can do this.”
She was working in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at Magee Women’s Hospital of Pittsburgh at the time, and presented her administration with a proposal, which was accepted. She then solicited and gained help from friends and co-workers, and started what became the unofficial start of Littlest Angels, Inc.
Rose Ann, along with a team of 8-10 volunteers, uses the fabric, lace and beads from donated wedding gowns to create beautiful custom baby burial gowns. They then package the gowns with bonnets and Littlest Angel pins for participating hospitals to have ready when a baby dies before, during or shortly after birth. As the baby is cleaned and prepared for the parents to hold, the little one is also dressed in a beautiful white gown.
“The short time that the parents get to hold a baby they don’t get to bring home is sacred,” Rose Ann explains. “It’s a moment that becomes a memory that will be with them forever. They will always carry that mental picture of their precious baby, and it’s important that the little one be clothed in a special and appropriate way. I consider it a privilege to be able to provide a gown for that little one.” This, she says, is her ministry from God to serve others.
Some parents choose to have their baby buried in the Littlest Angels gown. Others choose to treasure it as a keepsake, remembering that it was the gown that their child, too quickly gone, once wore. Either way, the impact of that custom-created clothing is great.
After Rose Ann decided to create the baby gowns, and while she was still working full time as a nurse, she brought home a packed car-full of wedding gowns for the project. Her husband, surprised by the massive quantity of dresses she had, laughed and asked her how long she was planning on making Littlest Angel dresses. “I looked at him and told him, ‘Forever,’” she remembers.
Rose Ann and her fellow Littlest Angel volunteers create about 10-12 small baby gowns from each donated wedding dress. To date they have made nearly 10,000 gowns for babies who’ve not made it home with their parents.
Littlest Angels Inc. provides baby gowns to Magee and Children’s Hospitals in Pittsburgh, three hospitals in New York and others in Georgia, South Carolina, Ohio and Illinois. The most recent hospitals, asking to partner with Littlest Angels only this past week, include two in Mississippi and one in Louisiana.
Rose Ann feels that the Lord prepared her for this special role long before she ever dreamed it was possible. From the time she was young, she knew she wanted to go into maternity and obstetrics nursing. She had started sewing at the age of 14, became quite good at it, and laughs that she was the only nursing student in her dormitory with a sewing machine in her room.
When Rose Ann retired from nursing in 2020, she expanded her home seamstress business, but never considered stopping her work on Littlest Angel gowns. She’s had a lot of feedback from parents and hospitals over the years that has kept her going. She kept a scrapbook full of notes and pictures.
A message from one mom says, “I have been trying to find the words to share my gratitude for the special gift your talents brought to our tragedy.” She and her husband hadn’t known the gender of their child in advance, and so only brought a basic sleeper to the hospital. It didn’t seem fitting for her little girl, who was stillborn at 36 weeks.
“My angel looked so beautiful in her white gown with precious pink bows around the neck and beautiful lace at the bottom, complete with pearl accents. She looked so beautiful because you and your volunteers share your gift of time and talent and pure love with families such as ours.”
She continues, “The original plan was to bury our daughter in the precious gown, but when my husband and I removed it from the memory box, we just couldn’t part with it. The gown is truly hers and reminds us every day that she was really here on earth and is beautiful. Thank you so very much and please know how much your gift touched our hearts and continues to do so.”
“Lord, when did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?” . . .
“The King will reply, ‘Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
- Matthew 25:38, 40
That mother became one of many mothers of “angel babies” who later donated her wedding dress so that she could, in turn, help other parents in their time of loss.
Littlest Angels Inc. is a nonprofit charitable organization. The gowns (or wraps, for extremely tiny babies) and bonnets are provided at no expense to families or hospitals that distribute them. Would you like to share your talents or resources for this cause? More volunteers are needed to create the items. Resources are also needed to cover expenses for supplies such as boxes (they’re $5 each), postage for shipments to hospitals at a distance, ribbons, bows and angel pins. Currently, no new wedding gowns are needed.
For information contact Rose Ann Milbert at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also a public Facebook group called Littlest Angel Gowns.