For the past three years Jeananne Orfanos has been turning wedding gowns into beautiful garments for babies who have been lost too soon. She and her group of volunteers, Angel Babies Up North In FNQ, make the garments and give them to families whose children are stillborn or pass away soon after birth.
Orfanos has run stalls at wedding expos and craft fairs, to get the word out about what the group does. But when she tried to book a stall for this weekend’s Baby Welcome and Family Expo, run by Cairns Regional Council, she was knocked back. She rang the council, and even offered to change the display, but the answer was still no.
“I was a bit like a stunned mullet,” Orfanos tells Mamamia. “They said it was just unsuitable and they really didn’t want us there. They wanted ‘happy and bright’, and ‘welcome baby’. I understand that, but a lot of people aren’t going to have that. A lot of people are going to suffer this horrible thing of their baby just doesn’t survive.”
The council’s refusal to let the group have a stall at the expo has sparked controversy in Cairns. Orfanos says from the comments she’s been reading online, most people are on her side.
“There have only been about three people that I’ve read that have said, ‘Well, I agree with the council.’ Other people have said, ‘Well, obviously, you haven’t lost a child. If you’d lost a child or a grandchild, you would probably think differently.'”
Jeananne Orfanos at work on a donated wedding gown. Photo supplied.
Orfanos herself has been through the grief of losing a grandchild. Her son and his partner lost their first baby more than 15 years ago.
"They said, 'Mum, the baby was handed to us wrapped up in a gauze from the hospital, dumped in a paper bag,'" she remembers. "That's how it was. I've heard horrific stories of women being handed their little baby that's like two months gestation in a paper cup. Terrible stories."
Thanks to women like Orfanos, it doesn't have to be like that anymore.