baby

They make garments for stillborn babies, but they've been banned from a baby expo.

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.

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"We've made little cocoons. The nurses these days put the baby into a little cocoon, wrap it up, and there's beautiful wedding bodice embellishments on the outside, and their precious little jewel is wrapped in precious jewels from someone who's donated their precious dress. It's just nice."

The women in her group also knit tiny little booties and hats.

"Some of the booties that we get the ladies to knit would fit on your little finger. The nurses want two pairs of the same, and two tiny little beanies, and then they dress the little baby, pop it in the cocoon, and then say to the parents, 'Well, your baby has got this hat and these little booties on. Would you like this pair as a memory?'"

One of the beautiful garments made by a volunteer. Photo supplied. 

A spokesperson for Cairns Regional Council says the Baby Welcome and Family Expo is a "traditional civic event to formally welcome the city’s newest community members".

"The ceremony will be supported by about 30 stalls with a range of products and services suitable for babies and young children, along with kids’ entertainment," the spokesperson said. "Stallholders were required to apply to be part of the ceremony and were selected based on how well they fit with the event objective.

"After careful consideration, it was determined that this particular stall did not fit with the theme of what is a fun, light-hearted and celebratory civic event aimed at parents with babies and young children. The group has been offered a stall at future, more suitable events."

Orfanos says she doesn't hold any animosity towards the council for not letting her group have a stall at the expo.

"It's their decision. It's what they want there. But I still think they're wrong. I'm not angry at them, but I still think they're wrong."

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