The littlest angels

By AMANDA SEXTON FERGUSON,

In 2019, Matt and Corey Miletello experienced tragedy most could not imagine.  They buried three babies who passed away shortly after being born prematurely.

Blaire McKinley Miletello was born on February 26, 2019, and passed away the next day.  Blaire was born after just 24 and five days weeks in gestation. 

Then five months later, the Miletellos discovered they were expecting once again, this time with twins.  The family was overjoyed by the news, as they prepared for the births of two boys.  However, at just 22 weeks and five days in gestation, Corey went into premature labor, and Ethan Paul and Owen Tanner were born on November 15.  They both passed away shortly after birth.

Not long ago, Corey was diagnosed with a condition called incompetent cervix, a birth defect she was born with.

“I was born without the strong band of tissue that most women have to keep babies in until they are full-term,” Corey shared with friends on social media. “Once my babies got big enough, gravity worked against us, and my body could no longer hold them. Also, this affected the ability for my body to protect our babies from infection which also contributed to their premature births. We (I) now know that there was nothing that I could have done differently.”

Corey has been approved to undergo a surgical procedure, transabdominal cervical cerclage, in May at a Chicago hospital.  A surgeon will place three bands of mersilene tape to the cervix that can hold a combined weight of 120-130 pounds to withstand more than enough weight of a full-term baby.

“With this surgery, I have been told that, once I made it past the typical risk of miscarriage at 12 weeks, I would have a 99.5 percent chance of having a full-term baby,” Corey said.

In coping with their own tragedy and in a way to honor their late daughter, Blaire, the Miletellos decided to do something to help other families experiencing the same kind of loss.  Along with family, friends, and members of their church family at North Winona Baptist Church, a group of ladies are making Angel Gowns for those infants who never leave the hospital.  These intricately detailed gowns of ribbons and lace, complete with a accompanying blanket, are made from wedding dresses donated for this very special cause.

Teresa Jackson, mother of Corey, said the nurses at the hospital dressed Blaire, Ethan, and Owen in Angel Gowns and brought them to the family to say goodbye, and it gave them comfort to see them in those beautiful gowns.

“There is comfort in seeing your babies in beautiful gowns, sometimes so tiny you can’t imagine,” Jackson said.

So last month, near the one year anniversary of Blaire’s birth, the Angel Gowns for Blaire project was created.  Corey wanted to raise awareness of the gift of Angel Gowns that are provided to families whose babies never leave the hospital.

“For her birthday, I am donating my wedding dress to have angel gowns made, and I’m so lucky to have my mom, Matt’s mom, and my sweet friend donate their wedding dresses along with my sister-in-law who donated purple (Blaire’s birthstone color) ribbon,” Corey announced on social media. “Super thankful for these amazing people in my life who love and wanted to honor Blaire’s life and memory with me. I will never get to see Blaire playing in my wedding dress, but this is a way I can still give my dress to her... in her memory.”

Jackson said her daughter had the idea after seeing a photograph of a little girl wearing her mother’s wedding dress.

“Corey has always loved the thought of her own little girl all dressed up in her wedding dress,” Jackson said.  “She can envision her with curly hair half up and falling around her shoulders, wearing a pair of her mommy’s high-heeled shoes and jewelry looking at herself in the mirror.  This is Corey giving her dress to Blaire, her little girl.”

Wedding dresses were donated by Jackson, Matt’s mother Serena Woods. Corey’s sister-in-law Savanna Jackson donated the ribbon that will be used.  A group of ladies at North Winona Baptist – Donna McNeer, Wanda Hathcock, Cori Bailey, Angie Branch, and Lanelle Martin – have volunteered to make the gowns.

“These women are the hands and feet of Jesus in so many ways,” Jackson said.  “They are going to donate the gowns they make in memory of Blaire and her brothers who were twins and passed away November 15.”

Jackson said the Angel Gowns created will be donated to University of Mississippi Medical Center in Grenada and OCH Regional Medical Center in Starkville because Blaire was born in Grenada and Ethan and Owen in Starkville, and they will reach out to other hospitals around the state.

To get involved with Angel Gowns for Blaire, email AngelGownsforBlaire@gmail.com.

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