Today I said goodbye to my wedding dress.
I didn't, as I perhaps liked to imagine on the day that I wore it, give it to my daughter. I haven't kept it for her to play dress-up with, or try on, or laugh at, or use the material for christening gowns of her own years away from now. Because I can't. My wedding dress hangs like a ghost in my wardrobe haunting me with the conversations I would never have with Elin about it and with images of her dancing around in it, laughing, that I would never see.
I'm not trying to be dramatic. I realise if things had been different, I might have had a son -probably rendering my dress uninteresting anyway. If things had been different it might have been something me and my daughter never got round to thinking about. After all, I don't think I ever tried my Mum's wedding dress on, despite pouring over the photo's when I was younger.
I'll never know what I would have done with it, if things had been different. If Elin had been different. But what I do know is what I will definitely never be able to do with it, which is share it with my daughter, on whatever level. So there it has hung, for the past 11 years silently mocking my idle daydreams from the corner of my cupboard. I've never even put it back on myself, not since Elin was born anyway. I harboured an in-built fear that it might hang there forever until I was old and demented and would be tempted to dress in it once more, gliding around a cobwebbed home like Miss Havisham. Eek.
So, what do you do with a wedding dress you don't think you want anymore?
Well, in my case you send it to an absolutely amazing charity, which is what I've done this week. Months ago I heard of a very special charity. The more I read up on their work, the more it touched my heart. I emailed them so long ago I'd almost forgotten about it and recently received an email back, saying they could finally accept my dress (this length of response time is a good thing, it happily means they have lots of donations) The charity I sent my wedding dress to is called Cherished Gowns UK.
They take wedding dresses and using a family of volunteer dressmakers from across the UK they turn the dresses into miniature gowns for stillborn or premature babies to be buried in.
The testimonials are amazing.
But how I wish nobody ever needed one of these little gowns.
I know I have never experienced this. I cannot really imagine the pain - I'm not pretending I can. But someone close to me has and so I do feel I have some of an insight, however fleeting. I will also remember the moment the midwives delivered Elin and the cry that never came for the rest of my life. It's etched on my heart. A life changing silence. But, how lucky we were. The silence was not finite. It so easily could have been and it is for so many Mummy's (far too many, still, in this day and age). And I imagine those Mummy's, and their dreams and their hopes and how they can drain away, along with the colour from you face and the blood from your heart and the map of your future, just as quickly as a blue line can pop up on a pregnancy test. And I think, if I was them I wouldn't want to think of anything. I definitely wouldn't want to try and find something appropriate for my sleeping baby to wear. But I would have to.. and I wouldn't want dolls clothes, or clothes I might spot another baby wearing at the supermarket. I would want something special. Perhaps it would bring me some small comfort that someone far away had donated their most treasured dress for this purpose. Perhaps the fact that they understood and cared, even from an almighty distance would help me feel I wasn't alone in my torture. I think that would mean a lot.
So, I donated my dress and packed it up yesterday and I wasn't even sad. I have no right to be sad about losing a dress when so many have lost so much more, so much that we were so close to losing, too.
It's just a dress. It's what it represents that's important and you can't give a promise away to charity. A promise lives in your heart, not your wardrobe.
Sharing it with Elin is not, in the great scheme of things, important. All that is important is that she is here with us, sharing every moment. That's worth a thousand material possessions and more and always will be.