Josh and Jessica Heffinger were excited in 2010.
“We got pregnant. Her name was Riley Marie,” Jessica Heffinger said. “We went in for a 21-week ultrasound. We already knew she was a girl.”
But when the technician didn’t turn the monitor around to show them pictures, Jessica Heffinger knew something was wrong. When the tech left the room, she turned the screen and noticed there were only five pictures taken and one of them had a straight line through it.
“The tech said we’d wait until the doctor came in,” Jessica Heffinger said. “The doctor said there was not a heartbeat.”
Not only did she have to deal with the pain of knowing her child had died, she had to go through childbirth.
“I didn’t know I’d have to deliver,” she said. “We delivered stillborn at 9:54 Dec. 3.”
Riley died because she had a blood clot in her umbilical cord.
“I have a blood clotting condition,” Jessica Heffinger said. “I had to take blood thinner shots during every pregnancy.”
The Heffingers suffered two miscarriages in 2013. They now have three children at home.
“These times were difficult. We wondered why something like this happened,” Josh Heffinger said. “We had to trust in God. Our marriage was strengthened. Our hope is to give families some comfort in this.”
Jessica Heffinger agreed.
“We went through a lot of emotion,” she said. “Josh and I prayed for some way to give God glory.”
They hope to achieve that by founding Glory Baby, a new ministry that collects special occasion dresses to make wraps and gowns for stillborn babies and infants who die before leaving the hospital. The free service is affiliated with the Care Ministry with the Hope Center for Biblical Counseling, which is a ministry of Living Hope Baptist Church. The Glory Baby program is not directly affiliated with Living Hope, however.
“We take wedding dresses, flower girl dresses, first communion dresses and prom dresses. We’ll take dresses of any age. We have three seamstresses who volunteer their time. They take them apart and use a pattern and turn them into little wraps from the size of your hand to 0 to 3 months old,” Jessica Heffinger said. “Out of one wedding dress you can get seven to 10 wraps made. Most of the material is what the seamstresses can use to make the gowns. The seamstresses volunteer when they can.”
Jessica Heffinger, who is also a professional photographer, got the idea from one of her clients, who helps out with a similar ministry in Owensboro – God’s Littlest Angels. The ministry already supplied dresses to The Medical Center. The client said Jessica Heffinger should start a ministry of her own.
“Three weeks ago, the ministry hit the ground running,” she said. “We have 11 dresses donated and 12 coming.”
The Heffingers want parents who have lost a child to get more than they did, which included a photo of Riley in a blood-covered blanket.
“They can choose to take pictures in the wraps,” Jessica Heffinger said. “It’s up to them how they want to use it in memory of the child.”
In the bag that the parents will receive, there will be a card for the Hope Center in case they need counseling.
“We turned to the church as best as we could. We hope that this will give parents a way to reach out,” Jessica Heffinger said. “It’s surprising the number of people who don’t have support. People shouldn’t have to go through it alone.”
The ministry has been blessed, Jessica Heffinger said.
“We have not had to put any personal money in,” she said. “Someone volunteered to pay for our P.O. box for a year.”
Josh Heffinger agreed.
“We’ve received so much help from the community,” he said. “There are so many people here who have lost babies.”
The ministry needs experienced seamstresses, dresses, Scotchgard Fabric Protector, Borax powder, Shout Triple Acting Stain Remover or Zout Stain Remover and Tide Free and Gentle Detergent. The Hope Center at 1805 Westen St. will be the drop-off center for the dresses beginning April 17.