My name is Ranzie Callahan and I am honored to share my story in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I live in Southern Illinois with my amazing family. Eleven years ago, I married my high school sweetheart, Jeffery. We have four children. Our sons are 6 and 3 years old and our second daughter is 4 weeks old. Our first daughter was born into the arms of Jesus on December 3, 2021 at 20 weeks gestation. This month is extremely special to me because I have chosen to heal through the loss of my daughter by helping and honoring others who have also lost their baby.
When I delivered my stillborn daughter, she was 6.9 oz and 8.25 inches long. This means that we could hold her in the palm of our hand. Because of her size, preemie clothes would have been huge on her. When I was delivering her, the hospital brought out several layettes that would fit my daughter perfectly. At the sight of these perfect outfits, I was speechless and just started crying. I could not believe that someone had thought to make something so tiny and perfect for my daughter, especially when they had never even met me. This layette included a tunic, a blanket wrap, a tiny bear, a small crochet blanket, a tiny hat, and a memorial card. Each component of the layette was perfect and had been intentionally chosen for a stillborn baby born in the second trimester. The best part is the organization, Holy Sews, provides these layettes for free to anyone who experiences a second trimester loss.
When I got home from the hospital after delivering my stillborn baby girl, I reached out to the organization, Holy Sews, who had provided this layette to me. I explained how important the layette was to me and they shared about volunteer opportunities available if I wanted to get involved.
One of these opportunities was sewing the tiny baby outfits they provided to the families. I hadn’t sewn since I was a young girl in 4-H, but I asked for a sewing kit and began working on it. At this time, I was on maternity leave, but without a baby to care for. I felt like my body was betraying me as my milk came in and my body experienced all the normal postpartum symptoms. That entire first month after delivering my daughter, I spent my days crying and sewing. With each layette that I sewed, I would pray for the individual that would receive it. I used sewing to keep my mind busy, especially on the days when I didn’t think I could make it through the next minute.
The first kit went fast, so they sent me another kit. After a few months, I had completed about 300 layettes for Holy Sews. Eventually, my friends and family started to notice what I was doing and it spread throughout my community. In August 2022, I started a chapter of Holy Sews in my hometown. Now, I have hundreds of volunteers working to help clothe stillborn babies and provide them with the dignity and honor they deserve.
I’m so thankful for the healing that I received when I sewed for Holy Sews. When I lost my daughter, I felt like I had been shattered into a million pieces. My world felt hopeless and I was struggling to see a future where I could ever be happy again. However, God used this as an opportunity to put me back together exactly the way He wanted me to be. With God’s love and by helping others, I was able to change and grow into a better version of myself. This does not mean that I am happy I lost my daughter. I would give anything for a chance to raise that beautiful girl. I see a hole where she should be in every family photo. I miss her every single day and I refuse to let her short life be meaningless. Therefore, I will continue to work with our volunteers to clothe the stillborn babies taken too soon. Because every mom deserves to see their baby dressed in an adorable outfit, no matter the size of their baby.
If you have experienced loss, you are not alone in this journey. I have been there and I know the devastation that comes from pregnancy loss. I want to support you in whatever way that I can. If you don’t think you can make it through another day or even another minute, I challenge you to find someone who you can give your love and support to, especially if they have been through a similar situation. Loving and supporting others will heal your heart in a way you cannot even imagine. If you would like to get involved in Holy Sews, we have tons of opportunities for you to help, even from your house (no sewing skills required!) Some jobs include cutting ribbon, gluing bows on bears, crochet/knitting, and so much more. Find how you can serve with Holy Sews here.
All of Ranzie's children- the bear represents Lorella with her exact weight and heartbeat.