“I told Mel that she had to try on 27 different dresses before she chose the perfect one, and by the third shop and twenty-somethingth dress, we finally found it,” says best friend Jayne Siddell.
“We both knew it was the one. Mel’s tears said it all.”
Jayne and Melanie Dyson Sheehan have been inseparable – bestest friends, they agree – since they met working together at a nursing home in Llanelli, West Wales, aged 17.
Bestest friends: Melanie, right, and Jayne
So when Melanie announced she was getting married to Jason, it came as no surprise when she asked Jayne to be ‘mother of the bride’ at her wedding.
“Thanks for that Mel,” jokes Jayne “...Considering I’m only a month older than you!”
“She was the person closest to me and has always been there for me over the years,” explains Melanie.
“There was no-one more worthy of the role and she was helping me plan the wedding, too.”
##Save the date
Save the dates were sent – June, 9, 2012 at Llanelli’s Stradey Park Hotel.
Soon, the wedding plans were well underway.
Jayne had been determined that Melanie would have the full experience of searching for the perfect wedding dress. The one. Now, they’d found it.
Melanie couldn’t wait for her special day and Jayne was just as excited.
“We just couldn’t wait. Mel was madly, madly in love and I couldn't wait to see my best friend finally get married,” said Jayne.
Then, with a month to go before the wedding, Melanie and Jason found out they were expecting.
##Joy and heartbreak
Overjoyed, Melanie made plans to have her perfect dress altered. And, two days before their eagerly-anticipated wedding day, she and Jason went for their 12-week routine scan with their midwife at the local hospital.
The next day, they were at the hospital again, where a second scan revealed to their distress, that there was no heartbeat.
Doctors told them that Melanie had endured a ‘silent’ miscarriage. Still safely cocooned, their baby was waiting to be ‘silently’ born.
Bravely, Melanie was determined to go ahead with the wedding, before she and Jason would again return to the hospital. Doctors gave them the go-ahead.
Jason and Melanie exchanged their vows
“I was on standby to cancel the entire wedding” says Jayne, “but that’s not what Melanie and Jason wanted.”
“We had looked forward to our wedding for 18 months. We didn’t want to cancel it at such short notice,” Melanie explains.
“The baby was part of us and would be part of our big day, surrounded by family, brothers and sisters and wrapped in love. It wasn’t up for discussion.”
Jason was in tears and I just needed to be with him
Despite the heartbreak, Melanie and Jason went on to celebrate the ‘most beautiful, but hardest’ day of their lives.
“I knew it would be emotional, but I was numb,” remembers Melanie.
“From the moment I started walking down the aisle, I started to crumble. Jason was in tears and I just needed to be with him. With him and our children together.”
Although word had got out about the heartbreaking circumstances, not all the wedding guests were aware.
“I remember saying our vows, and having to stop in between to dry our tears. Some of the guests thought they were happy tears, but they were quite contradictory.
“We tried to put a brave face on, but it was so hard.”
So strong: Melanie and Jason
“Mel and Jason were so strong throughout the day,” remembers Jayne.
“I couldn’t have dealt with it the way they did. Mel was amazing.”
A year later, Melanie and Jason had joyful pregnancy news again, only to endure their second miscarriage. And they had to go through the same heartbreaking process again.
Jayne had been wanting to volunteer for charity, when a story that went viral inspired her to get in touch with Cherished Gowns .
Brides from all over the UK donated their wedding dresses, after Yvonne Trimble shared on social media how hers had been transformed into beautiful burial gowns for angel babies.
Handmade with love: Cherished Gowns
Handmade from wedding dresses donated with love, the tiny clothes are gifted to bereaved families by the charity. Inspired, Jayne volunteered her sewing skills.
I wanted to give them something they’ll treasure and never forget
“I cried the whole way through making my first dress, knowing what these little gowns would be used for. I couldn’t believe how tiny some of them were,” she says.
When Melanie found out what her best friend was doing, she immediately knew what she wanted to do with her own wedding dress.
To keep the memory alive of their babies, so precious to her and Jason, Melanie asked Jayne to transform the wedding dress they had so many happy memories of choosing, into Cherished Gowns.
##A gesture of love
“It meant so much to us, for Jayne to do it,” says Melanie, who had shared every step of the journey she and Jason had been through together, with her best friend.
“The dress started and finished with Jayne and that was so important.”
“This is the only opportunity these parents will ever have to dress their babies, so I wanted to give them something they’ll treasure and never forget.”
Gifts from the heart for angel babies: Cherished Gowns
Jayne made 14 burial gowns from her best friend’s wedding dress. The experience was deeply emotional for both of them, but Jayne was determined to complete the task in memory of Melanie and Jason’s angel babies.
“Mel wanted to see the dresses before I sent them back to Cherished Gowns so I laid them out on my kitchen table, and left the room to give her some time on her own,” remembers Jayne.
“She loved them. After that, we spent the rest of the afternoon crying together – but feeling immensely proud.”
##Always in heart and mind
Melanie’s taken comfort from the thought that the gowns Jayne made have helped other families in their loss, while her two precious little ones are never far from mind.
“I’m willing to talk about my experience, if it helps others,” she says.
“It’s not something you’ll ever forget.”
Miscarriage and baby loss doesn’t have to be taboo,” Jayne says. “These babies were born. They were loved. And they are always remembered.”
“You live with their memory,” says Melanie.
“Their special dates will always be embedded in my mind.”