As the calendar days were being crossed off on the way to November, Megan Bradshaw knew she would soon face the day that brought her both joy and sorrow each year — the birthday of her twins. At 28 weeks, the boys were born via emergency C-section. Crew survived. Dex did not.
“For their third birthday, I thought I was going to do something different rather than mope and eat all the leftover Halloween candy,” says Megan, a mother to three living children. “So I decided to make tiny little diapers for stillborn infants.”
She made a collection for the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center and a collection for a hospital in Salt Lake City. It felt good and she envisioned this as a one-time project.
Now, five years later, Teeny Tears has grown into a nonprofit serving more than 2,000 hospitals nationwide and totaling more than 200,000 diaper donations.
The need for teeny diapers exists because commercial diapers don’t fit stillborns who arrive before 18 weeks.
“Stillborn babies are presented to the parents in a plastic cup or a metal bowl,” Megan says. “We provide clothing for them, and it revolutionizes their bereavement program. The nurses don’t have to be standoffish and cold. They are able to present these children to their families with dignity.”
“Stillborn babies are presented to the parents in a plastic cup or a metal bowl. We provide clothing for them, and it revolutionizes their bereavement program. The nurses don’t have to be standoffish and cold. They are able to present these children to their families with dignity.” — Megan Bradshaw, Teeny Tears founder
Shortly after the launch of Teeny Tears, Vanessa Pollard of Saratoga Springs found the initiative through a Facebook post. Having lost three babies of her own, she reached out to do a Teeny Tears Service project and invited Megan to come.
The two became best friends. After feeling the healing of the project, Vanessa wanted to be involved in Teeny Tears permanently and became vice president of the organization.
“I love how much it affects the volunteers,” says Vanessa, who has one living daughter.
Teeny Tears makes diapers to fit babies as small as 14 weeks and for those born before 14 weeks, the nonprofit provides hats and blankets. The items are donated in sets of two — one to bury the baby in and one for the parents to keep.
Because of the diversity of products offered by Teeny Tears, volunteers of all ages can participate. Children can cut out blankets. Those who can sew receive the cutouts to sew diapers. And for people with extra fabric, anything 7-inches square can be donated for a diaper. With one yard of flannel, eight families can receive a set of diapers.
Megan runs the interface with the hospitals and ships out diapers across the globe. Teeny Tears is in every state in as well as Canada, Belgium, England, Australia, Guatemala, Guam and the Virgin Islands.
Vanessa and Megan lead this heart-changing organization with the headquarters in their living rooms — and with the help of more than 2,000.
“We love our volunteers and we couldn’t do it without them,” Megan says. “We are two people and the capacity by ourselves is limited.”
Many volunteers are still children themselves.
The first time a scout contacted Megan to do a Teeny Tears Eagle Scout project, the young man shocked Megan because he was a starting offensive lineman for the Herriman football team. She loves the picture of the athlete bent over a sewing machine making a teeny diaper.
Both Megan’s and Vanessa’s families have grown to love the project. Megan’s oldest daughter invites friends over to help make diapers, blankets and hats. Vanessa’s husband knows watching a movie means Vanessa will be counting diapers or tying hats.
The two mothers have found healing in the project — something the volunteers also experience. Families reach out to spend the money they would have spent taking a child to Disneyland on Teeny Tears diapers.
“Many of these women are still the ‘walking wounded’ when they come into our project,” Megan says. “They say things like, ‘It’s been 50 years and I’m finally starting to heal.’”
“People think we do something that is sad, but it’s really joyous and happy,” Vanessa says. “True, there is sadness and grief, but this gives us such an opportunity to add back some joy. There is happiness in knowing these children are cared for.”
Add your light
To host a Teeny Tears service project or donate to the nonprofit, visit TeenyTears.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.