If you see a purple butterfly sticker attached to a baby’s hospital cot, stop, take a breath, and know a little life has been lost.
That beautiful newborn you see in the cot was part of a multiple birth where at least one sibling did not survive. And, as fresh as that tiny little boy or girl is, the grief felt by the family over the one lost is just as raw and new.
It is a heartbreaking beacon honouring a life lost and giving some insight into what the family is facing to those around them.
A devastating diagnosis
UK mum Millie Smith came up with the moving symbol after losing one of her identical twin girls, Skye, to anencephaly – an untreatable condition that stops the brain from fully developing.
When Millie was 12 weeks pregnant with her twins, doctors broke the devastating news to her and partner Lewis Cann that Skye would likely only live minutes after birth.
“Knowing I had to carry both babies full term then say goodbye shortly after was very tough,” Millie says.
Millie went into labour at 30 weeks and both girls were delivered by emergency caesarean.
Despite being told Skye would not move or make a noise, she came out crying. And, instead of minutes, Skye lived for three hours allowing her parents time to cuddle her and even introduce her to her sister.
“Lewis took Skye to see Callie (who was in the intensive care unit) and put them together in the incubator together just before she passed away,” Millie says.
“I wasn’t able to go as I’d had an emergency c-section and was bed-bound. This is the one moment I wish I had seen.”
Despite having time to prepare for the moment she would have to say goodbye to Skye, an innocent comment which followed from a fellow mum of twins proved too much to bear for a heartbroken Millie.
“A parent of twins turned to me, when their babies were crying, and said, ‘You are so lucky you just have one’,” she says.
“They weren’t to know that I did at one point have two. But the comment nearly broke me. I ran out (of) the room in tears and they had no idea why.
“I didn’t have the heart to tell them what had happened. A simple sticker would have avoided that entire situation.”
Helping ease the heartbreak
Millie started fundraising for purple butterfly stickers to help identify when a baby is part of a multiple loss so other families, visitors, volunteers and staff are aware. The stickers are now being used at the hospital where she delivered her girls.
The brave mum, who was able to take Callie home, has also set up a charity in Skye’s honour, The Skye High Foundation. She hopes to raise enough money to pay for a counsellor to help families when a baby dies.
“Ultimately I will never be able to stop this from happening but the more support groups we can set up and put things in place like the stickers the better it will be,” Millie says. “It’s the hardest thing anyone has to deal with.”