When Milli Smith was in the intensive care room with her newborn daughter Callie, hoping she would get stronger, the mother was also grieving from the loss of her other daughter, Callie's twin sister, Skye. It was here that another mother, who was struggling to soothe her newborn twins, told her how lucky she was that she only had one baby to care for. The stranger wasn't trying to be mean, she didn't know that Smith was grieving the loss of a child. But it was at this moment that Smith came up with the purple butterfly sticker that would become a symbol for parents grieving the loss of one of their twins.
Milli Smith and Lewis Cann were simply parents-to-be who had just learned they were expecting twins. The two were overjoyed but also very wary. “We had a couple of weeks of excitement,” Smith explained. “Twins run in my family. However, so far, there has not been a set of twins where both have survived" so it made sense that these two were prepared to hear bad news at some point during the pregnancy.
Sadly, Smith was right in her predicament. Shortly after discovering they were having twins, at 12 weeks, the two learned one of their identical twin daughters, which they named Skye, had a condition called anencephaly. Due to this condition, Skye would not be able to live for more than a few hours after being born.
There’s nothing doctors can do when a baby has anencephaly. And yet, despite knowing this, the parents decided to move ahead with the pregnancy. They wanted to give their other daughter, Callie, “a fighting chance.” In doing so, however, the parents would also get the chance to honor their daughter Skye with a purple butterfly sticker and in the process, protect other parents who were also grieving the loss of their newborn.
It wouldn’t be an easy pregnancy. For Smith, the weeks following the news were wrought with emotions. This mother-to-be knew she was carrying two babies but would only be left with one. It was an emotional and difficult time no mother should ever deal with.
“We were both devastated,” Smith recalled. “Knowing I had to carry both babies full term then say goodbye shortly after was very tough. Dealing with it and preparing for it was hard." But the couple moved forward through the difficult time by talking about it and sharing how they were feeling even when they felt very low.
And yet, despite knowing what would eventually happen, Smith spoke about both of her daughters like any other mother-to-be would about the babies in her belly. “I spoke about Callie and Skye on a daily basis at work and ensured that no one felt awkward talking about my pregnancy. I got to enjoy my pregnancy and got to look forward to meeting them.” The problem was, as much as she prepared herself, Smith would never be able to prepare for the hurtful comment said by a stranger at the hospital when she did lose Skye. It would be this that would lead her to come up with the purple butterfly sticker.
30 weeks into her pregnancy, Smith was admitted to hospital, ready to have her babies. It was an emotional C-section and despite being prepared, the parents still had their surprises. “We were told from the beginning that Skye would survive minutes and would not move or make a noise,” Smith explained. But Skye proved to be full of life, despite her condition.
“The moment she was born, she cried,” Smith recalled. “That was the most surreal moment of my life." Skye was crying and moving her arms as any other newborn baby would. "It was thousands times better than I had expected," Smith recalled of that moment.
After the birth, Smith and Cann got to hold and enjoy their daughter for three hours. “Lewis and I laid and cuddled Skye for the three hours and for that time everything was perfect,” the mother recalled. Skye even had a moment with her sister in the incubator before she passed away.
For Smith and Cann, it was heart-breaking enough having to say goodbye to their newborn daughter. But a comment from a complete stranger would break Smith’s heart even more. Smith was in the intensive care room with her daughter Callie when a woman who was trying to soot her her twins turned to Smith and told her, “You’re so lucky you haven’t got twins …”
It wasn’t meant to be a mean comment but it broke Smith’s heart nevertheless. That’s when she decided that something had to be done. Parents going through a similar situation shouldn’t have to withstand unnecessary pain.
So, Smith decided to help other parents who lose one of their twins, while honoring her daughter Skye along the way. “None of the other parents knew what had happened or anything about Skye,” Smith explained. While the mother realized that it wasn't meant to be a mean comment, she didn't want other parents to be hurt at such a vulnerable moment in their life. "A simple sticker" Smith explained, "would have avoided that entire situation.”
That “simple sticker” idea is what Smith is working on now — working to make it a symbol for parents who are grieving the loss of one of their twins. “A simple purple butterfly” sticker stuck to a baby’s crib would let strangers know that the baby in the crib had a twin sibling who did not survive. This way, unnecessary pain would be avoided for the parents grieving.
Smith knows that she cannot protect parents from the pain of losing a child but that doesn't mean she can't try and ease some of it. After all, this mother knows that “it’s the hardest thing anyone has to deal with.” If you want to help Smith in her cause, you can do so here.