When the sonographer said – ‘You have a healthy little baby’, we practically jumped for joy. After having several early miscarriages, we were over the moon to reach the 12wk scan and see a bouncing little baby on the screen. I literally said out loud: ‘We get to take this baby home!’ but sadly, 31wks into the pregnancy, we learned this wouldn’t be the case.
We were introduced to a baby loss ‘community’ that we had no idea even existed. We knew all too well that miscarriages happen, but we had no idea that in this day and age, babies still die. During the year we lost Adam, 17 babies a day had passed away, 6500 hopes and dreams destroyed each year and that alone floored us. But in that realisation, we also went from feeling so incredibly alone to realising we weren’t the only ones and that somehow brought us some comfort, in a strange sort of way.
We learned the hard way that baby loss is such a taboo subject. I physically watched someone I knew walk across the street to avoid speaking to me. My lifelong best friend at the time didn’t step up yet total strangers did. And we constantly heard the words ‘Forget about it, move forward, no good will come from thinking about it’ and for a moment we thought perhaps that is what we were meant to do. After all, it was so painful to think about him being there one minute and gone the next.
But then something happened. My mum shared with us that her brother was stillborn many years ago and we had no idea. People we knew came up to us and told us their story of losing their baby. These people asked us if we wanted to talk about our little boy, which we absolutely did because we were still his parents, I still gave birth to him and he was perfect. It was like we were being told it’s ok to talk about him and it’s ok to think about him. Yes, it’s hard but he existed, and people helped us to acknowledge that. The people that think families of baby loss should ‘forget about it’ and ‘move forward’, need to understand that the way we do move forward IS remembering them and IS acknowledging them. It’s sometimes incredibly hard to do because it hurts, but we move forward taking them with us and they are there in the background as we rebuild a new future that was very different to the one we had planned.
I’ll always remember the absolute longing I felt to feel more connected to Adam, especially once we’d said our final goodbyes. Creating precious memories in those moments is such an important part of the journey and are moments that stay forever. The longing to somehow feel connected to him stayed and so out of that longing came the idea of the Heart in their Hand project. I refocused my jewellery career into creating precious keepsakes, so that other families could feel a more tangible, longer lasting connection that can last forever.
The little cut out heart can be placed in the baby’s hand or blanket when saying goodbye and the parents keep the matching keyring, creating a tangible connection. It is something we would have loved to do at the time with our Adam and many others have said this too, so I knew this was going to be very meaningful and special. The feedback from parents has been amazing and very touching.
When first launching the project in April 2016, I wanted to give parents the opportunity to provide the gifts to their local maternity unit by way of ‘paying it forward’, to help other bereaved families going through what they have. I had no idea it would grow in the way it has and I am now incredibly humbled to have been able to supply over 25,000 hearts so far, to charities, hospitals and parents directly. It has been an absolute labour of love and it warms my heart yet breaks it all at the same time. I am often sent incredibly moving photographs of precious babies holding their heart and just seeing these little fingers wrapped around it and knowing a lasting connection has been made just melts me. My gorgeous Adam and these beautiful little babies spur me on to keep going and reach more families and I will do my best to make them proud.
Mummy to Adam Lee Milburn 2.1.07
We sat with Elsie in her little room under the stairs, she was sleeping in her Moses basket. We held her hand and placed one of the hearts in each of her hands.
For us, it creates a lasting connection. When I hold my keys and slip my thumb inside the centre, I know Elsie is holding on tightly to the middle heart. Our keyrings are now our most treasured keepsake.
Lindsay, Mummy to Elsie
Heart in their Hand