If you've spend time in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), then you're aware of what a beautiful and heartbreaking place it can be. Doctors and nurses working tirelessly to provide medical care and support to fragile babies, families loving their babies through incubators and holding them around tubes and machines. And of course, the sweet little patients, fighting hard everyday to get string enough to join their families at home. It can be a solemn place, but also filled with hope and love and joy. Babies arrive in the NICU for a variety of reasons, and you'll see various stickers and cards and decorations on the bassinets and incubators, which can be used to inform visitors and staff members of that baby's story. Some cribs and isolettes may have a purple butterfly sticker on them, and the meaning behind this sticker is truly heartbreaking, but so important.
The purple butterfly sticker started in the UK with Millie Smith, who tragically lost one of her twin daughters. Skye passed away just a few hours after she and her sister Callie were delivered in 2016. When Millie was 12 weeks pregnant, she and her partner learned the devastating news that Skye had anencephaly, a neural tube defect that caused her brain to not develop properly. Millie made the decision to carry both girls to term, to give Callie a fighting chance. The twins were delivered via emergency c-section at 30 weeks, and Callie spent several weeks in the NICU. Skye lived for three hours after she was born, and passed away surrounded by love.
While Callie was recuperating in the NICU, Millie found that after some time had passed, visitors and staff simply stopped asking about Skye, and it felt like they forgot she ever existed. After a fellow NICU mom made a comment about Millie being lucky she didn't have twins, Millie was motivated to find a way to honor those who lost a twin or baby in a multiples set, and prevent any other NICU parents from experiencing the hurt that comment caused. She came up with the idea to place a simple purple butterfly sticker on the bassinets and incubators of babies whose sibling didn't survive. Millie started The Skye High Foundation, which provides these stickers to families, as well as posters explaining their meaning to be displayed in NICUs.
Millie was initially planning to distribute the stickers at Kingston Hospital, where Skye and Callie were born. But she's since expanded her amazing cause, and now you can find purple butterfly stickers in the US, Australia, the UK, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. Millie's work also inspired the Purple Butterfly Project, which provides support to families who've suffered a loss in a multiples pregnancy. It's such a simple thing, but it can mean so much to families who are dealing with such a heartbreaking loss.