A Meaningful Symbol of Loss and Remembrance

If you see a purple butterfly sticker near a newborn, you need to know what it means

It was a bittersweet moment for Millie Smith and Lewis Cann when they discovered they were expecting twin baby girls. However, the couple’s joy took an unimaginable turn when they learned that only one of their babies would survive. On April 30, after a high-risk pregnancy lasting 30 weeks, Smith gave birth to identical twins, Callie and Skye. Unfortunately, Skye could only spend three precious hours in this world.

In the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Callie slept alone in her incubator, with her parents grieving the loss of her twin. One day, while surrounded by other moms with healthy newborn twins, Smith was innocently told that she was “so lucky” to only have one baby. Crushed by the words, Smith couldn’t find it in her to explain her heartbreaking loss. But then, she realized that Skye’s legacy could help other families who have experienced the same tragedy. And so, Skye’s legacy took the form of a beautiful purple butterfly.

A Journey of Grief and Love

In November 2015, Millie Smith and Lewis Cann received the news that they were expecting their first child. Smith, who had twins in her family, had a gut feeling that she was carrying two babies. Ten weeks later, an ultrasound confirmed that she was indeed expecting identical twin girls. The couple’s excitement turned to devastation when they learned that one of their babies had a fatal condition and would not survive after birth. The baby was diagnosed with anencephaly, a rare birth defect that affects about one in 4,600 babies in the United States. Anencephaly is a serious condition where parts of the brain and skull are missing, and most babies with this condition pass away shortly after birth.

Despite the heartbreaking prognosis, Smith and Cann decided to proceed with the high-risk pregnancy, knowing that one baby would pass away soon after birth and that there were risks involved for their other baby. Over the following months, they named their twins Skye and Callie. Smith wanted Skye to have a name before she was born, so she would always be remembered. Skye’s name was chosen because it represented a place where she would always be with them – the sky.

A Painful Farewell and a Special Legacy

When Smith went into labor after only 30 weeks, she had to undergo an emergency C-section. The couple had a bereavement midwife during the birth to help them navigate their loss. They were also given a special room called the “Daisy Room,” where families can spend time with their baby before and after they pass away. Both Skye and Callie cried when they were born, which was an unexpected and cherished moment for Smith and Cann. They had a beautiful three hours with Skye before she peacefully passed away in their arms. It was an extremely difficult and heartbreaking moment for the couple, but they were grateful for the time they had with Skye.

Callie, born premature, had to stay in the NICU to gain strength. In the unit, there were also three other sets of twins. Initially, the nurses were aware of Skye’s passing, but as time went on, people stopped talking about her. After about four weeks, it seemed as though nothing had happened, and the families around Smith had no idea about their loss. One morning, a mother whose twins were also in the NICU innocently remarked to Smith that she was “so lucky” to only have one baby. This innocent comment broke Smith’s heart, and she couldn’t bring herself to explain her situation. In that moment, she realized the need for something that could prevent such misunderstandings in the future.

The Purple Butterfly: A Symbol of Strength and Unity

Determined to create something that would speak for parents who had lost a baby, Smith designed a poster for the NICU. The poster explained to hospital personnel and visitors that an incubator with a purple butterfly sticker meant that one or more babies in a set of multiples had been lost. Smith chose butterflies as a symbol because they represented the babies that flew away, and the color purple because it was suitable for both boys and girls. This concept, now known as the Skye High Foundation, has spread to hospitals in several countries around the world.

Callie, now a vibrant and happy seven-year-old, carries her twin’s memory in her heart. The purple butterfly cards and other initiatives created by the foundation help families who have experienced the loss of a baby like Skye. These purple butterflies come in various forms, such as ornaments, cards, blankets, and stuffed animals.

Bringing Support and Awareness

While nothing can fully heal the pain of losing a child, initiatives like the Skye High Foundation aim to provide support and bring awareness to this devastating experience. Millie Smith’s determination to help others facing similar losses is truly inspiring. Please share this story so that others can understand the significance of a purple butterfly next to a newborn. Let’s spread the word and offer comfort to those who need it.

If you enjoyed this heartfelt story about Millie Smith and her twins, you might also be interested in reading about a new mom who thought she was having seven babies but ended up with nine!