The article below was written by one of our Butterfly Wings momma - Kim Dittburner. Kim has been working on this article now for a few months and we were so honored when she asked to sit down with two our of board members, Courtney Smith and Colleen Thompson, to interview in order to spread awareness about Butterfly Wings. Kim is truly a blessing to Butterfly Wings - she has such a passion for spreading awareness and helping to improve bereavement care for families in our community. Thank you Kim for sharing this article with us. We also want to thank the families that volunteered to have their baby's story added to this article. If you are reading this and would like to have your baby added, you can email the information to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you again Kim - you did a great job on this article. I know that you poured your heart and soul into it. We appreciate you more than you know!
October is Pregnancy loss awareness month. Did you know that? I didn’t. Not until 2016, the year my son died. “Thank you for being here” “Thank you for sharing” “you are in a safe place” “Please pass the tissue” These are common phrases spoken at every gathering with Butterfly Wings. Butterfly Wings Perinatal Bereavement services is a volunteer-based, charitable organization in Sudbury dedicated to providing free grief support services to families whose lives have been touched by death through early pregnancy loss, stillbirth, and newborn death. Their website reads: families “touched” by grief. As a bereaved mother, I would say families that are forever altered by grief.
Butterfly Wings is not the type of group that anyone chooses to be a part of, but for those that have been and are being supported by their services, it is one for which we are incredibly grateful. "In our community 1 in 4 women will experience the heartbreaking loss of their baby. Whether it be at 4 weeks or 40 weeks or soon after birth, the death of a baby is a painful and devastating loss. Many of these families grieve in silence” says Colleen, co-founder of Butterfly Wings Perinatal Bereavement Services and Registered Psychotherapist. “When Shannon and I experienced our own losses, there were very little services in place and at times, no services offered. Through sharing together our own experiences, the idea for a community-based organization to support bereaved families emerged. We started Butterfly Wings, all volunteer-based, and in 2012 we became a registered Charity. We’ve been introducing ourselves to the community slowly ever since.”
A local charity that few in the North have heard about. Early loss, Miscarriage, medical Miscarriage, Stillbirth, Newborn Death. Words that most people cringe at. Topics few are comfortable talking about. A charity that could be challenging to raise money for because, as Colleen says “it’s a hard subject to breach and talk to people about, especially to those who haven’t experienced loss, but it needs to be talked about.” It needs to be talked about because the support services Butterfly Wings offers are so desperately needed in the North! “To help cope with traumatic grief, bereaved families need to talk about the details of their loss, a lot, and they need a safe place to be able to do that. No family should ever have to walk this path alone.” The compassion in Colleen’s voice is why she is so amazing at what she does!
I remember the first few weeks after my son’s death. The lost, alone feeling that washed over me when speaking about my son. The blank look on people’s faces, including the medical community, when I tried to describe the magnitude of the pain from the loss. The embarrassing moments when people shuffle their feet because they don’t know what to say, so instead they change the topic, or worse, walk away. The grief of losing your baby, at any stage in your pregnancy can be devastating and often minimized by society: “you can try again, it wasn’t meant to be, it’s God’s will”. How do you explain the path you walk? The weight you carry, the anger you are forever trying to bury. The missing piece. The ache that may lessen, but never goes away. How do you explain that to someone who has never lost a child?
My first meeting with Butterfly Wings was nothing like I pictured a “support group” to be. Ten women, and two supportive spouses, sitting around a table, discussing their losses, and the pain that has ensued. I remember feeling very overwhelmed at hearing all the stories, but I also remember feeling in awe. I was amongst people who understood how deep this pain dwells and were surviving it. Not a place I thought I would ever find myself, but here I was openly sobbing with complete strangers and sharing personal thoughts. Other women who understood what it truly felt like to conceive and carry a child. Make plans and have dreams for them and then have the “worst-case scenario” happen and have that branch ripped off your family tree before it got the chance to grow. The loss of control, the blame, the guilt. All these thoughts I had convinced myself were unnatural thoughts, I was now hearing other mothers say about themselves. I was not alone….after only two meetings I knew, I had found a safe place to express my anger at the universe without judgement. Where people wanted me to talk about my child, his life in my womb, the days he lived and his death. A place where I was educated on how devastating a miscarriage is at any stage of pregnancy, and how these mothers were treated during and after heartbreak by the medical community, and by society.
“At Butterfly Wings we recognize the needs of these parents and offer free grief support services aimed at assisting these families as they cope with the death of their baby. Through individual counselling, support groups, a resource library, creating mementos to honour our babies and yearly remembrance services, our goal is to support families in their grief so they do not have to walk this path alone. Butterfly Wings not only provides support services and a safe place to grieve for bereaved parents, but their staff is committed to achieving a greater understanding amongst health care professionals and within the community about the emotional impact that can result from pregnancy and infant loss. In the past, Northern families have had limited local resources to access following the death of their baby. We are hoping to change that for Sudbury and all of Northern Ontario.” Colleen is a mother who speaks from experience. With one living daughter and 8 angel babies, Colleen walks this path beside the bereaved parents. “Currently families experiencing the death of their baby are able to touch their babies, take pictures of their babies, create hand and foot molds or prints, keep armbands, hospital ID bracelets, blankets, hats, anything that touched their baby. In the years to come, that is all we have left to hold on to. These items are of incredible importance to the bereaved families. For an early loss however there may be little or no tangible evidence and such a loss can often be minimized by society, making it difficult to mourn. A woman can be bonded to her baby from the moment she discovers she’s expecting. We understand, for a mother, an early loss is also the death of her baby along with our hopes and dreams with them.” Colleen’s words are humbling and true.
Education, raising awareness, more far reaching support and a safe place for families to grieve. Well Sudbury, it’s time! It’s time to have those uncomfortable conversations, because our community needs you! 1 in 4 women are suffering in silence, which can lead to mental health issues that can greatly impact that person's life if they are never acknowledged or talked about.One of the most amazing attributes of Butterfly Wings is the environment they have created. Not only do bereaved mothers gather to talk about their losses, they have now begun working together to find ways to honor their babies and to create keepsake items for the next parents in our community who are faced with the devastating loss of their baby. “It’s not natural to leave the hospital with nothing after giving birth” says Courtney, a fellow bereaved mom “We get that.”
Over the past 18 months, I have often wondered what I would have done without the support of Butterfly Wings. What would have happened to me, had I not had this group to vent to, cry with, share with? This group that has helped me to find my way on this new path called “grieving parent”…and the only answer is…I hope that I, and other bereaved parents never have to find out! If ever there was a local charity that was essential to the mental health of your community, Butterfly Wings Perinatal Bereavement Services is it! For more information, or to donate, please visit.www.butterflywings.ca
If pregnancy loss touches 1 in every 4 women, that means you, dear reader may be one of us. Or you may know someone who has been forever altered by this grief and needs a safe place to talk. We are here. We are listening. We may not know your personal story, but we walk this path with you. You are not alone.
Kim Dittburner & Alister-Cru
Our Precious Angels
Our third son, Alister-Cru was born Feb 24/2016 with an enlarged heart. Nothing the medical community tried could save him. 57 hours after his birth, he took his last breath in our arms. Forever our baby boy.
Kim & Troy
Our daughter Brenna was born at the tender age of 21 weeks - 5 days due to PPROM. She was given "comfort care" free of medical interventions because 23-24 weeks is considered the limit of viability. Although her time with us was short, she is a part of us forever. In the deepest parts of our heart, there she is.
Rebecca & Clint
My Son, Malachi Michael was born sleeping Feb 19/2017. He was a healthy, happy, energetic baby boy who sadly got himself caught up in his umbilical cord. He will be loved today, tomorrow and always.
My son, Kohl was born Dec 2015. Due to birth complications which resulted in birth asphyxia he lived a short 10 days on life support. He took his last breath in my arms. Mommy & Daddy miss you sweet boy.
My daughter Petra Claire, was stillborn on May 13th, 2014 due to the umbilical cord wrapping around her legs. I never imagined I would celebrate a baby in heaven, and it's not easy, but every day I keep her close in my heart and in my thoughts. She is loved and missed by so many.
Sarah Grace. Born and delivered straight to Heaven on May 12th, 2007.... Some people only ever dream of Angels and we got to hold one in our arms.
Vanessa and Brian
"I’m sorry but we can't keep his heart beating" were the first words we heard after our son Greyson was born. Despite resuscitation attempts, our son had died and the first time I held our baby boy, he was no longer breathing.
Courtney & Nathan
My son Parker was born Mar, 2016 with Omphalocele. We were told that after surgery and a long recovery he would lead a happy normal life. Medical decisions were made that compromised his lungs. He fought hard, but passed away in our arms at two months old. Not a day goes by that I don't think about him and wonder what he would be doing if he was still here. Shine bright little star.
Our beautiful son John Walter was born sleeping on Nov 1st, 2016 Not a day goes by that we don't think of him. Although he is not with us he is in our hearts and we love him so much.
Sarah and Al
My son Elliot died inside me when I was 28 weeks pregnant. I was induced, and delivered him on June 1st 2017. I only got to hold him for a short time, and I miss him every day.
In 2013, my daughter Athena was born at 4 mths gestation. In 2016, I lost my son Émilien due to an ectopic pregnancy. Mommy wishes you were both here to hold and to grow up with your sister Khloé. We love and miss you. Keep shining your smiles on us! Tanya
My daughter Théa was born Oct 10/2012. She suffered an in utero stroke and was born with hydranencephaly. She passed away 21 days later, on Oct 31st in my arms. Her precious footprints will forever be engraved in my heart!
Avril Lefebvre was born sleeping on Mar 16 2012. We live with guilt and unanswered questions We love you.
Mom, Dad Andrée and Daréane
Our son Matthew David was born Dec 1/2002 at 16 weeks. After an ultrasound we were told that everything was going well and that he was perfect. Five hours later he was gone. Remembering all 8 of our angel babies always. Colleen & Mark
April/24 2015. The worst day of my life. My body failed my sweet boy. The guilt I feel every day is immeasurable. Andrew, at four mths gestation, was forced to his death because of the uterine fibroid plaguing my body. My pleas and cries for help went unnoticed. And then he was gone.
My Ava Catherine was born Dec 6/2008. She looked like a healthy baby, but she was very sick. She was diagnosed with CHARGE Syndrome. They said she was born deaf and blind, but I know she could see. She knew we were there holding her little hand. Ava passed away on Jan 10/2009. Forever my little girl who is now watching over her baby brother from heaven. Melissa
Kaebri Marie Reid was born on October 9 at 5:44 am. She was a twin girl A born 4 months too early, older sister to Brooklyn (twin B). Kaebri was defeating so many odds, when on the morning of October 24 she seemed to have taken a turn for the worse and required immediate surgery on her bowels. At first we were told this surgery would be a set back but she would be okay. 12 hours later after a 3 hour surgery we unfortunately lost our first born. She was in her mother's arms when she took her last breaths with her Dad close by. We had our precious girl for 15 days and she was such an amazing little warrior. We will never forget our baby girl as we watch her surviving twin sister grow.