This October, in recognition of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, we set out to honour babies gone too soon. It was a small idea, a way to motivate us out of the house to complete the 310 miles we had pledged to Aching Arms’ Miles in Memory challenge.
Why 310 miles? We pledged to walk a mile for each baby that would be stillborn throughout the month of October, in the UK. 10 babies a day, 10 miles a day. Given that at the time, my motivation was achieving an average half a mile a day to the coffee shop, and maybe the odd bit more on my way to counselling – we seriously needed the motivation to complete the challenge, and not just let ‘grief’ win.
So we asked if anyone would like to honour their babies gone too soon, by allowing us to dedicating a mile in their names. Whilst the number we had decided upon was related to the stillbirth statistics, we wanted to honour any baby gone too soon, at any age, for any reason. After all, there is such differences in our commonalities of baby loss grief. Miscarriage, Ectopic, Stillbirth, Terminations for Medical Reasons, Neonatal deaths, SIDS, and so many other reasons that babies die. Because they do. Every day. Babies die every day.
Within two weeks, we had achieved our target and I was spending my evenings calligraphy countless baby names, with heartbreaking dates and stories, siblings, and twins. After all, those in this community know, lighting does strike twice. The end goal is never really reached, even a breathing baby can sadly die too. We exceeded our target and in the end had to stop accepting names at 341, to ensure that we, along with the rest of Team Leo, could honour all the names we had already received.
We have tried our best to never visit the same places twice so that each photo dedication was unique for each baby. We also made sure we took babies out on their birthdays, to honour them on their special day and (mostly) managed to keep siblings all together. I understand the power of seeing your babies name written, honoured, acknowledged and spoken aloud. It really is a beautiful thing that bonds the baby loss community and also can tell someone so easily that you are actively thinking of them and their missed child.
It’s been such a honour and we’ve also tried to take the babies to some beautiful places. We were so chuffed with the weather and only had one rainy day – not bad for an October in England! Miles have been dedicated in London, Oxfordshire, Hampshire, Northamptonshire, Dorset, Berkshire, Kent and Buckinghamshire. Some glorious countryside was seen, and some magnificent places.
I utilised our National Trust membership which gave us a great opportunity to explore some different places – and eat a lot of brownies!! The Wife also took some of Leo’s friends, and Leo and our little Robin, on the Oxford Half Marathon with us – making it quite an emotional day for us all.
For me, I don’t think we did that much, but I know how much it means to have your baby honoured so I will sit quietly now it’s over and feel proud of what we achieved and how many people the project has touched. The comments and messages we have received have touched us enormously and often made us cry.
Our original video has been seen by over 11,000 people and some of the individual mile dedicate pictures have reached thousands – what an amazing thing for those names, to be seen so many times.
In all, to date – and including the £1,250 donation for Aching Arms we received as part of our £5,000 charitable trust donation – Team Leo’s Miles in Memory has raised £2,286. Enough to fund 228 comfort bears. Which is so, so much more than we could have ever expected. It resonates to me though that that amount doesn’t even comfort a months worth of families affected by stillbirth – and that’s the shocking fact about baby loss. The numbers are that high.
Thank you to everyone who has donated and shared. Thank you to everyone who shared heir babies with us, and allowed us to write their names. We have put together a final video of all the mile dedications which is on our Facebook page, please do have a look and continue to share these precious names.
There is a Facebook album “Miles In Memory” of all the individual photos also, if you have missed yours or wish to just see the names shared, please have a look.
And if you would still like to donate, the page is : uk.virginmoneygiving.com/someonespecial/LeoForAchingArms