Whether it's for months, weeks, or even just a moment, it's a life, and Blaise Hunter doesn't want you to forget that.
Approximately 100 families suffer from miscarriages in the Bonnyville area every year, and not all of them are getting the support that they need.
Hunter, a local fertility expert, author, and speaker, is reminding women and men that infertility and pregnancy loss makes a mark, and every baby, no matter how big or small, leaves footprints on your heart.
After struggling with infertility and three miscarriages of her own, Hunter decided to write Heroine. In the book she outlines the desperate need for "some kind of support system" after a miscarriage, and the emotions that follow.
It was with this in mind that Hunter created Footprints, an infertility and pregnancy loss support group, which has helped her with her latest endeavour: a miscarriage support kit.
With the assistance of the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, Hunter got started.
A woman there had created packets and donated them to the Pregnancy Loss Centre after learning her sister-in-law had been struggling after a miscarriage, outlined Hunter.
“When I found out about this, I contacted them, I talked to the lady that first developed it and modelled the system that’s already in Edmonton," she added, explaining how the bags offered locally were created with Hunter's own experiences in mind.
"I wanted to do it in a way where, ‘what would I like when I'm going through that?’ Nothing helps the grief or the pain, but maybe this could help ease it a little bit."
Hunter described the kit as a bag "I put my heart and soul into." They each contain a copy of Hunter's book, pamphlets on the local support group, mental health, and men's supports, and a handmade bracelet.
She said she "wanted to give actual healing tools, not just a blanket," which is one of the reasons why she also included a certificate of life.
“It honours that that was a life, because often when someone in your life dies we go to funerals and we have memorials and honouring ceremonies, but not so much when you have a miscarriage or a stillbirth. That was a life, even if it was just for four weeks,” Hunter detailed.
One of the information pieces is directed towards men.
"I really put the hockey lingo in there, because men might not open up a pamphlet that says ‘What to do if you lose your baby.' This really ties in and is geared towards men. My husband really helped me with that, because he grieves and he has trouble. There was no support for the men, so I really wanted to include the men in this scenario and this support system,” explained Hunter.
The bracelets, which are handmade by Hunter, have a small heart charm with footprints embedded on one side.
"They can wear that in honour of their angel baby, or even if they’re struggling with infertility and if they’re a dream that hasn’t come true, or if they left before they began, their footprints will always be on our hearts,” Hunter said.
Another piece to the kit is a handmade journal, which has been donated.
All of this wouldn't be possible with the community, stressed Hunter.
She had put the call out for donations, and was amazed that within a week, she had raised over $5,700.
“That really spoke to me. People want this. They’re saying it loud and then they’re backing it with their own money,” she expressed. “It’s a beautiful gift in the Lakeland that they’re supportive of this program, because just like cancer, everyone’s affected."
Hunter has partnered with the Bonnyville Medical Clinic in order to connect families with the kits.
"They were able to help push this forward quickly. All of the doctors, when I first met with them late last year, were 100 per cent unanimous… They’re busy and they have all of these patients to get through, but they realize that empathy needs to be infused back into this issue," noted Hunter, adding the clinic even donated funding of their own.
"We're always looking for new ways to enhance patient care and Footprints is such a great initiative that brings empathy and support to a part of the system that has been in the shadows for far too long," said president of the local clinic Theresa Watson in a press release. "The staff at the Bonnyville Medical Clinic is delighted to implement the Footprints support bags in the clinic, and we know this is such a wonderful program for the area."
The bags are expected to be made available over the next few months.
“There will be 100 (kits) for the year, because there’s roughly 100 miscarriages or stillbirths every year, just in Bonnyville alone,” Hunter said.
With the extra funds Hunter has, she will be looking into creating a memorial.
"I'm actually working on a plaque, and I will be getting it out into a park or nice area where parents can go and honour their babies’ footprints."
She has also started working with Hearts for Healthcare in Cold Lake in order to get the bags in the city as well.
“It’s a ripple effect. I don’t want to just come in here with a storm, do it for one year, and be done. I want to make this grow, make it sustainable,” she expressed.
For Hunter, Footprints has been more than an initiative to help others, but along the way, it has also acted as a healing mechanism for herself.
“It’s helped with my healing, for sure, and for my husband. That’s why there’s such a driving force behind this. People often say ‘this is all your volunteered time,’ but I know what it feels like for the lack of empathy and I would never bestow that on anyone else. If that means I have to volunteer 20 hours per week on this, it’s part of the healing process for me, and I want to help others heal. That’s the driving force as to why there’s such veracity behind this, it’s helping me heal more everyday,” she said.
Hunter added, “It’s not about being such a warrior where you don’t have pain anymore, it’s about finding peace alongside it."