Aching Arms: teddy bears member-get-member scheme

Exhibited by
SOFII
Added
June 11, 2013
Medium of Communication
Online
Target Audience
Individuals
Type of Charity
Children, youth and family
Country of Origin
UK
Date of first appearance
Unknown

SOFII’s view

This story, her own, from Lauren Semple, a telephone fundraiser in Scotland shows clearly the power of a story told well. It is little wonder that it was voted the best of all the stories told at SOFII’s 2013 Once Upon I Wish I’d Thought of That event.

Creator / originator

Leanne Turner.

Name of exhibitor

Lauren Semple.

Aching Arms is a charity run by mothers who have experienced the loss of their much-wanted baby. They truly understand the pain in the hearts and the ache in the arms of other bereaved mothers.

Background

My journey has evoked a variety of emotions, none of which have been predictable. It began with the most indescribable joy, accompanied by a small level of anxiety.

Now can you imagine all of your dreams and plans for the future being snatched away in an instant? I’m sorry, there is no chance of survival.’ Those words destroyed me and my heart shattered into a million pieces. How could I not know that something was wrong with my baby? The guilt quickly consumed me. I wasn’t able to protect her. Coming to terms with the fact that I would be responsible for ending the life of the child we had longed for so deeply, and having no choice but to do so, was incredibly difficult to accept. I delivered our daughter on the 30 Janaury 2013, undoubtedly the most traumatic day of my life and one I will never forget. We named her Angelica.

It has now been five months and while my pain never goes away, I have learned to live with it. I realise I did what any mother would and that there was nothing I could have done to prevent this.

But my story is not one full of sadness; it is filled with joy, love, pride and hope. I am still a proud mum thanks to Angelica and, as a result of my experience, I have now become committed to a charity I had no idea existed. From now on, the 30 of January will be a day to celebrate, to remember my baby on her birthday and acknowledge her life, albeit very short.

One afternoon, after returning from an appointment, I noticed a teddy bear waiting for me on the doorstep. I picked him up and noticed a tag around his neck with the name James written on it. There was a leaflet with James and it read ‘Aching Arms’. I knew immediately who had sent me this bear, my sister, Linsey.

Unbeknown to me, Linsey had learned of Aching Arms through her friend, whose baby had died shortly after birth. The charity’s founder, Leanne, set the charity up after her son was born too soon and she wanted to honour his memory. She felt it important that parents know they are not alone in their grief and that their babies are not forgotten. The teddy bear represents another baby taken too soon and provides comfort from one mother to another.

Linsey arranged for a teddy to be sent to me and was asked to make a donation so another mum could also receive a teddy bearing my daughter’s name. I was touched by this and thought it was such a great idea, I wish I’d thought of it.

Aching Arms is run entirely by volunteer mothers who experienced the same loss as me. They aim to provide Aching Arms’ bears to hospitals for midwives to give to newly bereaved mothers. They also reach out to mothers who contact them through their website, email, Twitter and Facebook and send dedicated bears, from one mother to another. By giving the gift of a teddy bear their hope is that a bereaved mother will know she is not alone or forgotten and she may find comfort in holding the soft bear in times of distress.

The majority of Aching Arms’ donors are those who have experienced the loss of a baby and it is not only a difficult time for us, but for those around us. Our arms truly ache to hold the babies we have lost. Friends and family can’t truly empathise with how we are feeling and, in reality, little that they say or do will make us feel better.

But they can have a bear sent to their loved one and the benefits are twofold. It makes them feel that they have done something useful in recognising the pain of their loved one, acknowledging the importance of their child while connecting them to others who truly understand. Secondly, it is a very soft introduction to the charity for the parents who in turn are likely to donate themselves, continuing this cycle.

Special characteristics

The teddy bears.

Influence / Impact

Some comments on the Aching Arms’ website:

‘We found great comfort in the bear received via your charity, particularly our 11-year-old-daughter, it gave her some focus.'
‘My bear arrived within a few days. A beautiful bear, in memory of baby Hope. I immediately held it tight, to know in my head that this came from someone who knew how I felt, who knew I needed something in my arms.’
‘I wanted to let you know that the bears you sent arrived safely and are very much appreciated... We were truly grateful for your kind gesture and the understanding that accompanied it. I really can't thank you enough.’
'I’m sad this is a loss for another mummy but I love that this has been given to me in memory of baby Hope. I would really like to choose a bear to pass on to someone else in memory of Summer is this ok?’

Merits

The loss of a baby is not discussed widely yet affects so many and it’s time to break the silence. While most charities provide invaluable medical advice and fund research, Aching Arms provide the emotional support and friendship from one mother to another and they can truly empathise. The teddy bear reminds parents that they are not alone in their grief and gives a small token of comfort to hold when they can’t hold their much-wanted babies.

SOFII's Once Upon I Wish I'd Thought Of That 2013 – Lauren Semple presents Aching Arms