LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Baby keepsakes are something that every family cherishes, but for those parents who experience still birth or infant loss, keepsakes are few and far between.
Two Little Rock sisters, Sarah Bussey Adams and Britney Spees, founded Mamie’s Poppy Plates in 2010, an organization that provides memorial plates in honor of babies who never make it home for the hospital.
The nonprofit is named after Adams’ daughter, Mamie. Almost immediately after finding out she was pregnant, Sarah and her husband Taylor nicknamed the baby Poppy Seed. Sarah, a photographer, had a picture perfect pregnancy and was able to work all the way through. They made plans as a family of three, and put the finishing touches on Mamie’s nursery.
With just two and a half weeks left in her pregnancy, Sarah drove to her doctor’s office for a checkup with the car seat installed just in case. But at that appointment, the doctor could not find a heartbeat. After a long labor, Sarah delivered Mamie Katherine Adams, and she and Taylor began the grieving process.
“After we returned from the hospital i just needed (her),” Sarah said. “I didn’t have my baby. I was supposed to be changing diapers.”
With the emptiness, Sarah also discovered a silence surrounding the topic of infant loss. She had trouble finding other parents to relate to, and felt the push to fill the void felt by Mamie’s loss by filling the silence faced by other parents in her tragic situation.
“I needed to remember her,” she said. “I needed to speak her name. I wanted everyone to remember her. But I also needed to give back to other people who are dealing with this same horrible thing.”
Sarah had the idea first to make Christmas ornaments for families who lost babies, as a way to give back to patients at St. Vincent Hospital in Little Rock where she delivered Mamie. Soon she decided on plates, so parents could keep them out all year round.
Sarah’s sister, Britney, was looking for a way to protect her younger sister at the same time as searching for a way to do community outreach, and was instantly on board with Sarah’s idea.
“It was like God put it in my lap and said, ‘Here you go.'”
Through fundraising, Mamie’s Poppy Plates provides order packets that hospitals can give to grieving parents. Parents can choose the wording on their plate, the color and style, and the foot prints or hand prints that are taken by nurses are added to the plates by volunteers, many of whom have experienced stillbirth or infant loss themselves.
In seven short years, the organization has grown to provides plates in 43 hospitals in seven states, and has provided thousands of families with the tiny memorials.
“We want everyone to have them,” said Adams. “If they don’t ever want to look at it, they don’t have to. If they want to throw it against the wall, let them. We just want everyone to have something tangible to remember their baby by.”
The main fundraiser for Mamie’s Poppy Plates is the annual Race to Remember, which is a family festival and 5K run/walk, where families, friends, and relatives have a chance to celebrate the babies they’ve lost in a safe and positive environment. A highlight of the event is the balloon release, with a sea of pink and blue balloons filling the sky over War Memorial Stadium.
This year’s Race to Remember will take place on Saturday, May 13, beginning at 4:00 p.m.
For their work to break the silence around still birth and infant loss, Sarah Bussey Adams and Britney Spees will be honored with an Arkansas Community Service Award on June 2.