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1,000 butterfly figures placed at infant graves for Mother's Day

She hopes it will give mothers strength on Mother’s Day to know that they and their children will not be forgotten.

PORTLAND, Ore. — As we celebrate Mother’s Day weekend, it is important to remember that the holiday can have a different meaning for everyone. For moms who have lost a child, it can be a painful day of mourning.

Jessica Dorrington is reminding those moms that they are not alone by placing around 1,000 decorative butterflies at the graves of children and infants at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Portland.

“I hope when they walk through the field of butterflies that they’ll feel united,” Dorrington said. “But they’ll also feel, maybe, a sense of peace and just realizing that they’re loved and celebrated.”

The Saturday morning before Mother’s Day Dorrington placed her final butterfly, each with its own particular pattern and colors.

Credit: Brittany Falkers/KGW

“I wanted them to have markings that were different because the grief process is different and unique for each person,” she said.

It is estimated that one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage. That statistic has sparked a nationwide movement online and a community of support.

Each year about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Dorrington is a physical therapist at Therapeutic Associates Bethany Physical Therapy. As a specialist in treating pelvic floor dysfunction, she works with women who have experienced miscarriages or stillbirths.

Her mission to bring butterflies to the final resting place of infants has personal meaning for Dorrington. She herself also knows the pain of losing a child. In 2012 she lost her baby girl Abigale at 22 weeks. 

Credit: Brittany Falkers/KGW

“Being a physical therapist that specializes in the pelvis I get to share a lot of intimate stories with moms and it often includes loss,” Dorrington said. “And then coming here to visit our daughter’s grave makes you realize that there’s a lot of women that loss a part of their story.”

With her family by her side, including her eight and 4-year-old sons, Dorrington began placing the symbolic butterflies on Friday near Abigail’s grave.

She tells KGW that mothers don’t just mourn the loss of their child, but also the future hopes and dreams they have for their children.

“That they still think about their child. They still think about; what would they look like, or what would their laugh sound like, or how would they look on their wedding day,” she said. “I think every person still has that and kind of has that special place in their heart.”

She hopes it will give mothers strength on Mother’s Day to know that they and their children will not be forgotten.

“Happy Mother’s Day to everybody, no matter what that looks like,” Dorrington said.

This was Dorrington’s first year placing butterflies at the cemetery. She hopes to do it every Mother’s Day in the future.

Dorrington is also working on publishing a book to help other moms who’ve experienced a stillbirth or miscarriage.  

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