“Nothing prepares you for going into hospital and not leaving with your baby,” says Paul Mills.
Eight years ago he and his wife Jenny were preparing to welcome their daughter into the world.
But as families across the globe prepare to come together for Christmas, this festive season will again be a period for the Errol couple to reflect and think about the little girl they never got to know.
Sophie Catherine Mills was stillborn, an event that Paul and Jenny have used ever since as motivation to help families caught in equally tragic circumstances. Since their own heartbreak their charity, SCM, has raised thousands of pounds to help bereaved families in Tayside purchase headstones and memorials for their children.
To help with its efforts, SCM has been named as the beneficiary of this year’s University of Dundee Candlelit Carol Service, one of the institution’s biggest annual events, which will take place in the city’s St Paul’s Cathedral at 5pm on Sunday 15 December.
“Christmas is a particularly hard time for us,” said Paul, 35.
“It is marketed as a time for families but Jenny and I can only imagine what it would be like to have Sophie with us.
“She is a part of our lives every day. Sophie should be with us, but sadly she can’t be.”
Paul and Jenny founded SCM – a name created from Sophie’s initials – after learning that there was no charity in Scotland assisting families of stillborn babies with meeting the expense of headstones and tributes.
Since its inception, the charity has been able to help parents throughout Tayside purchase memorials for babies who have died between 24 weeks of pregnancy and 28 days after birth.
“Memorials can cost hundreds of pounds and not everybody is fortunate to have that sort of money. The funds we raise can at least help parents to pay tribute to their children in a fitting manner.”
Since launching the charity, Paul and Jenny have pushed themselves to their limits to honour their daughter, competing in endurance events, walking across fire pits, and even scaling Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for their cause.
Having helped families throughout Tayside, Paul and Jenny, who both work in a Perthshire residential school, now wish to expand SCM’s work to help people across Scotland.
“The donations that people make at the Candlelit Carol Service will help to make a massive difference to those who need us,” added Paul.
“Every penny goes back into the charity and we can also claim Gift Aid, which means we receive an extra 25p for every pound we receive. We are wanting to expand and help more people, so every donation is incredibly valuable.
“SCM has allowed us to build a legacy for Sophie and we are proud of what we have been able to do so far. It is bittersweet – we miss her every day – but at least we know we can help others who may need support when they need it most.”
This year’s University of Dundee Candlelit Carol Service will take place at St Paul’s Cathedral, Dundee, at 5pm on Sunday 15 December. The venue now has a mechanical stair climber for anyone with mobility issues, including disabilities, and more information can be obtained by calling the Cathedral on 01382 224486.