Every parent knows the struggle of trying to read the book Love You Forever to their kids without crying. (I almost made it through last night, so that’s a new milestone for me.) The story tugs at our heartstrings for good reason, as author Robert Munsch penned the book after experiencing the loss of his own twin infant sons.
It was both the experience of infant loss and the book’s sentiment of everlasting love that inspired 34-year-old Heidi Eastveld of Manitoba, Canada to start the Love You Forever Project.
After her sister Heather lost her daughter Eden in March 2014 at 39 weeks pregnant and then her son Lucas in December 2014 at 29 weeks pregnant, Eastveld, who had also experienced loss through miscarriage, had the idea to design a T-shirt to honor her niece and nephew. She shares that she wanted to create awareness about stillbirth and infant loss, as well as raise funds for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS). Eastveld explains that NILMDTS is an organization that coordinates volunteer professional photographers to take remembrance photos for families who have experienced stillbirth or infant loss.
Heather had asked her sister to find a photographer through the organization to come to the hospital to take pictures of Lucas when he was born still. As Heather described in her own story, having photos of her son and daughter, thanks to the photographers who volunteer their time with the organization, meant everything to her.
“The impact that Eden and Lucas had on our entire family was huge, and I felt the need to remember them, and open up conversation about infant loss,” Eastveld adds. “I wanted it to be easier for my sister to be able to speak her children’s names.”
When she mentioned the idea of the project to her sister, it was actually Heather who suggested the phrase “Love You Forever” from Robert Munsch’s book. Eastveld then contacted local brush script artist Kal Barteski to lend her script to the project. She not only agreed, but shared that it was a book she regularly reads to her three daughters.
In October 2015, the Love You Forever Project was born. The project features a black unisex T-shirt or a women’s V-neck option with the script, “Love You Forever” across the front in a simple, yet powerful design. There is also a matching black onesie design and kid’s T-shirt, because as Eastveld explains on her site, she wanted her designs to encompass all types of families — both those who hold their babies in their hands and those who hold them in their hearts.
Eastveld, who is also a licensed pharmacist, makes the T-shirts through Little Orchard Co., her business that she runs with the help of her husband, Derek, 37. In between work, the couple also parent three young daughters ranging in age from 6 months to 6 years old. Their company is based in Canada, but they ship to the U.S. and plan to launch new U.S. designs in the spring and summer months.
“There’s something about a great fitting tee and a pair of jeans that’s hard to beat,” Eastveld notes.
Despite her love for what she does, launching the Love You Forever project came with a lot of different emotions for Eastveld. Both she and her sister both feared sharing such a personal and sensitive story, but they hoped that opening up about their own experience with loss could make a difference in the lives of other families. And that’s exactly what they have been able to do.
“I’ve had people send me emails with their stories, pictures of the children they’ve lost, and both parents and family members send thank yous for creating a way for them to recognize the children and grandchildren they miss,” Eastveld says. “That it feels like a way to recognize the little ones that are missing in their lives.”
Profits from the sale of the shirts in the Love You Forever Project are donated to the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep organization. As of June 2017, the project has been able to donate approximately $13K to NILMDTS in honor of Eden and Lucas.
Eastveld also shares stories on her blog of families who have encountered loss and encourages anyone who has experienced pregnancy and infant loss to share their own stories and photos on social media with the hashtags #loveyouforeverproject #nilmdts #stillbirthawareness #infantloss #littleorchardco.
The hardworking mom of three tells Babble that she is grateful for the chance to give back through the project that has been meant so much to her personally as well.
“In a way, the NILMDTS project has been the real turning point of these last three years,” she says. “I really wanted my designs to have a positive message and I wanted to be more than just ‘someone selling shirts.’ I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do something so worthwhile, not only to me and my family, but to, as it turns out, thousands of people.”