I wrote an email to Tommy’s with shaking hands, sharing what I couldn’t say out loud

When Kat’s son, Luke, was stillborn in 2018, she reached out to Tommy’s for support when she felt her sense of guilt was standing in the way of her grief. This year, in honour of Luke’s 5th birthday, she’s fundraising for Tommy’s in his memory.

In July 2018 I wrote to the Tommy's midwives. Six weeks before, on 1st June, our precious second child, and only son, Luke, had been stillborn.

We had navigated his birth as best we could, making the most of the still-beautiful moments we shared, trying to make memories to last a lifetime within a few short hours. We had navigated the immediate aftermath – sharing our news, dealing with painful practicalities, even celebrating our lovely eldest's 3rd birthday in a bittersweet daze. But weeks later I found myself drowning deeper and deeper in guilt and ruminating on his final days and hours.

Luke had been perfectly healthy until a true knot tightened and his heart stopped beating in my 40th week of pregnancy. As well as grieving our family's loss I couldn't shake a very personal sense of guilt – that I could have, should have, found a way to save him.

Reaching out to Tommy’s

I wrote an email to Tommy's with shaking hands, sharing what I couldn't say out loud – admitting the dark feelings that wouldn't let me rest.

A few short hours later a midwife replied with a response that felt like the most enormous hug. She replied with a compassionate, warm and completely tailored message. She reassured me – not just that I wasn't to blame, but that all my feelings were normal and I was not alone – and signposted me to other resources and support avenues.

I needed a medical professional, someone who understood the complexities of what we had experienced, to tell me "It wasn't your fault" before I could stop punishing myself and begin to move forward with my grief and navigate my new reality. 

Excerpt from Kat’s email to Tommy’s

Hi there,

I was just wondering if you could help me. Our little boy was stillborn at term a few weeks ago and I am still struggling with the guilt of wondering if I could have saved him.

The midwives and my consultant have reassured me I did all I could but I just can’t seem to forgive myself.

I know rationally that because of his condition (he died from a true cord knot) he could have died very suddenly, before I could have registered there was a real problem with his movement. But I just keep beating myself up and feeling like I let him down by not going in earlier.

I feel like the guilt is getting in the way of my grief – like I don’t deserve to just be sad and grieve like other parents because it’s my fault I didn’t do my part to save him…

I'm not sure there's a more powerful way to illustrate why I'm fundraising for Tommy's. It still makes me well up reading it now, remembering how dark those early days felt. And then remembering the incredible lightness the reply from Tommy's gave me.

It was like I was being given permission to forgive myself and move my focus to navigating life with Luke in our hearts rather than our arms, to look to the future rather than being fixated on the past.

Helping other families facing loss

In the years since Luke's death I have tried to give back in different ways as and when I've felt able to. I have shared my 'stillbirth birth story' widely as part of Baby Loss Awareness Week because when I found out Luke had died I was utterly terrified about the physical process of giving birth and desperate to hear real life stories of how people had managed to use the birth itself as part of bonding with their baby, trying to ensure memories were as full of connection and meaning as possible even in the midst of an unfathomable loss.

I started an Instagram account which talked about Luke and how I tried to find meaning and gratitude through the dark initial days. In all honesty, it was as much an outlet for myself as to help others but I hope it did a little of both. I offer to speak to newly bereaved parents and support them as best I can because I know I found those personal relationships invaluable when I was in the early days – and I've forged some truly incredible bonds and friendships through the process.

Finally, I have also committed to raising money for causes and charities that either helped us, or help other bereaved parents, as a legacy for Luke and a way for his memory to endure as widely as possible.

Taking on the Skyscraper Challenge for Tommy’s

In the past I have raised money for the hospital where Luke was born and for smaller charities doing amazing things to support parents. But until now I haven't raised money directly for Tommy's.

2023 is the year Luke would have turned 5. To mark such an important milestone I had in my mind the goal to raise £5,000 and so when I heard about the Skyscraper Challenge I knew this was exactly the right challenge for me.

I've run half marathons and done other physical challenges in the past to fundraise but the climb and zipwire combination is very far outside my comfort zone – enough to hopefully inspire donations that will top all my previous efforts!

Our life as a family

Luke now has both an older and a younger sister – Lara and Rosie. Both girls are an inspiration in how they talk about their brother and his place in our family. We're flying over together (from Gibraltar where we all live) so they can watch Mummy sail through the sky, and I know they'll be my biggest cheerleaders.

When Luke died my biggest fear was that every day would be dark. But now I see light everywhere, especially when I look at my daughters, and the life our family has built around our loss. Luke will always be with us, we'll always be a family of five – just one that looks different from the outside.

Taking part in this challenge and raising money for a charity who helped me so much feels like the very best way to say "Happy 5th birthday, Luke. We all love you so much."

A woman in running clothes is taking a mirror selfie over her shoulder to show the back of her t-shirt, which reads 'Always running for Luke'.