Taking on a mammoth challenge in memory of our son

Gary is an electrician based in Wokingham, where he lives with his wife, Trinity, an events planner from New Zealand. In April 2021, the couple were heartbroken when their son Orion was stillborn at 40 weeks. This year, Gary is taking on 8 ultra-marathons in Orion’s memory to support Tommy’s research into stillbirth. This is his story.

We’d been trying for a baby for a long time 

After 5 unsuccessful rounds of IVF, we finally fell pregnant on the 6th round. We were both so excited and couldn’t wait. We loved getting the nursery ready, shopping for outfits and planning who we would visit to show off our new baby that we had prayed for, for so long.

Throughout the pregnancy, everything seemed perfect and went really well. The week before our due date, Trin had what we thought were Braxton Hicks contractions. On Friday 2 April, we headed to the hospital – as although we could still feel movement, we were no longer getting the usual kicks on the right-hand side of Trinity’s belly. Trinity wasn’t worried, but we just wanted some reassurance.

The worst possible news

When we got the news that they could not find a heartbeat and our baby had died, it was so surreal. The pain is unbelievable; the questions are endless – how did this happen, what did we do wrong? You feel helpless and powerless.

We were sent home that night to think through what we wanted to do. We both called our parents to tell them. Then we just lay in bed. There was no chance of getting to sleep. At about 1am, Trin went to the toilet and started bleeding, so we called the maternity ward, who told us to come in.

They checked us into a private room and told us we would be seen by a consultant in the morning. Trin was able to get some sleep, but I was sat in an armchair and didn’t manage to get any. The next day, our friend brought an air mattress and sleeping bag for me, which made a real difference.

We had to decide how our baby would be born

We still had to make the decision on how the baby would be born. When we first were told the baby had died, the hospital suggested we have a natural birth. The thought of this was painful – for Trin to go through all the pain of childbirth, even though our baby wasn’t alive.

Over the next couple of days, we spoke to 2 more consultants. Trin’s blood pressure was rising, so we ultimately decided a c-section was the best option, and the operation was planned for later that day.

On Sunday 4 April, Trin’s waters broke, and we were rushed down for the c-section. After the procedure, we were taken into the recovery room and the 2 midwives brought our baby in for us to meet.

Meeting our son, Orion

Orion Malachi was born at 15:45 on Sunday 4 April. It was a very emotional moment and there were a lot of tears as we learnt we’d had a baby boy. We were so excited and in love with him from the moment we found out we were pregnant, and now we finally got to hold him and see him. We got to spend the next couple of days with Orion in the hospital. We were in our own little bubble – just us, and our closest friends and family.

We wanted to understand why he had died

Orion was then taken up to Oxford to undergo an autopsy. We wanted to get as many answers as possible about what had happened, but we also knew it was likely we wouldn’t find out why he had died. It’s thought that around 60% of stillbirths are unexplained and the parents never get an answer.

Once we were back home, we just cried. Everything that we used to do we didn’t want to. We didn’t want to see or speak to anyone and just shut the world out. Everything we had planned was shattered, and our lives felt so empty. At times, it was hard to see the point in anything.

Making memories with our son

A week after Orion had gone for his post-mortem, he came back from Oxford, and we went back to the hospital. We had missed being able to hold him and look at him. We got to dress him in a new babygro. 

The next day, we had arranged with the hospital to go in the morning and collect him along with a cold cot to take him home for the day. We had friends and family coming over throughout the day to meet him. We put him in the nursery and took him out for a walk in his pram. It was so good to make these memories and do things that we had looked forward to doing with him. He stayed with us until late in the evening, and then we took him back to the hospital.

Planning the funeral was incredibly hard

We were able to visit Orion in the funeral home over the next 4 days. No parent ever wants to organise their baby’s funeral, and this was one of the things we found the hardest. Our minister was amazing, though, and did most of the work, so we only had to make minimal decisions.

I normally ran a lot, but I didn’t feel like it at the time. Trin would encourage me to get out the door to run, but it was hard. We had spent a week in our small hospital room, not walking more than a few feet. I didn’t want to leave Trin on her own and didn’t want to be away from her. If I did go out, I wanted to be alone, but a lot of the time I had no motivation to.

That’s why I want to raise funds for Tommy’s

It took about 6 weeks before we found out the results of the autopsy and, as we had guessed, there was no known reason as to why Orion had died. Everything came back as normal. This is one of the hardest things – never knowing why we’d had a stillbirth.  

That’s why I want to raise money for Tommy’s, and support their research into the reasons behind stillbirth, miscarriage and premature birth. We want to help prevent other parents from going through what we have. If the money we raise to fund their research can make a difference to just one family, it will be worth it for us.

As I have run a few marathons and 100-mile races before, I wanted to find a challenge that would warrant people sponsoring me, so I looked for a series of events that would really challenge me. Centurion Running put on a series of 50-mile and 100-mile events and some people choose to do either what is known as the Grand Slam of either 50-mile or 100-mile runs. An even smaller number choose to do both in the one year, which is known as a Double Grand Slam – and this is what I’m taking on in memory of Orion.

You can find out more about Gary's challenge and sponsor him on his JustGiving page.