Random acts of kindness to remember our baby Leo

Lauren is 29, works in technology to support people with disabilities, and lives in West Sussex with her husband James. The couple have always wanted children.

A grade A embryo 

James and I had been trying for a baby for about 4 years when we realised things weren’t right. We went through various procedures and operations which took us up to 6 years of trying before we had IVF.

We were extremely lucky that our first round of IVF was successful - we had a grade A embryo that was “better than textbook” and we were thrilled. We didn’t tell anyone except close friends and family until we had our 20-week scan and were told all was well. We did a baby announcement and gender reveal shortly after, and were thrilled to find out we were having a boy!

Tragic turn

2 days after the announcement I was taken to hospital with bleeding. Having been sent home the first time and told to rest, I went back again and was then told I was 4cm dilated and in active labour. We were told to prepare to say goodbye to our precious boy. We decided to call him Leo with the middle name James, just like his daddy.

The next morning, I was sent for an emergency cervical stitch which was risky as I was so far dilated. I had to be kept awake in case my waters were ruptured and I had to deliver in theatre. I was put on strict bed rest and told daily that I would have to say goodbye, as either infection markers were creeping up or my bleeding was becoming worse.

Somehow, we managed to scrape through to 23 weeks in hospital, which meant we were transferred to St Peter’s Hospital in Chertsey as they had a specialist neonatal intensive care unit.

At 24 weeks and 4 days, we realised I was in active labour. I was 7cm dilated with my stitch still in, so there was a frantic rush to the delivery suite and the NICU team was called to discuss the birth with us.

I was told, due to Leo being so small, I wouldn’t have the option for additional help such as forceps, as they were too big. This meant there was a chance he could get stuck, so I had to just push as hard as I could to get him out.

Our first cuddle

Leo was born at 2.42am on 5 February, trying to breathe and just the most perfect little thing I’d ever seen in my life. Initially Leo was doing well, but after 24 hours they decided he needed some additional breathing support, and we were able to hold him on day 3.

It was the best feeling; we were so happy and got lots of photos of our first cuddle. Shortly after that Leo took a turn for the worst and he became very poorly, very quickly. We aren’t religious people at all, but turned to anything and everything that might help. We held Leo’s hand and read him all the books that the department had; we had him blessed with all our friends and family around us.

Heart-breaking decision

On the 13 February, James and I had gone to lay down in the parent’s room when we were collected by a nurse. She asked us to come back to Leo’s side - we knew it wasn’t good.

The consultant said to us that there was nothing more they could do to help him; he was so poorly. They were fighting fires all over the place - when they fixed one thing, it caused another problem.

His little body was so tired from fighting and so we made the heart-breaking decision to remove his life support.

Surrounded by friends and family, we read him the book ‘Goodnight Bear’ while he peacefully slipped away surrounded by pure love.

We were heartbroken, lost and angry at the world. Why us? We'd fought so hard for this baby - waited 6 years, gone through IVF, and then we didn’t get to keep him. It wasn’t fair.

Our rainbow baby

Shortly after, I fell pregnant naturally with our rainbow baby, Teddy. This stressful, very high-risk bed rest pregnancy brought us so much love and helped to heal our broken heavy hearts.

Something special for Leo

We always knew we had to do something special for Leo, so in 2019, on what would have been his first birthday, we carried out little acts of kindness. We took items to the police station, fire station, ambulance crew and midwives. This year we wanted to make it even bigger.

With the help of my Instagram platform, I started telling my story - not only of the challenges of parenting, but the challenges of loss and of how common loss is. This is how #RAK4LEO was born. We decided to ask everyone we spoke to if they could do one nice thing for someone else, and believed this would make a huge difference to how people felt. We want to create a wave of happiness and love, as well as open people’s eyes to just how often something as tragic as child loss happens.

In his short 8 days on this earth, Leo only knew love; how lucky was he?

What better legacy is there than a legacy of love?

Anyone can do a random act of kindness

Some of the things people did were amazing: a venue and wedding planner gifted a couple £250 to put behind the bar at their wedding; a hairdresser gave away free blow-dries; and a local mum left little care packages in baby change facilities to help anyone who was caught short without essential items. People baked for colleagues, for strangers and gave items to people less fortunate than themselves. Some of the best feedback we got was that it just made people be more considerate of others and be kinder.

Anyone can get involved and do a random act of kindness, even buying a coffee for someone behind you in a queue or leaving motivational notes somewhere to make people smile.

Our Leo was surrounded by love and knew only love. We can’t create that for everyone, but if we can put a smile on someone’s face then we’ve made a difference.