Elle begun her blog 'Feathering the empty nest', after her son Teddy lived for just three days. His time on this earth may have been short, but his impact has been immense. She talks openly about her journey, navigating a way to feel purpose after the worst loss, the death of her son Teddy. Finding light in darkness, and positivity in times of desperation.
Her blog has inspired and touched thousands of women, which is why Elle won our Sling Studio Mum’s Voice Award at the 2018 Tommy's Awards. This award celebrates a mum who has spoken out about her own pregnancy experience and given hope to others, something Elle does on a daily basis.
This is Elle’s story
'It’s hard to articulate how you feel when what you’ve expected to be the happiest event becomes the saddest.'
Our son Teddy stopped breathing shortly after birth and, after three anxious days in neonatal intensive care, they told us there was nothing they could do and withdrew life support.
Since then we’ve done our best to navigate a parenthood we weren’t anticipating.
In those early days we were shocked, we were broken. You know it happens but don’t think it will ever happen to you.
We go into labour fully expecting to come home with a baby, when I didn’t it was extremely hard to cope. Just getting up, leaving the house was a struggle for months. I felt hollow, completely numb, with this physical ache in my chest.
I was on maternity leave with no baby to look after so I tried to keep busy, to fill the void.
I started doing things around the house which is why I started my blog, to talk about my passion and as a cathartic way to write about Teddy, about what happened to us.
I’ve found sharing my experience to be hugely helpful in enabling me to get my jumbled thoughts straight on a page. I started writing to help others but it was a lot more for me than I realised.
I feel incredibly proud that I’ve shared Teddy’s story because, when I first searched after he died, I couldn’t find anyone to give me hope, to tell me I was going to be okay and I hope I do that for others.
Social media definitely helped in the initial weeks after losing Teddy, Instagram was the only place where I could connect with women who had also lost their children. You might not be able to find these people in your friends and family but on social media you can and it was hugely helpful for me.
If I could say one thing to someone going through baby loss it would be ‘You’re going to be okay’.
You don’t feel like you are, you don’t feel anyone understands but you are not on your own, one in four women lose a pregnancy. I wish somebody had told me that there would be days when I’d feel happy again because, for a long time, I never thought I’d ever laugh or smile. I believed any genuine happiness was gone forever. I’d tell them to hang on because, although the loss of a child is always there, you can get through it.
I’m not sure why baby loss is still such a taboo. I think we’ve always had this sense that we must carry on and pretend everything is okay when it’s not.
I think there’s this stigma attached to losing a baby, lots of women feel ashamed, feel like they’ve failed. They shouldn’t, but I understand because it’s how I felt and the more you don’t talk, the more isolated you become and the sense of shame and failure becomes even worse.
If you feel sad about something every day of your life, if you can’t say it loud, share it, then it will manifest, it will get worse. Consider sharing because I guarantee you’ll feel better for it.
If I was going to give advice to someone who’s going through this and finding it difficult to cope, I’d say talk about it, the more you keep it inside the worse you’ll feel in the long term. And I think you’ll be surprised when you do talk, how many people know somebody, or somebody who knows somebody. With a statistic like one in four pregnancies, there’s never somebody far away from you who’s experienced the loss of pregnancy, stillbirth or neonatal death.
'I honestly believe sharing Teddy’s story, even with friends and family, enabled me to cope a lot better in the early days.'
I felt frustrated that it seemed every other person I knew got pregnant easily and had a healthy baby. I felt like I’d been robbed of all that.
I don’t think I was angry at anyone specifically for having health children there, just the universe for taking mine away from me.
I don’t have anger towards anyone else because you don’t know what they’ve endured to get to that point. I might see a mother of twins walking along and be envious but I don’t know that she’s not had a seven-year battle with infertility. I had to tell myself that very early on, you never know when you see someone pregnant or with a pram what it’s taken to get there.
We lost Teddy almost two years ago but when I have days where I’m really struggling I list the things I do have, it sounds crazy but the simplest things get me out of bed in the morning. It sounds so simple but it has helped me on so many occasions.
Tommy’s does incredible work, preventing families going through what we’ve had to endure.
I think raising awareness of baby’s movements, how pregnancy should feel, and empowering women to say ‘I don’t feel right’. That’s not making a fuss, there’s a living person inside of you who needs to be treated with care and respect. Tommy’s recognises that and they’re doing everything they can to allow women to look after their babies through pregnancy to ensure a safe delivery which is all any expectant mother wants for their new baby.
I’m a fiercely proud mother in as much as I say Teddy’s name as much as I can.
I think it’s really important to do that because my fear is that if I didn’t, we didn’t talk about Teddy with family or friends or in social media, that he would in some way be forgotten, become a non-thing. Many people never met him when he was alive so it’s difficult for them to feel close to him, to feel that he’s a person who lived and died.
I want to make other people feel comfortable mentioning his name, talking about him. Friends used to sort of flinch before they said ‘Teddy’, now they drop him into conversation casually as if he were here and I love that because it proves he’s not been forgotten.