Elle Wright lives with her husband and their pug, Boris, in a pretty town in Surrey. The couple welcomed their son, Teddy, in May 2016, however heartbreakingly he didn’t get to come home with them. Teddy lived for just three days. Since Teddy died, Elle has dedicated much of her time to raising money for The Little Roo Neonatal Fund through Teddy’s Legacy. So far she has raised over £100,000.
Elle writes the blog Feathering The Empty Nest, an account of how she has navigated life in the wake of loss. She also shares her home renovations, a passion that she tells us saved her in what she describes as her darkest hour. She has recently written her first book, Ask Me His Name, which tells Teddy’s story.
To mark Baby Loss Awareness Week (9th – 15th October 2018), and as part of our ‘Journey into Motherhood series’, in support of our charity collection raising money for Refugee Support Europe, we talked to Elle about losing Teddy, how she’s coped, and all the amazing things she’s done to remember him. Read more below…
Hi Elle, thank you so much for talking to us about your journey into motherhood. You have been so incredibly brave sharing what happened to you and your husband on your blog Feathering The Empty Nest. Could you tell us about what happened when Teddy arrived?
Teddy was born on 16th May 2016 after a full term and healthy pregnancy. He stopped breathing in the hours after his birth (during the night) and was then transferred to a nearby neonatal unit where he lived for three days before they withdrew his life support on Thursday 19th May 2016. Months later we found out that he died from a very rare and non-hereditary metabolic condition caused by a gene mutation at the time of conception.
And what happened when you both returned home without Teddy?
We returned home that evening to a quiet house, and empty nursery and with empty arms. Our lives from that day were changed unrecognisable forever.
What were the things that helped you cope during what must have been an unbelievably difficult time?
The support of a very loving family and our wonderful friends. Being allowed to grieve in private and not being made to feel like we needed to see anyone. We also started our fundraising page the week after Teddy died, which I think helped immensely as it gave us a positive focus.
How did you come to start your blog Feathering The Empty Nest and your Instagram account? And do you think writing about what happened to you helped?
I always had my Instagram account, I had it two years previous to Teddy arriving. I used it mainly to post photos of the house, or various nights out with friends. When Teddy died my focus shifted (as did everything in my new reality) and I began to use Instagram to connect with other bereaved parents. I didn’t start my blog until nine months after he died as we had experienced the loss of a second baby at 15 weeks of pregnancy. I definitely wasn’t strong enough to articulate anything readable until that point in time, but after another heartbreak I just knew I had to use what positive spirit I had left to write about what we had experienced. I decided to start a blog about all of the things that had helped me in the wake of Teddy’s death, mainly our home. So, I started Feathering The Empty Nest and changed my Instagram handle to match the blog. Writing has been hugely cathartic for me.
You’ve really helped to break the silence on baby loss and your blog won the Tommy’s Sling Studio Mum’s Voice Award. What are the most positive things that have come from speaking about what happened to you?
For me, the most positive thing to come from me sharing and writing is that other parents now contact me and say I have helped them to do the same. Also, when friends and family of bereaved parents write to me and say that reading my writing has helped them to support someone who has lost a baby. Reading messages like that remind me why I started.
More than two years after Teddy arrived, you’ve done so many amazing things to celebrate his life, including writing your book ‘Ask Me His Name’. You also share your home renovation and your life with Boris the pug on your blog. How have these things helped to keep you going?
All of them have helped me in their own way. When Teddy first died it was a matter of keeping my fractious mind occupied and my empty arms busy; so, having Boris to look after and working on the house helped. Writing the book has obviously been a huge project, and something that has not only kept me very busy but acted as a kind of therapy for me I suppose. It felt good to write it all down.
What would you say to parents who are going through something similar?
I always say: you’re going to get through it. It doesn’t feel like you are, and it feels as though no one can understand what you are feeling, but I promise you that you are, and that there are so many people who understand because they have been through it too.
Connect with other parents who have experienced this narrative of parenthood. It will give you a place to talk and a place where you’ll realise you aren’t going mad and all of your feelings are perfectly justifiable and normal.
And what advice would you give to anyone who has a friend who has lost a baby?
I always find this really difficult to answer as we are all so different and grieve so differently; so what works for one person might not necessarily work for another. I worry that I will give the wrong piece of advice, that I’ll set someone off on a mission of good intention only for it to be entirely misunderstood by the grieving parent and it will all be my fault. After all, I am not a professional in any capacity, I am just another mother on this road. I suppose my only advice would be to say the child’s name, and to talk. Nothing is more deafening than silence.
And finally, what do you think are the most important things you’ve learnt going through what you’ve been through?
Never to take anything in life for granted and to respect the fragility of life. To spend time doing things that make us happy and not to worry about trying to say “yes” to everyone and please everyone if it will be at the detriment of our own well-being if we do. Learn to cultivate a feeling of gratitude for all of the things that you do have in life, instead of focusing on the things that you don’t. “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
If like Elle, you would like to help us in supporting the Refugee Support charity, check out our 'Leopard With Love' collection which is raising money for this brilliant cause.