I am extremely proud to be able to tell you I am the winner of the Tommy’s Mum’s Voice Award.
What an emotional yet brilliant day celebrating brave babies, their parents, and the health professionals who work so hard to care for them.
Accepting the award is bittersweet. I am so very proud – proud of Hugo, proud of his legacy, proud of the difference Hugo’s Legacy is making already. I am heartened to see that people from all walks of life know about Hugo’s Legacy, and respect what I do.
But honestly? I would much rather not be there, not have a single accolade. I would much rather be a mum of a feisty 20 month old little monkey whom no one had ever heard of.
So it was with mixed emotions that I travelled to London with Martin on Friday morning. I was looking forward to the day: I love getting dolled up (I wore my pink dress kindly gifted by Kaliko for last year’s BritMums, blue Orla Kiely for Clarks heels, and I crafted a Gibson tuck updo with sparkly hairband), and was excited to see my friends, while simultaneously steeling myself for the emotional rollercoaster the day would inevitably be.
We’d arranged to meet fellow finalists, my good friends Jenny (Great North Mum) and Susanne (Ghostwritermumm) at the train station so we could travel to the Landmark Hotel together. I’d never met Jenny before, and she and Susanne hadn’t met before either, it’s brilliant to meet in person people who have become close friends online.
Jenny and Susanne are fabulous bloggers and very deserving finalists along with lovely Emily from Mummy Limited who I was also pleased to meet, and Clare from Fairey Clarey who unfortunately was unable to attend.
The Landmark Hotel is a beautiful venue. It makes me think of an Agatha Christie adaptation: minor nobility idling around Europe drinking many a G&T (while helping solve murder mysteries, of course).
Following a drinks reception we enjoyed a lavish three course lunch. The service, as you might expect from such a hotel, was incredible – the waiting staff have the knack of meeting your every need while not getting in the way.
I was delighted to meet Lara and Elodie from Seraphine, who sponsored the Mum’s Voice category. My maternity wardrobe featured many Seraphine pieces, my favourite being a bright pink (of course) dress made famous by Kate Middleton in her first picture with Prince George. The dress features in one of my favourite photos with Hugo (the smile on my face says it all).
I also wore the dress to Hugo’s funeral.
Lara has invited me to take part in a Q&A about HELLP syndrome and Hugo, to help raise further awareness, which I will be very pleased to do.
Also on my table was actress Terri Dwyer, who I remember from Hollyoaks back in the day, when my Sunday mornings would be spent in bed catching up with the soap’s omnibus. Martin and I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with Terri and her friend Emma, both incredibly kind, compassionate, and interesting women.
After the lunch came the awards, hosted by Katy Hill.
I must confess that my win on Friday was not a surprise to me: it’s a secret I have had to keep for more than a month. The lovely people at Tommy’s called me one evening in rather an emotional conversation. The main reason for informing winners in advance is so they can make a short film about their story to be shown at the awards.
The winners’ films are, of course, all a very emotional watch. They feature a range of stories – you can see them on Tommy’s YouTube channel.
The culmination of watching those films and hearing stories during the ceremony meant I was feeling especially emotional when it was the turn of the Mum’s Voice Award.
Walking up to the stage, past tables full of people applauding me felt surreal. Trying to hold back tears, I accepted my award (and lots of hugs) from Katy Hill, Nancy Sorrell, and Lara from Seraphine.
I had planned to say something on stage but the emotion overtook me. Thank goodness for the film because otherwise I would have been emulating Gwyneth Paltrow, who famously sobbed through her Best Actress acceptance speech at the Oscars (and she too was wearing a bright pink dress).
I would have said something along the lines of:
Hugo proved there is no footprint too small to leave an imprint on the world. Anyone can make an impact on the world, never think you are too small to do so.
You can watch my film about Hugo and Hugo’s Legacy here:
When we shot the film I spoke for more than 90 minutes, and they did a great job editing it down to just three.
It is a difficult watch: on the one hand I feel a bit detached from it, even though I know it is my story and hearing me talk about it is terrifying: and on the other seeing my gorgeous Hugo on the screen just melts my heart all over again. In the video he is rocking out to the nursery rhyme mega mix: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star; Baa Baa Black Sheep; and How Much is That Doggy in the Window, always in that order. Hugo would react so positively to my voice, and I love how you can see him doing air guitar to the Doggy song. One of Hugo’s nurses says she now encourages all her parents to sing to their babies when unsettled after seeing how well Hugo was soothed by my voice.
Dr Alex Heazell, Clinical Director of Tommy’s Stillbirth Centre approached me after the awards to thank me for talking about my story. I was a little starstruck, and taken aback that he was thanking me – he said that it is only through talking about these issues, still so taboo sadly, that we raise awareness and therefore funding to help save babies’ lives.
Before departing I enjoyed a chat and tearful hugs with Nancy Sorrell and her mum, both of whom were so kind and interested in talking about Hugo.
I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone at Tommy’s – Kate, Katharine, and Hannah in particular – for being so kind, welcoming, supportive, and generally really lovely. The awards do was a beautiful event, wonderfully organised.
Gratitude is due especially to Tommy’s and everyone who raises money for their vital work researching the causes of miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth. Their work will mean fewer parents will suffer the heartbreak that Martin and I endure since losing our beautiful Hugo.
And finally – I would also like to say a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to write to Tommy’s in support of my nomination. Here are a few I know about:
I believe Leigh Kendall deserves recognition for the outstanding work she is doing raising awareness of HELLP syndrome, prematurity, life with a baby in a NICU, and also most importantly giving a voice for bereaved parents like herself. To do this in the midst of her own grief is such an achievement it would be wonderful for her to be recognised . #Hugo’slegacy
A brilliant writer, her honest insight into the reality of living with grief, allows others to feel less alone, hugely comforted by her words, and more able to ask for the help and support they need and deserve both from those close to them but also front of line staff in the medical profession.
“Leigh used her exquisite writing ability to share her experience and feelings every step of the way which helps both those who were and are in the same position of infant loss or traumatic births but also to those who aren’t. Her blogs have me in tears for both sadness and happiness that she is able to share what she is going through giving so much love, support and hope to others. Such a courageous woman who has made Hugo immortal in so many ways.”