To celebrate Hugo’s fourth birthday; my little boy’s life; and to commemorate surviving the past four years I am doing a daily activity challenge.
Hugo’s birthday (20 February) is also the fourth anniversary of the day I nearly died but didn’t. I nearly died of multiple organ failure caused by HELLP syndrome, the rare pregnancy complication that meant Hugo had to be born when I was just 24 weeks’ pregnant in order to save both of our lives.
My much-wanted, much-loved little boy died 35 days later. He was too small, and too premature.
The past four years have been the very definition of a roller-coaster journey: coming to terms with my illness; trying to make sense of it all. Being a neonatal parent with all the associated hopes, joys, highs and lows. Hugo’s death, having to return home empty-armed; his funeral. The guilt of feeling like I had failed my son; learning to live with grief, and trauma. Being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress-disorder, enduring EMDR therapy.
Last year I did the Awesomeness Challenge to raise money for First Touch and Tommy’s, and awareness of HELLP syndrome, premature babies, as well as to celebrate Hugo’s life, and me being alive myself.
This year, I wanted to do something different. I am very fortunate to live close to a beautiful river, and countryside. For a long time after Hugo died I preferred to avoid I because it was full of families who all looked so fecking happy. And I was anything but. In addition, the timing of Hugo’s birth and death affected the pleasure I got from spring, my favourite season. My anger and resentment had robbed me of other joys in my life.
In the past few months, I have returned to running and have been really enjoying it. I have been back exploring the river, and local countryside and realised just how much I have missed it. Plus, a good run in the fresh air listening to the birds sing, admiring the pretty flowers, and feeling the sun on my skin affords so many mental as well as physical benefits.
I am doing the Active Every Day Challenge to celebrate Hugo’s life; and to reclaim my love of spring, my favourite season. The longer days, sunshine, the glory of the array of colours of spring flowers. I want to celebrate being alive, and to celebrate being physically able to do things that it’s all too easy to take for granted.
When I was admitted to hospital I was unable to walk – at first because I was ordered to remain in bed, and I was attached to so many wires I couldn’t have gone far anyway. After Hugo was born moving was difficult not only because of the C-section, but also because my body had swollen as the result of my illness. I was like a Michelin woman! The sudden swelling affected the tendons and ligaments in my wrists and ankles. I was unable to hold a pen, open a yogurt pot, or hold cutlery. I was unable to walk more than a couple of steps, and had to be taken anywhere (including the toilet) in a wheelchair.
As part of the Active Every Day Challenge I shall be doing activities such as running (including a long countryside run/walk at weekends; boxing; weights; HIIT circuits (things like kettlebells, battle ropes, box jumps)…something every single day during the 35 days of Hugo’s life, between 20 February and 27 March.
Just like last year, I am raising money for two charities very close to my heart: First Touch, the charity for the neonatal unit at St George’s Hospital where Hugo lived and died; and Tommy’s, who amongst many other things fund research into HELLP syndrome and related conditions that cause premature birth.
The overall target is £1000 (£500 for each charity). Last year I smashed my £1000 target, raising an incredible £1,668 – thank you!
If you would like to donate for my 2018 challenge, I would be very grateful! I have set up a page on JustGiving. I’ll be posting daily updates about about the activity I have done that day on Instagram and on Twitter. My handle on both platforms is @leighakendall, and I’ll be using the tag #HugosLegacy.
I’m looking forward to the challenge – to having a daily positive focus. It will help me get out of the house on those inevitable days when I would much rather the world would go away (the world won’t go away, so this challenge gives me a way of me being in control of stuff), and give me a positive outlet for any anger that comes along.
I do hope you’ll cheer me on during the challenge, and help me celebrate my wonderful Hugo’s life.