National Bereaved Parents Day: A letter from Chantelle

Today is National Bereaved Parents Day, a day to show parents who have lost a child of any age, and from any circumstance, that they are not alone. To mark the day, Chantelle has kindly shared her story.

Join us by lighting a candle at 7pm today to remember all the children who have lost their lives too soon. You can also visit our dedication page to share a message, special memory or photo.

National Bereaved Parents DayDear Friend,

Our son Theo lived for six weeks and two days. The last four weeks and two days were spent at Chestnut Tree House, your local children’s hospice. I’m Chantelle, Theo’s mum, and to mark National Bereaved Parents Day, I’d like to tell you about the incredible, passionate care Chestnut gave to my son.

Theo was our first child and everything was fine until the day before he was born. There was a problem with the umbilical cord, which meant he was starved of oxygen. I was rushed in for a caesarean, but it was too late. The doctors told me and my husband Lewis that his brain had been severely damaged, that he wouldn’t survive.

I asked, “How long will he live?”. They said, “We don’t know.”

Theo was in the hospital, but not responding to outside stimulation, only breathing with the help of a machine. After one week we decided to withdraw his breathing tube and let him slip away. But incredibly, Theo began breathing on his own.

We had no idea what to do. We couldn’t take Theo home – so Lewis and I were stuck in hospital, in Theo’s little room, for hours at a time.
That was when one of the nurses told us about Chestnut Tree House and suggested we go and have a look. I remember driving there with Theo and being amazed to find this huge house tucked away in the trees (we live locally – I must have driven past Chestnut hundreds of times and never realised it was there).

National Bereaved Parents Day

It felt like a home. There were no sterilised corridors, no tubes, no machines beeping. We were greeted by a lovely nurse with a smile and shown to what would become Theo’s room – the ‘Hedgehog’ room.

Chestnut gave Theo a brand-new cot and a teddy bear to put next to him (we’ve still got the bear!) The nurses came and tucked him in, talked to us about Theo, how we wanted to care for him. They gave Lewis and me a room upstairs, but there was a sofa-bed in Hedgehog that we could use whenever we wanted.

Chestnut became our home. The nurses (and particularly the incredible Mary) showed us how to care for Theo – but they were always there if we needed them.

We didn’t know how long we would have with Theo. But, with the nurses’ help, we managed to do a lot of the things we’d always imagined doing with our son before he was born, like visiting the zoo, the aquarium, and spending time with family and friends.

National Bereaved Parents Day

After six weeks and two days, Theo finally took his last breath – and we were there with him. There was no drama, he just gently slipped away.

Chestnut helped us to organise the funeral and Theo stayed for a few more days in his bedroom – the nurses brought in a ‘cold bed’ so he didn’t have to move rooms. We stayed with him and I read him stories. And the nurses would still pop in to check on him – and us too of course.

Losing Theo was the worst experience imaginable. But I can say, with absolute certainty, that in his short life Chestnut Tree House gave him the fullest, richest life he could have possibly had. And the memories we have of our time there with him are ones I will treasure always.

Thank you,