• Emma

#7 Ellis' Footprint

As I have said before I knew almost instantly after Ellis’ was stillborn that I wanted to try and raise money to try and give back to the people that helped us. I have mentioned a few things over on my Ellis’ Footprint page, but I wanted to explain a bit more about the what and why.

My working background is in events, mainly weddings. Before you go “Wow! How cool! Are you like Jenifer Lopez?” Ha! I wish! It’s a fab job, but not so glamourous, and I am definitely no J-LO. I have always had a love for planning, be it my own 18th “Oscar-themed” birthday party many moons ago, our wedding, quiz nights, or just a gathering at the house. I love the idea of being organised and having a project. After Ellis died my “project” had been completely shattered… yes, I did just refer to my son as a project, but I mean that in the nicest way. We’d spent the best part of 9 months organising everything; changing Ruby’s childminder to a nursery closer to home so that I could walk there instead of having to drive 20 minutes there and back twice a day, we’d bought a second car for the first time ever, I’d sorted through all the baby clothes as we had a lot of “girly” things and not many neutral or “boy” things, and we’d rearranged Ruby’s bedroom to fit the cot in – the list goes on. Suddenly, we no longer needed any of this - event cancelled! No refunds!

When we were in the Rowan Suite I had started talking to Jo and Monica, my bereavement midwives, about the room. I soon realised that they had a long wish list of things they needed or wanted, to help improve the room but due to a funding change they were £6000 short. And that was just for what they needed for the stuff at the top of the list. That was it. Decision made. Now, how to raise £6000…?

Unbeknownst to me a few friends had already been talking about doing a “fun run”, which I said I was up for, but that it had to be more of a challenge. I used to do a bit of running in the past, usually just in the lead up to some social event I was set on losing weight for and running helped me with that, but I was definitely not a runner. After some research I found out that there was in fact a ‘Run Frimley’, a 10k race that started and finished at Frimley Park Hospital - perfect! Once I told people I was doing this race and wanted to run 10K in the hope of raising £6000 for the Rowan Suite, I soon had people joining me saying they wanted to run with me too. Before long Team Ellis was born. It started with around 10 of us but ended up being 28 amazing ladies; some friends, some family members, some acquaintances, but all women that had been touched by our story and wanted to do their bit to help. To say I was overwhelmed is a huge understatement! Team Ellis was formed in August 2019 with the 10K due to be in May 2020, giving us all hope that it would be enough time to get training. We have a range of running abilities on the team, meaning some of us were starting their training by signing up to the ‘Couch to 5k’ app, where others were experienced 10k runners already and were signing up to other 10k runs to continue their fitness.

As part of my training I decided to sign up to the Frimley Jingle Jog - a 5k fun run around a local park in Frimley - with the addition of jingle bells attached to your ankles or wrists, as well as people dressing up in Christmas outfits. I had several Santas, Snowmen, and Christmas trees run past me! My sister-in-law and her friend (and fellow Team Ellis member) joined me to add to their training, but really to give me the moral support I needed. It was a cold December morning when I woke up, and I immediately regretted my decision to enter the run. I very nearly cried off, but I just kept thinking of the long game, the reason why I was running, and who I was running for - my little boy. And so I got up, got dressed, and headed out to the park. When I arrived at the event I met up with my sister-in-law, we got ourselves signed in, put our jingle bells and Santa hats on, and walked over to the race start ready for the warm up. My sister-in-law asked me if I wanted her to run alongside me but I knew that she had been training for a few weeks more than me, and so as not to slow her down I said no. I also knew that had I run with her I would have been tempted to talk, and at that stage of training I knew I couldn’t run, talk, and breathe - something had to give! I was determined to run as much of the 5K as possible, as I knew I was able to run 5K comfortably before having Ellis, but seeing as I had only just completed week 3 of ‘Couch to 5K’ I wasn’t sure I had it in me.

The race started on an uphill over a railway bridge - I started slow, like a snail! However, I seemed to settle into my rhythm quite quickly and started to really enjoy myself; distracted by crazy outfits around me and the kids running past me, then back past me again, back and forth, again and again. It made me wonder where they all got their energy from! I then saw the marker for 3K and felt good. However, most of the route was along a canal and I knew that at some point we would be going up and over a bridge to complete the run down the other side. I could see up ahead that other participants had started to bottle neck as they climbed the few stairs to get to the other side, meaning I had no option but to stop running. I got to the top and walked for a bit, I then saw the 4K marker up ahead, walked to that, and then told myself I’d run the last kilometre to the end - no matter how much it hurt. And boy, did it hurt! Towards the end my legs felt like lead and I was going so slowly I was probably going backwards, but then a young boy who had clearly already finished as he had his finishers medal around his neck ran past me and shouted, “Go on! Not long now! The end is just around the corner, you can do it!”. That’s when I dug deep; I went back to the same mind-set I had during Ellis’ labour. I had to push through. I had to do this. Not for me, but for him. No one else was going to do it for me. It was all on me, and I didn’t want to feel as though I was going to let him down again. I ran all the way to the end and the first person I saw as I crossed the line was my brother. He hugged me so tight and told me he was proud of me, and I just cried. I cried because I was sad and happy (and relieved that the race was over!), sad for obvious reasons but happy because I was actually proud of myself too - something I don’t feel often. In my head I had said to myself that if I completed the 5K in 45mins I would be extremely happy. I looked at my phone and checked my Strava app - 44m 56s! 4 seconds better than I thought! That my friends is what I call a win!

The Run Frimley 10K race date was set for Sunday 3rd May 2020, but a lot has happened since we all signed up, as you know. Understandably, due to Covid-19 and lockdown the race has been postponed. It was first moved to September 2020, but now has had to be moved again to May 2021. When the first date was released for September many of the ladies in Team Ellis said that they couldn’t do the new date, which was fine, and again understandable, but as so many of us had been training so hard I felt it would be a shame not to at least let them attempt the 10K themselves, solo whilst in lockdown, to hopefully still get a finishers medal. I had spoken to the race organisers and explained the situation to them and asked them if we recorded the “solo” 10K on a running app, and I provided proof that it had been completed, would the runners involved still be able to get their medal? They said yes straight away, without question, which was a huge relief. A large number of ladies completed the 10k that Sunday; it was an emotional day but seeing each and every one of the ladies support each other, sending me their updates and photos they’d taken along the way, felt uniting – I myself felt so supported. I knew that each and every one of them had Ellis in their hearts whilst they did their 10k, and as they completed, I could feel how his footprints were truly leaving their mark, not just with how much we were raising, but these women felt him with them too.

Another reason for the relief of knowing we would officially have completed the 10k, was that as much as I wanted to run in September with the crowds and atmosphere, I had been working towards May and had that date in my head, it was my deadline. I felt if I didn’t stick to that deadline that my training would trail off and then I’d struggle to get back into in and ready for September. Now that the run has been moved again, to May 2021, I have indeed done just that. I’ve lost my running mojo and am finding every excuse not to go at the moment! But also, it’s been far too hot to do anything, let alone run - I know, I know – excuses! Adding to that, I think another reason for my lack of motivation is that we have reached, actually I mean smashed, our £6000 target and as of right now are on £6,619! Reaching that £6000 was such a goal in my mind, that I’ve felt I could relax a little for a moment.

But! We have now increased the target to £9000. As I mentioned, £6000 was only ever going to get the suite the ‘top of the list’ items, and after speaking to the bereavement midwives again they still have a long list so any extra money will go along way still. Seeing as the ladies of Team Ellis had most likely exhausted their fundraising efforts, to help raise the extra £2381 my husband and some of our male friends have also decided to take on a challenge - a Tough Mudder! This was due to take place in September 2020, but again due to Covid-19 this has been postponed until September 2021. Hopefully enough time to train for that gruelling event!

Aside from the run, we had many other events planned to help raise money. The only one that actually went ahead was the one organised by Ruby’s old childminders; Christa, Anna and the team offered to hold a “Blue Fun Day” to help raise more money, something I was truly touched by. In their usual crazy way, they set up lots of fun games and an obstacle course for the children to take part in. Each child paid 50p to have a go on each game and they also sold cakes on the day. The main event was when the children were able to pay to throw a bucket of water over Christa & Anna, something which they all thoroughly enjoyed! Ruby and I were invited back to join in the fun and we all had such a lovely afternoon together. The event was held before our 10k run, and raised over £300 to add to our fundraising pot! I knew I’d struck gold with Christa. Not only is she caring, thoughtful, energetic and funny, she was South African just like Trevor – it’s a nationality I seem to be drawn too! Also Ruby adored her, and from day one I knew she was completely happy being left with Christa and the team while I went to work. I’ll never forget the care they gave her, and us as a family, especially in the months after Ellis was stillborn. Even once Ruby had left their care to join a nursery closer to home they stayed in touch, and that means a lot.

Other ideas we’d had to help raise money like fundraisers, quiz nights, gala dinner events etc, will obviously not be able to go ahead right now due to Covid-19, so I may need to get creative with our fundraising efforts. However, I do feel that even once we’ve reached the new target of £9000 for the Rowan Suite, I will continue to raise money in Ellis’ name. I want to turn my fundraising efforts to research, and more specifically for Tommy’s, the baby charity who provide funds for research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth, and providing pregnancy health information to parents. The main reason for this choice in charity is because we still don’t have an answer as to why Ellis died, and that is one of the most painful things to live with. It puts a huge question mark over everything; Was it something I did? Did he have something wrong with him that current science can’t detect? How do we stop it happening again? If I can help raise money for Tommy’s, and into the research they do, then maybe one day we might finally get our answer, I truly hope we do one day. And if not, hopefully we can help provide other families with the answers they need. And so this will be Ellis’ legacy, how his footprints will impact this world, even when his little feet were unable to physically. It’s also how we continue to parent him through loss - I am so proud of my boy and all he will accomplish through these fundraising efforts. To leave a donation to help the Frimley Hospital Bereavement Suite, please click below:

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