Jess from The Legacy Of Leo
This lady doesn’t really need any introduction from me but suffice to say I found her through her instagram account (Follow her here @thelegacyofleo) and I think she is the epitome of fierce. I’m so honoured that she said yes to writing this piece to kick off our series and am delighted to be able to support all that she is doing by donating funds from the sale of our ladies Fierce sweats and tees to her fundraising for Tommy’s Baby Charity, in the name of her son Leo.
I found my fierce the moment that I realised I could either become utterly consumed by anger (rather tempting and very justified) or I could utilise that anger and turn it into an energy.
It is that energy that I have lived, and at times, thrived off since my son died in 2016. His stillbirth was a turning point in my life – it drew a permanent, thick line in my history, marking a before and an after. I changed. There was no avoiding that. I changed, in some ways for the better, and in others, for the worse. The good is the impact that Leo’s life had on me, and the bad is the impact of his death. I see the two as very different, very separate things – with independent effects on my life, and the person that I am now.
Since Leo died, I would describe myself as being somewhat consumed with a restless energy to create a legacy that he would be proud of. Had he lived, I would have had the same restless energy in making sure he had an upbringing full of love, pride and comfort. I would have worked hard to teach him the things that are important to me – to have respect, to show compassion, to have a conviction in your beliefs, to strive for what you are passionate about, and to love deeply. His death doesn’t change those things, so I continue to create a legacy that echoes that – a legacy that respects others, that shows compassion, that has conviction, that is bred from passion, and importantly, reflects love.
Many people say to us ‘its so wonderful that you have turned a negative into a positive’, or ‘when life gives your lemons…’ – but these overused sayings just don’t really sum up my fierce. They just aren’t quite right. There is no turning death into a positive. There is no making lemonade from the lemons that death gives you. There is, however, an anger, a bitterness, and a resentment. I will always hold those feelings, even if just slight – and it is these emotions that drive me to do what we do. I am not making anything a positive. Leo’s death will never be positive. I would never trade his life for what his legacy has created. I never wanted him to have a legacy – not yet anyway. But I understand that this is our reality, and therefore, I must continue to parent Leo in the same way that I would have should he have lived. I must still create the impact on the world that I would have hoped he, as a young man, a grown adult, a father, a husband or a grandparent would have created. That impact is what I am creating. Or at least trying to. And that is what creates my fierce.
Will we ever stop? Simply, no. Do you ever stop parenting? Even when your baby is no longer here? No. Not for us anyway. Parenting from afar is often visceral, and overwhelming. It can be wrought with guilt, fear, anxiety and grief. You never know if you are doing it right, or doing enough, or perhaps too much, or the wrong kind of things. But as long as I miss, long for, grieve, wish that it could have all been different, I know I will feel that I owe him this. And I owe the cause of ‘baby loss’ this. This is so much bigger than Leo, I understand that. And so, we have to do our bit. It will never feel enough though, it will never balance out, so we will just continue.
What does it all look like? For me, its a range of things. It’s doing anything in Leo’s name. For example, fundraising, or working with charities. In Leo’s name, over £27,000 has been raised for various baby loss charities, and most recently that focus has been on Tommys, the Baby Charity, as a way of ‘paying back’ the support that they provided us during my subsequent pregnancy with Leo’s little brother. We have just finished an auction, raising approximately £3,000 bringing our Tommy’s total to £10,000.
In order to live up to the desire to create a legacy of compassion, at the start of the year, we started #BabyLossHour on Twitter, in order to give people affected by or invested in baby loss an opportunity to come together and discuss a range of topics, with the support of experts or charities. With that, I also created the #LGBTBabyLoss blog series as a way of shining a light on the complexities involved when LGBT families are affected by miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal loss.
I look forward to utilising my inner-fierce, and helping others find theirs, through our latest project – Ignite Your Lion Heart. We have only recently set up this challenge as a way of tackling the unsettled feeling we have when people call us ‘brave’ at facing something that we had no choice about. I am asking others, and myself, to tackle the thing that you don’t feel brave enough doing, and to feel empowered by the choice you have to go and face the fear. I will be swimming the Serpentine lake in London, and taking on Go Ape – a huge challenge for me. But others will be doing the things that they’ve always avoided, in order to ‘ignite their lion heart’, join in on the challenge, and help raise more funds for Tommy’s.
My relentless energy – or my fierce – will never dwindle. It will just change what it looks like, who it works with, and what it can create.
Whatever we do, Leo will always be at the centre of it.
He is what makes us fierce.
Jess lives in Berkshire with her wife Natalie, and her 10 month old son, Eli River. His older brother, Leo Phoenix, was stillborn in 2016 and since then they have blogged about their experiences in life after stillbirth through ‘The Legacy of Leo’. With this, they have volunteered and fundraised for charity and raised awareness for the impact that stillbirth has.
You can find Jess’s own blog here
and also find her on