On 25 September, Tom Piccirilli will be running the Great Bristol Run Half Marathon to raise funds and awareness for baby loss charity, Saying Goodbye. Providing support, advice and information to anyone who has suffered the loss of a baby, the charity is a cause close to his heart.
Tom and his wife Laura live in Devauden, Monmouthshire, with their four year-old son, Luca. At the start of 2021, they were excited about the arrival of their new baby girl, Noa. But when Laura was five months pregnant, they received the devastating news that Noa’s heart had stopped.
“I don’t think anything can prepare you for losing a child,” explains Tom. “It was completely earth-shattering and it’s fair to say that, from that moment, our lives changed forever.”
When Laura gave birth to Noa, they had what he describes as two “magical” hours with her.
“Oddly there weren’t many tears when we were with her. It’s as if we were thankful to be in her presence. We talked to her, told her all about Luca and her family. We took photos and let her know how proud we were of her. Although she didn’t get a chance at this life, she continues to have a positive impact on our lives every day.”
Tom and Laura are currently expecting a baby girl, due in December. This is the seventh time Laura has been pregnant. As well as losing Noa at five months, the couple have also experienced four earlier miscarriages.
“We’ve had a tough road when it’s come to growing our family and Laura is being closely monitored every week, so we’re crossing everything that our little girl arrives safely at the end of the year.”
Tom has found comfort in talking to others about his family’s experience and is keen to raise awareness of the help that is out there.
“There’s a stigma around loss. It’s a topic parents rarely discuss. But one of the biggest things that have helped us is talking openly and honestly about Noa. My wife gave birth to her, she’s a person and she’s very much our child. It’s so important parents are encouraged to talk about their little ones.”
Saying Goodbye provides advice and support to anyone who has suffered the loss of a baby, at any stage of pregnancy, at birth or in infancy.
“They work tirelessly to support parents and they also help anyone who’s grieving the fact they have not been able to have children,” says Tom.
“Support outside of charities like Saying Goodbye is scarce and charities in this space are rare, so it’s really important we do as much as we can to help them.”
New to running
Despite describing himself as “not a natural-born runner”, Tom is looking forward to taking part in the Great Bristol Run.
“Back in March when I started training, I just about stumbled my way through three miles,” he says. “But I’ve tried my best to stick to a training plan and, five months on, I’m over a stone lighter and comfortably running 10 miles.
“The thing I’ve struggled with the most is finding the time to consistently run 3-to-4 times a week with work, looking after our little one, a house move and the stress of pregnancy after loss. It’s tough to be consistent with your training, but I’ve done my best with the time I’ve had available and thrown in a few 6am starts just to try and get a few more hours in the day.
“I hope I can power through and do our baby Noa proud.”
Tom will also be drawing on the virtual support he receives from The Dad Vibes, the Instagram community he set up two years ago with the aim of starting conversations about issues related to parenting that dads haven’t traditionally talked about.
“Having a dad openly talk about things such as breastfeeding, co-sleeping or helping children to regulate their emotions is quite rare, which is why I think The Dad Vibes has grown so quickly. In just over two years I have almost 200,000 parents following me on Instagram, I’ve written for a book, spoken at parenting summits and made so many amazing connections with parents all over the world. I’m excited to be sharing my half marathon journey with them as well.”
Now that Tom’s made running a part of his life, he’s keen to do more.
“As well as the weight I’ve lost, running has got me thinking differently about how I live my life. Making healthy choices has a knock-on effect on all aspects of your life. As a parent, you feel better about yourself and that allows you to have much more patience with your little one.
“I’m going to continue running after this half marathon, and I’m already looking ahead to the next one – and potentially a marathon in 2023.”
To donate to Tom and help raise funds for Saying Goodbye, visit Just Giving here.
An inclusive celebration of running, the Great Bristol Run also includes a 10k and the Great Bristol Family Run. Starting and finishing in the heart of the city, the route weaves past the vibrant waterfront, plus beautiful Queens Square, historical Castle Park and Old City. This year, runners can look forward to a live start line DJ, pumping out a high energy set to help them find their groove for the challenge ahead.
Entries are still open for this year’s Great Bristol Run, for more information click here.