A mother-of-three whose first child was tragically stillborn at 38 weeks has penned a moving book designed to help parents explain to children where their loved ones go after death.
Sam Kitson, 40, from Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, was left ‘completely devastated’ after discovering her unborn daughter Kitty Rose’s heart had stopped beating in her womb.
Three days later, on July 30 2009, Kitty was born after an ‘unexpectedly beautiful’ eight-hour induced labour.
‘The silence was deafening,’ Sam told FEMAIL. ‘Even the midwife was in tears.’
Sam Kitson, 40, from Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, was left ‘completely devastated’ after discovering her unborn daughter Kitty Rose’s heart had stopped beating in her womb. Pictured with her husband Woody and children Martha and Amos
But while the children’s art and yoga teacher learned to live with her grief, her second daughter Martha, eight, and son Amos, six, would often ask where their big sister – who they’d never met – had gone.
Sam was inspired to pen In The Stars, which tells the story of Martha and Amos as they go in search of their lost sister and discover she is in the world all around them.
Now published by SANDS, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, the book is helping parents across the country speak to their children about that greatest of taboos – death – in a natural and gentle way.
‘When your small children look up at you and ask you where their sister has gone and if you are going to die too, what do you say?’ asked Sam.
Sam noticed her unborn daughter Kitty Rose wasn’t moving at 3 weeks. Tragically her heart had stopped beating in her womb
‘It’s not a conversation any parent wants to have. But sadly, some of us have no choice.’
Ten years ago Sam and her partner Woody, now 43, a web developer, were about to embark on a 12-month trip to New Zealand when they fell pregnant.
They readily traded in their travelling dream, lovingly transforming the office of their cosy cottage into a nursery complete with yellow gingham curtains and Hello Kitty artwork on the walls.
‘When we found out we were having a girl, Woody suggested the name Kitty. I said, “We can’t call her Kitty Kitson!” But actually, we fell in love with it,’ Sam recalled.
A textbook pregnancy followed until, at 38 weeks, Sam woke up at 5am one morning in a state of panic, unsure when she’d last felt Kitty move.
On July 30 2009, Kitty was born after an ‘unexpectedly beautiful’ eight-hour induced labour
‘I tried everything that would usually make her active – drinking, eating, Woody playing guitar. But my bump was still,’ she explained.
At Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, the couple were told that no heartbeat could be detected.
Sam said: ‘I remember arriving home and sitting on our garden bench in the blazing sunshine.
‘While I cradled my massive bump, Woody was next to me, holding a leaflet called “What to do when your baby dies”.’
The grieving couple spent one precious night with their daughter after she was stillborn.
Sam said she didn’t want to be a “sad” mummy for Martha and Amos, but she and Woody wanted to keep Kitty’s memory alive
‘We lay on the bed with our baby girl between us. I tried to stay awake all night, not wanting to miss a moment with Kitty,’ Sam recalled.
‘Her skin was fragile as tissue paper, her lips ruby red. She looked like she was sleeping. But she’d never open her eyes. I’ll never even know what colour they were,’ she added.
Instead of dirty nappies and sleepless nights, Sam and Woody had to deal with postmortem reports and plan a funeral.
Cruelly, her body didn’t know Kitty was gone and three days after giving birth, Sam’s milk came in.
‘It was horrendous. I was a mum without a baby,’ she said.
In 2015, Sam was in bed one night when a poem began to take shape in her mind. She got up and wrote In The Stars – the story of Martha and Amos discovering that their lost sister Kitty was all around them – in two hours
After an extremely difficult few months, the pair were delighted – and terrified – to fall pregnant again.
As the postmortem failed to uncover the cause of Kitty’s death, the next nine months were fraught – but Martha arrived safely in September 2010, looking just like her older sister.
Sam and Woody married in July 2011 and their son Amos followed in April 2012.
‘I wanted to keep Kitty’s memory alive. We talked about her, visited her grave and on the anniversary of her death – always her birthday to me – we’d have a family BBQ,’ Sam explained.
‘But I didn’t want to be a “sad” mummy for Martha and Amos. I kept my favourite photo of Kitty – of Woody sleeping next to her on our hospital bed – in my office, my private space, to look at whenever I wanted to.’
The grieving couple spent one precious night with their daughter Kitty after she was stillborn
Inevitably, Martha and Amos began asking where their big sister had gone and Sam struggled to answer their questions.
‘Kids are so matter-of-fact. One minute they were asking why had Kitty died and where had she gone. The next they wanted to know what was for dinner,’ she said.
‘At other times, Martha would get upset and say, “I miss Kitty”. It broke my heart. She missed someone she never even knew. I didn’t know how to reassure her.’
Then in 2015, Sam was in bed one night when a poem began to take shape in her mind.
‘I grabbed a pen and two hours later, In the Stars was complete,’ she said.
‘It’s the story of Minnie and Moss – my nicknames for Martha and Amos – discovering that their lost sister Kitty was all around them. In the stars, the grass and the flowers, and our hearts, forever.
In The Stars went on sale in February and you can purchase it for £8.99 from the SANDS bookshop
‘I began to wonder if it could help other families open up a discussion with their children about loss in a more natural way.’
Sam’s best friend and talented artist, Katie Faithfull, drew some illustrations to bring her words to life and SANDS, whom Sam sought help from when she lost Kitty, immediately wanted to publish it.
‘They were struck by the fact the first line mentions the word “die”. They hadn’t come across any other children’s books that embrace this “taboo” word and felt that was a positive step,’ Sam said.
‘The book went on sale in February and we’ve been inundated with messages saying that In The Stars has helped comfort families going through the worst of times.
‘I’d love it to be in every school, library and hospice. Kitty never got to a chance to live her life but she has inspired this book that will help other children move on with theirs.’
You can purchase In The Stars for £8.99 from the SANDS bookshop here.