An open letter to the baby boy we lost three years ago.

Three years ago,  Hattie Deards and her husband Tom lost their baby son Theo to cot death. Theo was just 12 weeks old when he passed away suddenly on the 30th of December, 2012 on what was an otherwise ordinary Sunday for the Deards family and their three young children – Ned, Esther and Theo – who had spent the morning together at the park.

An open letter to the son I lost to cot death, three Christmases ago

It was, Hattie recounts, “a milestone day” as baby Theo had just reached 12 weeks old. In a heartbreaking piece written for The Telegraph, Hattie has penned a devastating letter to the son she lost too soon depicting the anguish of that harrowing December day.

“I was starting to feel more normal, the exhaustion of the early weeks subsiding,” Hattie wrote. Theo, a “dream baby” had spent the morning at the park with his parents and siblings. On the ride home, Hattie held his hand as he stared up at her. On that final drive home, Theo fell asleep with a smile on his face and Hattie took him upstairs to put him to sleep in his cot.


I don’t know if my mind has added an eerie dimension to the afternoon, but I remember feeling uneasy about something. I climbed upstairs to get you. Everything felt still. The house was dark and quite cold. I turned on the bedroom light, walked over to your cot and found you face down on the mattress, dead.

Instantly, I was standing on the edge of a very high cliff, black churning sea below. I could feel myself about to fall. I pulled you out of your cot and your head hung down, your face a green-grey pallor. I screamed so loudly that the noise still echoes in my brain, and ran out of the room holding you in front of me.

As I started to run down the stairs, your dad was coming up with a look of terror on his face. I threw your lifeless body into his arms, screaming that you weren’t breathing, screaming, screaming, gagging, doubled over, seeing the silent faces of your brother and sister at the bottom of the stairs, expressionless, terrified.

Hattie called an ambulance, and their family home and quiet street was quickly filled with people. The older children were taken to the neighbours as Tom performed CPR on baby Theo until the paramedics arrived.

Fifty-five minutes after Hattie had found Theo lifeless in his cot the paramedics managed to restart his tiny heart.

Fifty-five minutes without a heart beat. I did not need to be told that the damage to a human brain after that is irreparable.

Theo was taken to West Middlesex Hospital with his Dad when two policemen arrived at the Deards’ family home to escort Hattie to the hospital quickly to see her baby boy.

Your clothes have been cut off, your train-print Babygro and vest lying under you. You’re covered in wires and tubes and plasters and bleeping machines.

I throw myself at you, putting my hands under your back, bringing your body up to my face, your head lolling backwards, me breathing in your scent, burying my nose and lips in your neck, squeezing your face into mine. I grab your clothes and shove them down my top, squashing them into my bra. Familiar, favourite clothes, only washed yesterday, smelling of home, smelling of you.

It is then that doctors tell Hattie that Theo’s heart stopped again once he arrived at the hospital, and that he is now being kept alive with life-support machines.

Theo was then transferred to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for more detailed brain scans and Hattie and Tom were put up in a room opposite the hospital overnight.

“Hours passed in agony, thrashing around, walking the corridors and watching the darkness of Queens Square from the window, feeling my breasts fill up with milk and with no baby to feed,” Hattie wrote.

The next morning the Deards arrived at Theo’s bedside where their young son’s skin was turning yellow as his organs began to fail.

“We never fought to keep you alive on the machines,” Hattie wrote. “But I was terrified when the time came.”

Hattie and Tom were in a private room with their baby boy when he passed away. Ten months later, they welcomed another baby boy.

You have a new little brother now, Eli, born 10 months after your death, and in him lives a piece of you. We think about you, and talk about you, all the time.

You have changed me, my darling boy. Your life was warm and without fear. I held and sustained you from conception through to death and I love you. It’s impossible to say how much we miss you, our son, our brother.

Love, Mummy

Since their heartbreaking loss, Hattie and Tom have raised over £5,000 in Theo’s name to support The Lullaby Trust.