After her son James was born still, Kathleen turned to running to channel her grief into something positive

Kathleen McCoy is a Chicago-area stillbirth prevention advocate who is working in honor of her son James. Last year Kathleen and her husband Adam learned James’ heart had stopped beating when they went in for their scheduled C-section. After James was born still, Kathleen turned to running to channel some of her grief into something positive. She found that running helped, and decided to start training for her third marathon, which she completed in October in honor of James.   

She chose the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. because it holds a special place in her heart. Her beloved son James is named after her father James, a U.S. Marine Veteran who is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, where the marathon ended.

Kathleen decided to raise funds for Healthy Birth Day, Inc. in conjunction with the marathon, and so far her fundraising efforts have contributed more than $14,000 to help us further our mission to save babies. 

Kathleen shares more about running the marathon in honor of James, and her hopes for the future of stillbirth prevention. 

What made you decide to run a marathon and ask friends and family to support you? 

Ever since James passed, I knew I wanted to do something where I felt like I was making a difference – where I could channel some of the anger and negativity into something positive. The marathon and fundraising gave me the space to do that! 

Fundraising helped me with my determination to complete the long runs and marathon, knowing I wasn’t just doing it for me but for a greater good. Fundraising for the marathon also allowed me to feel comfortable sharing my story on a deeper level, to raise awareness about the stillbirth crisis, to raise awareness about Count the Kicks, and to continue to have my son’s legacy live on. Ever since I sent out the fundraising email, multiple people have told me that they have told others about Healthy Birth Day, Inc. and Count the Kicks, which I am so grateful for!

Why did you choose to support Healthy Birth Day, Inc.

Healthy Birth Day, Inc. (HBD) has been instrumental in my healing. I have such gratitude for HBD. Being a part of the advocacy work has allowed me to have space to tell my son’s story – to have his legacy continue on. The advocacy trip to Washington, D.C., helped me personally feel like I was contributing to a greater good – and that something good could come from something so painful. 

After the advocacy trip, I knew HBD is who I wanted to fundraise for because HBD IS making a difference for people like me. HBD is talking about stillbirths. HBD is advocating for families like me. And the people at HBD care and want to support people like me.  

I find the passion that the team at HBD has inspiring and incredibly moving. I believe the work that HBD does saves lives and will prevent future families from experiencing the heartbreak my family has – that is so powerful to me personally!

How has running helped in your grief process? 

Being physically active has always been something important to my mental health, but after I lost James, running became that much more important – it was my escape. Running has been a safe space for me to process and reflect on everything in a safe space. 

Some days, especially in the beginning, when I was feeling a lot of negative thoughts, I would go for a run.  During the run, if I felt myself becoming fixated on negative thinking, I would take off and run faster! I would come home exhausted, but with a lighter mind and body.

Running has helped me to feel stronger both inside and out.  Running has helped to ground me. 

What do you hope happens with stillbirth prevention in this country? 

I hope that people continue to talk about stillbirths and continue to elevate this crisis so that fewer families experience what mine did. My hope is that providers start talking with patients more about fetal movement monitoring and incorporating more preventive measures into prenatal care so that less families experience this heartbreak. Also, I hope that by talking about stillbirths more, families who have experienced a stillbirth or who do in the future, can feel less alone. 

What is the total amount donated to Healthy Birth Day, Inc.

My friends and family donated a total of $7,000 and Microsoft (thanks to my sister) matched it dollar for dollar, bringing the total to $14,000.

Kathleen and her husband Adam Wilson shared their story with WGN Chicago. Learn more about their advocacy efforts in honor of their son James.