Ben Fogle shares heart-breaking moment he held stillborn son... and the promise he made him

22 October 2018, 10:32 | Updated: 23 October 2018, 11:07

When Ben Fogle’s son was tragically stillborn, it sent him off on the adventure of a lifetime. He tells Heart's Naomi Knight how the lowest point of his life resulted in him conquering incredible new heights.

Four years ago, adventurer Ben Fogle's life was turned upside down when he and wife Marina tragically lost their baby eight months in to pregnancy.

The TV personality, 44, was devastated by the tragedy but through the grief made a promise to baby Willem that he would live his life "as brightly and as brilliantly" as he could in his honour.

Ben Fogle told Heart he'd made a promise to live a fulfilled life in Willem's memory
Ben Fogle told Heart he'd made a promise to live a fulfilled life in Willem's memory. Picture: Heart

Ben told Heart: "Our son, who had been in Marina’s womb for eight months, was still-born, and I was surprised by how much it affected me - how you can feel such emotion for someone you never met.

"Holding my dead son in my arms, which was something I’d never prepared myself for - organising for his funeral - was so out of my comfort zone, that it tested me, and I think the emotional fall-out was much more significant than I realised.

Read more: Gary Barlow - I had one incredible moment with my still-born baby girl

"Both Marina and I made a commitment there and then, that we would live our lives as brightly and as brilliantly as we possibly could.

"We would have more smiles than frowns in our house, and I think Everest was the culmination of that."

Ben also explained how he and Marina were determined not to sugarcoat their awful experience, and that he felt a duty to tell it how it was - no matter how painful the memories were.

"Marina and I spoke about it from day one - we didn’t want to sugarcoat it," Ben told Heart.

"I think particularly for me, when you’re in the public eye, I think it’s unfair on the public to sugarcoat your life and pretend it's all absolutely perfect 100 percent of the time because we’re all humans.

"We all have ups and downs and highs and lows.

"We wanted to share our experience, to maybe enable others to look for help.

"We spoke to therapists, we sought expert help to help us through because we both had different ways of grieving and coping with it."

The adventurer, who is known for his extreme travels and challenges, revealed that it had been his childhood dream to scale the world's tallest mountain, but he'd sidelined his ambition when he became a father to Ludo, 9, and 7-year-old Iona.

However, his desire returned once he realised he needed to practise what he preached to his children.

Ben told Heart: "When parenthood came along I decided to conform to society's expectation and park any ideas of climbing Mount Everest, because no sensible father takes on risks like that!

"And then I thought, 'I’m encouraging my kids to follow their own dreams, to do whatever they want to do and yet I’ve abandoned my own' - and that’s I suppose where the seed, the germ of this Everest dream came.

"I fulfilled a childhood dream."

View this post on Instagram

At 7.30am on the 16th May, after more than five weeks of acclimatising and training on Mount Everest, I finally realised a childhood dream when I successfully summited the 8848m mountain. After several days being battered by storms at Camp 4 (South Col) we set off for the summit in near perfect weather. While the 8 days it has taken us to reach the summit have not been without incident. Reaching the top of the world will remain a highlight of my life. And I felt honoured to summit with @kentoncool and @fishercreative. The real hero’s of Everest are not the climbers but the Sherpas. Particular thanks must go to Kam Dorjee Sherpa, Ming Dorjee Sherpa and Ang Thindu Sherpa. They are not in the photo for an astonishing reason that will become apparent in the coming days. Thank you for all your support. I am over the moon with happiness. This has been the greatest adventure. Photo credit @fishercreative

A post shared by Ben Fogle (@benfogle) on

And Ben said that he felt Willem's presence every step of the way.

He added: "I’m not a particularly religious or spiritual person but I was amazed and surprised by the presence of this little boy that I never got to meet, Willem.

"I was amazed that I felt his presence quite a lot on the mountain, I never felt lonely there, I felt like I was doing it with him."

Ben's book, Up, retells his experience of conquering Everest; part memoir, part thrilling adventure, it reveals both Ben's and Marina's accounts of his seven week expedition to the death zone of the mountain, 8000 metres above sea level.

Up - My Life's Journey To The Top Of Everest is available on hardback now.