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Angel Babies: Cold Cuddle Cots Help Grieving Families

When Ruby died, I was overwhelmed, disillusioned, and didn’t accept it. I didn’t get professional photos of her taken. I didn’t take molds of her hands and feet…

I was 20 weeks pregnant with my daughter Ruby, when I woke one morning and decided to clean the house. I stopped at around lunchtime to use the bathroom. As I went to wipe myself, I noticed something protruding. I decided to drive myself to the hospital, as at the time I didn’t think it was anything serious.

I parked the car, climbed two flights of stairs and waddled up three ramps to the antenatal clinic. I was rushed in and examined right away. I had bulging membranes – what I was feeling was the sack of fluid that my baby was in.

I was admitted to hospital 4cm dilated. They tried to stitch the uterus closed, and I felt optimistic when I woke up. I was later told my cervix had shortened beyond fixing and the surgery was unsuccessful.

At that stage, Ruby was still alive.

I stayed in hospital for two weeks on bed rest. My bed was elevated, feet up, head down, and I was on toilet and shower privileges only. Every single day that passed was an accomplishment. I grew stronger and filled my thoughts with positive hopes and wishes.

Christmas Eve was hard, because I was missing my son’s first Christmas. I was very homesick. I remember feeling Ruby moving and kicking. My parents visited late that night and stayed until 10:30pm. As they left, my mum placed her hand on my waving belly and whispered love to her.

On Boxing Day, she was gone. The words no expecting mother could ever imagine: “I’m so sorry, there’s no heartbeat. Your baby has passed away”. I had dilated to 7cm, her leg got caught outside the uterus and her circulation was cut off. I was later induced and gave birth to her.

The birth was no different to my son’s birth (even down to the same room) except the pain was stronger. My husband was to my right, one hand in mine and the other cupped over his teary eyes, and to my left, my mother was whispering gently in my ear, “Come on darling, let her go, baby,” as I was told, “last push” by the midwife.

It was absolutely the most heartbreaking moment of my life.

Once it happens, it changes you. Part of you dies. In hospital they gave me a Little Angels Memory Box, hand painted by another angel mummy, with information on support services and two little nappies the size of doll nappies. They had dragonflies on them, and were very soft. I put one on Ruby, who weighed 450g and was 30cm long, and kept the other one.

The nappies came from Angel Baby Nappies, which donates hand-sewn nappies to clothe stillborn babies. When I called its founder, Tania Tree, to thank her, I found it comforting to know that she had made that very nappy herself.

When Ruby died, I was overwhelmed, disillusioned, and didn’t accept it. I spent a total of two hours with Ruby in the hospital. I didn’t get professional photos of her taken. I didn’t take molds of her hands and feet. I didn’t step out of myself and think about showing her to my family.

I am now volunteering to raise funds for a ‘cold cuddle cot’, a cooling device that lets parents keep the baby in the privacy of their room, instead of sending them to the morgue. You have days with a cuddle cot – it buys the precious gift of time.

Time to step back and think about what needs to be done. The cots aren’t government-funded and are only in some hospitals, yet every single hospital should have one. The cuddle cots cost about $4,900 and so far I’ve raised $3,200.

Raising funds for the cot is a healing process for me. I love helping for no other reason than to help.

In hindsight, visiting a dark place is a gift.

It allows you to see the other side – the good done by the people touched by the dark.

Angel Baby Nappies

“The day starts like any other day…then my phone buzzes. A mother and baby need our service. I drop my washing basket and head straight for the sewing room. Heaven has gained another Angel.” So says a Facebook post from Angel Baby Nappies, a network of women who sew nappies for stillborn babies who might otherwise be buried unclothed.

When Tania Tree’s daughter Hallie was stillborn at 22 weeks on 14 August 2009, she was buried in a disposable hospital wipe. Two years later Tania set up Angel Baby Nappies. The service now delivers nappies to about 50 hospitals around Australia for the 1,750 babies who are stillborn every year.

It mostly sews for babies from 18-36 weeks’ gestation; the oldest so far has been 18 months old. “Some parents prearrange a nappy if they know their baby has died before birth and they are going to be induced,” says Tania.

Names and birthdays can be embroidered on request. Can you sew? The service is in need of more volunteers. Visit Angel Baby Nappies on Facebook.

Cold Cuddle Cots

Sherri-Leigh and Ben Land set up the Emerikus Land Foundation, named after their baby daughter, to raise funds for cold cuddle cots. Emerikus died at 38 weeks’ gestation on 24 March 2013 as a result of placental abruption.

The cot system is a small, lightweight cooling unit that can be carried in one hand and placed under a bassinet. It can be used in hospitals or at home. So far, the foundation has purchased 31 cots for hospitals in every state. Visit emerikuslandfoundation.org.au for more info.

Words by Marianne Gauci

Guest Contributor