Green Family CuddleCot Donation

Compassionate Care During Stillbirth Inspires Bereaved Parents to Donate CuddleCot to Help Other Grieving Families

May 10 2024

“The pain of losing a child before they even have the chance to take their first breath is a heartbreak that no parent should ever have to endure,” said Amy Wagner, DNP, administrative director of women’s and children’s services for St. Mary’s Hospital.

However, according to the March of Dimes, nearly 1 in 160 pregnancies in the United States end in stillbirth each year. It’s a harsh reality that many hopeful and expectant parents will unfortunately experience. In such moments of profound grief, having resources available like the CuddleCot becomes critical to allowing our patients to begin processing this traumatic loss.

The CuddleCot, a cooling bassinet, offers solace to bereaved parents by preserving their baby’s appearance after death, allowing parents the opportunity to bond with their beloved baby before bidding farewell.

This month, Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital in our Richmond market dedicated a new CuddleCot into service after it was donated by the Green family, who experienced the tragic stillbirth of their baby girl, Riley Lois Green, just 10 months before. Riley’s mom, Jenna, has been on the PR and communications team within the Bon Secours Mercy Health ministry for five years, and while she regularly talks with patients and helps them tell their stories, she never thought that one day she would be sharing her own.

Riley Lois Green was born still at 28 weeks in July of 2023 at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital, where her older brother and mother were also born. After pursuing answers as to the cause of her death, Riley’s stillbirth was ultimately deemed as unexplained, which accounts for nearly half of all stillbirths.

“For six and a half months, Riley was a part of our family. As we liked to say, she was just two inches away, representing the distance between the outside world and the womb,” Jenna says. “In that time, she knew love, warmth, the beat of her mother’s heart, good music and the voices of her dad, big brother and her friends and family. And while I only carried her for 28 weeks, we pictured a lifetime of joyful moments and milestones together.”

Thanks to several generous donors throughout the years, many of whom experienced pregnancy or infant loss, CuddleCots are available at all of Bon Secours’ labor and delivery units in Richmond, including Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond, Memorial Regional Medical Center in Mechanicsville, Bon Secours St. Francis Medical Center in Midlothian and Bon Secours Southside Medical Center in Petersburg.

“We are so grateful that we were able to use a CuddleCot and that we had the gift of time with Riley: time to hold her, rock her and sing to her. Time to process, mourn and take pictures. We had 27 hours with her to create precious memories to last a lifetime,” Jenna adds.

Jenna and Daniel made the decision before leaving the hospital that they would find ways to carry Riley forward with them as a family. However, it was because of the compassionate care they received from their care team at St. Mary’s Hospital that they were inspired to pay it forward and find ways to support other families experiencing pregnancy or infant loss.

“While we were experiencing the absolute worst moments of our lives, we received the most compassionate care we could have ever imagined. When we had questions, our nurses found the answers. When we were afraid, they stayed with us and listened to our fears – sometimes for hours. One nurse even bought Daniel breakfast after her shift ended so we didn’t have to spend a moment apart, asking for nothing in return,” Jenna shares.

When it comes to labor and delivery nursing, most people think of the best-case scenario. And they are not wrong. There is so much joy in bringing life into the world, and those nurses get to be there in those incredibly happy moments. However, there’s a side to labor and delivery nursing that isn’t often talked about – the side where the outcomes are not joyous but difficult and heartbreaking.

“Our nurses have to be chameleons,” says Kamie Boyd, MSN, RNC-OB, director of labor and delivery at St. Mary’s Hospital. “They have to flip on a dime, going from one room, where a family is experiencing one of the best days of their lives, to another room, where a family may be experiencing the worst. That type of compassion and empathy isn’t something that can be taught. That’s what makes this team so special – we show up hard for our families going through loss.”

The Green family shares that the nurses who cared for them helped them begin their grief journey and encouraged them to create memories.

“The nurses said Riley’s name, greeted her with cheerful smiles and looked at her as if she was no different from the living babies that they had likely just delivered moments before walking into our room. I can’t express what that did for us,” Jenna says.

Unfortunately, when it comes to losing a loved one, goodbye is inevitable, but with the CuddleCot the Green family had a sliver of control in a situation where everything felt very out of control.

“We couldn’t bring her back, but we got the next best thing: the gift of time,” Jenna adds. “And while we knew we never really would be ready to say goodbye, thanks to the CuddleCot, we were able to make the decision about when we were ready. We’re so grateful for that.”

Not only is National Nurses Month in May, but National Nurses Week is May 6 to May 12.

To all our nurses, we thank you for the excellent care you provide our patients every day! Read more of our nurses’ stories to celebrate.

Also, learn more about the maternity services we offer at Bon Secours.

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