During her 22-year career as a nurse in the labour and delivery unit at Covenant Health’s Misericordia Community Hospital, Michelle McDougall has helped thousands of parents welcome healthy newborn babies into the world. As assistant head nurse in the unit, McDougall appreciates the significance of the care and comfort she provides families throughout the birthing experience. But while the vast majority of deliveries end with the beautiful cry of a healthy baby’s arrival, some do not. And for those rare cases when McDougall and her colleagues find themselves supporting a couple through pregnancy loss, providing every support they can is vital.
“The only thing we can send them home with is memories so our team tries really hard to create those memories in many different way,” McDougall explains.
“We make a lot of mementos. We do hand molds of the baby’s hands and feet. We take pictures and we make a memory box, a bracelet and a crib card and try to have as many mementos as possible,” she adds.
The use of a specialized bassinet mattress, called a cuddle cot, also gives parents the opportunity to spend some time with their baby. The cot recently needed replacement as the mattress’s cooling technology was failing. It was through a donation from Covenant Foundation that the labour and delivery unit was able to purchase a new cuddle cot.
“Ensuring Covenant hospitals have the resources they need to cope with unforeseen circumstances is vital to supporting the families we serve,” says Covenant Foundation CEO Tracy Sopkow. “We’re grateful to our donors for working with us to provide grieving parents with everything we can to help ease their pain.”
McDougall stresses the cuddle cot makes a tremendous impact on the bereavement team’s ability to help parents cope with their loss.
“Once they work through the shock, there’s a lot of emotion that goes with that,” she says. “Over the course of their time in labour and delivery we fully work with them as to what they might expect and what their options are. People don’t have to see their baby, they don’t have to hold their baby, they don’t have to even accept the memento that we make. But we have all those things available to them.”
“Some people choose to go home that same night. Some people will stay with us for two or three days and in that time, with the help of the cuddle cot, the baby can just stay in the room with them so they have that time to make those memories.”
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Written by: Laura Ehrkamp