A GRIEVING mother has shared heartbreaking images of the four days she spent making memories with her stillborn daughter, after the hospital provided her with a special refrigerated "cuddle cot".
Chantel MacGough was able to spend precious time cuddling, dressing, photographing and reading stories to her baby – who was born sleeping -thanks to the cot, which has a built-in cooling mattress to stop deterioration.
The mum-of-three is now campaigning for every hospital to have access to several cold cots for bereaved families, saying no parent should be rushed to say goodbye to their baby.
The cot's special cooling system allows grieving parents time with stillborn babies that they may not have gotten otherwise.
Chantel was able to brush her daughter Amelia’s hair, read her stories, play
music, and even arranged for a professional photographer to capture images of this bonding time.
To prevent parents from additional trauma, contact with a stillborn baby was traditionally not permitted in the UK, but now healthcare professionals are encouraged to help parents make memories, through seeing and holding the baby, taking hand and footprints, locks of hair, photographs and creating a memory box.
Chantel, who lives in Brecon, Wales, first suspected something was wrong when she was 36 weeks pregnant and noticed her baby's movements had changed.
She had a scan and doctors reassured her that her baby was fine, but she remained worried.
“I knew something was wrong,” said the 24-year-old. “It was a few days later when I was bathing my eldest son that I suddenly thought I couldn't feel Amelia.
“I called my midwife and was told to come in to get checked out. I waited for my husband to finish work and we went to the hospital at about 2am. The whole way there I was worrying in my head and full of anxiety."
“When we got into the maternity room we were greeted by a student midwife. I remember the room was dark and it was thundering outside. I thought to myself: 'something's wrong', and I burst out crying," she said.
“The midwife and my husband tried to calm me and I got onto the bed to get checked. She couldn't hear Amelia's heartbeat or her moving around using the doppler, so she tried the CTG. She still couldn't find her.
She couldn't hear Amelia's heartbeat or her moving around using the doppler, so she tried the CTG. She still couldn't find her
“Panic started to set in. One midwife was holding my hand and another midwife and a doctor were looking at the screen for what felt like an hour. Then their faces dropped."
“The doctor turned to me and said: 'I’m really sorry, she’s got no heartbeat'. I told him to check again. He did, but he couldn't find it. I screamed, I broke down, I cried, and I told my husband to call my mum," Chantel recalled.
"It was 4am by this point, I woke her up and I said: 'She’s gone mum. My baby's died'.”
Chantel was sent home to rest and was induced two days later at Nevill Hall Hospital, in Abergavenny, all the while hoping that this whole ordeal was a nightmare that she would soon wake up from.
Chantel said: “I kept Googling: 'Doctors getting no heartbeat wrong', 'chance of baby's heartbeat coming back’. The induction was a long and tiring process and all the while I kept wishing she would come out crying or just wake up.”
After a three-day induction, Amelia Grace was born weighing 7lbs exactly. She had dark black hair, red lips and her mouth opened slightly from when she’d passed away.
A post mortem examination later could find no cause of death.
The family were allowed four precious days with their daughter thanks to the cuddle cot. Chantel said: “If we didn’t have this we would have had to say goodbye straight away and we couldn’t have bared that.
"With the cuddle cot we were able to sleep next to her, put her down for
rest, have cuddles, we brushed her hair and got her dressed.
"Without the cuddle cot Amelia would have had to go down to the morgue or be given to the funeral home straight away. Instead we got four days with her to love and appreciate and spend as much time with her as we could. I don’t think I would have coped mentally if we had to say goodbye straight away.”
Chantel is now fundraising, with the help of child loss charity 4Louis, to ensure every hospital has access to several cold cots and she is also supplying essential goods, including toiletries, a hand and foot print kit, storybooks, a notebook to write down memories, and more, to birthing wards for parents who lose a child.
Chantel said: “I know a few hospitals don’t have a cold cot, or only have one when they have two or three loss families in at the same time. And I want to change that. No one should have to say goodbye to their babies first. Never mind having to let them go straight away because they don’t have the option of a cold cot.”
Jen Coates, director of volunteering and bereavement support at stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands, told us that cold cots are an essential resource and although many midwifery units do have them, not every unit will have special rooms for families to make memories with their babies.
“Cold cots or cuddle cots are an absolutely vital part of bereavement care in hospitals to enable parents to make memories and special continuing bonds with their babies when the unthinkable has happened,” she said.
No one should have to say goodbye to their babies… never mind having to let them go straight away
“They enable parents to spend precious time, make hand and footprints, dress and bathe their babies should they so wish.”
Sands also want to see special bereavement suites or rooms which are private and sound-proofed in every hospital so parents don’t hear the excitement of other families and babies crying, as well as memory boxes for keepsakes such as locks of hair, and hand and footprints.
Sands train healthcare staff to be able to support bereaved families and enable them to make memories and informed decisions. The charity also provides ongoing support once parents leave hospital without their baby through groups, a helpline and an online community.
A spokesperson for Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, which covers the hospital where Amelia was born, added: “The use of cuddle cots is so important in extending the time for parents to be able to bond with their child, to take photos and to say goodbye after their tragic loss.
"It allows the family to spend every precious moment with their baby as a family unit, where every minute counts
“Having this extra time with the baby supports families to gain some form of closure, and provides comfort as they deal with their grief.”
To help Chantel’s cause, visit @inmemoryofameliagrace on Facebook and Instagram. Details about charity 4Louis can be found at www.4louis.co.uk.
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