Boise woman uses tragic loss to push for more Cuddle Cots in Idaho

Saint Al's buys first Cuddle Cot in Idaho.

BOISE - What is supposed to be a time of happiness for families, sometimes ends in a devastating loss.

Christina Babin with Saint Alphonsus says in the past, they haven't had a way to give grieving parents more time with their baby after they pass away, whether the baby is stillborn or passes away shortly after birth.

That all changed last week, when the hospital received what's called the "Cuddle Cot" - the first in Idaho.

Erica Willenbring says the grief following infant loss is neverending. It's grief she knows all too well, but shes turning her loss into something positive.

She started the Little Joys Remembrance Foundation as a push to bring more Cuddle Cots to Idaho.

Initially there's shock. Numbness follows.

"It's debilitating," said Willenbring. "It's traumatizing and it never ends."

Then there's grief that Willenbring says is slow and painful.

"Any family going through it is stuck in this low, deep grief process as soon as it happens."

Willenbring found out she was pregnant with triplets in 2013, and what started as a relatively normal pregnancy quickly changed when she reached 20 weeks. Doctors didn't know why, but she went into labor. All three of her babies passed away within hours of being delivered.

"Fallon, Ruby and Jack," said Willenbring. "I had two girls and a boy."

Fallon was born first and Willenbring says she and her husband had two hours with her. Two hours filled with precious, quiet moments.  

"You are saying hello and goodbye in the same breath almost," Willenbring said.

She says of all the gifts in the world, time was all that she longed for. Just another minute, another hour.

Time is what Willenbring and Saint Alphonsus staff members like Babin are giving to parents through the Cuddle Cot.

"The interesting part about walking away was I didn't know we could stay," Willenbring said. "Even though the nurses were saying take your time, having a Cuddle Cot is the hospital's way of saying really, take your time."

It's a device that uses distilled water, which flows into a pad that cools the baby down, ultimately slowing down the physical changes you'd see after the baby passes away.  

"We were so limited on time and we didn't want to share that with anybody, so it definitely would have helped," Willenbring said.

"Alternative options that we've done in the past are using ice packets, that type of thing. This is something that can maintain itself, it's quiet and it can be nearby the parents," said Babin.

It also gives the parents time for family and friends to get to the hospital.

"Not everyone has to use it or wants to use it, wants to bond with their baby, but having that chance to changes everything," said Willenbring.

"It validates that this baby mattered and this life mattered and this time that you do have with them, it matters," said Babin.

Babin says at this time they only have one Cuddle Cot and don't have an immediate plans to purchase more because they're nearly $3,000. She says with the help of the Little Joys Foundation, they're hoping to buy one for the Saint Alphonsus Nampa location next. 

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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