In Quebec 1st, MUHC gives grieving parents a new way to say goodbye

A group of women, who have all suffered loss, are spearheading a campaign to have more support services and CuddleCots — a special device that helps grieving parents say goodbye.

CuddleCot, a cradle that is also a refrigerator-coolant, allows parents time to process loss of a baby

Désirée McGraw hopes to help other parents who suffer the loss of a baby by fundraising to buy more cots and provide emotional support services for families as they cope with their grief. (Kate McKenna/CBC)

Désirée McGraw lost two babies, one in 2008 and another in 2016.

Her latest, Catherine, was stillborn. McGraw stayed in the hospital for two days just to hold her body.

The baby visibly changed in that time. 

McGraw said that if the hospital had a CuddleCot, a cradle that is also a refrigerator-coolant, the pain of it may have been a bit more bearable.

The CuddleCot allows parents to spend more time grieving at the hospital since it cools the baby's body without making it too cold for parents to touch.

CuddleCot helps grieving parents cope

5 years ago
Duration 0:42
CuddleCots give grieving parents more time to say good-bye.

McGraw is now part of a group of women who have experienced perinatal loss and are hoping to help other grieving families by introducing CuddleCots and other support services into hospitals. 

They are at the helm of the McGill University Health Centre Foundation's Cradles for Cuddles campaign.

The main focus is the CuddleCot itself — a bassinet that cools a dead baby to slow signs of decomposition.

It affords families a bit more time to process the death of their child.

Until the CuddleCot came along, families didn't have time to say both "hello" and "goodbye," McGraw said.

The team at the helm of the Cradles for Cuddles campaign have all experienced loss and hope to help other grieving families cope. (Kate McKenna/CBC)

"That time in the hospital is very critical. And it's a very concrete thing that can be done for families that do want to spend time in the hospital," she added.

One cot costs $6,000 and the MUHC is the first hospital in Quebec to get one.

The campaign aims to raise $30,000 — it has raised $17,000 so far.

The foundation will use the money raised to buy more cots, as well as provide families with emotional support and resources as they cope with their grief. 

Precious moments before baby taken away

Before the CuddleCot, there were few options for parents before their baby was gone from sight.

Annick Robinson lost her son Jacob shortly after childbirth seven years ago.

"As traumatic as that was, the real trauma comes after, when you realize that you only have a few moments with your baby and they take them away," Robinson said.

"In my case they went down to the morgue. If I wanted to see him and count his fingers and toes, they would have to bring him back from the morgue. That adds a whole other level of trauma."

Annick Robinson is one of the women heading the Cradles for Cuddles campaign. (Kate McKenna/CBC)
Both women said they didn't have the tools to deal with the death of their baby and the issue is stigmatised —making it difficult to even talk about.

"You will carry it with you for the rest of your life," McGraw said.

Dr. Tuong-Vi Nguyen, a reproductive psychiatrist at the MUHC, said the CuddleCot is an important first step for grieving parents.

In general, a mother will stay in hospital for 24 to 72 hours after delivering a baby, she said.

"We are hoping that the CuddleCot, we can keep the baby with them for the entire time that they are staying," Nguyen said.

McGraw agreed the extra time in the hospital is precious.

"It just gives a bit of humanity in an impossible situation."

With files from CBC Montreal's Homerun and Kate McKenna