FORT BENNING, GA – Michael and Jennifer Kate Everett know firsthand the pain and heartbreak of stillbirth. Five years ago, their daughter Juliana Diane was born sleeping at Samaritan Hospital in Watertown, New York. Michael and Jennifer cherished every single moment with their baby, but wished they had had more time.
A CuddleCot would have given them those precious hours and even days with Juliana. The cooling mattress, when placed inside a bassinet or Moses basket, helps keep a baby’s body from deteriorating, thereby allowing parents more time to love and bond, grieve and say goodbye. Samaritan Hospital did not have the high-tech bed available in 2016.
The Everetts are working to bring some small measure of comfort to parents experiencing the devastating loss of their child. They honored their daughter by starting “Juliana’s Gift.” The non-profit provides military communities with CuddleCots. To date, they have donated five CuddleCots in Juliana’s name. The Everetts also hope to combat the stigma and isolation associated with stillbirths and raise awareness of the emotional impact they can have on loved ones.
Martin Army Community Hospital holds a special place in their hearts because BMACH is where they found out they were pregnant with Juliana. The Everetts donated a CuddleCot to BMACH last October. Today, Mother-Baby Unit Clinical Nurse Officer in Charge (CNOIC) Capt. Katherine Basquill-White and Labor and Delivery Unit CNOIC Capt. Decilia Neely trained nurses on how to properly set up, operate and clean the CuddleCot. The cooling unit maintains an optimum temperature of 46-55 degrees Fahrenheit.
“We normally dress the babies in baby clothes,” said Neely. ”We try to keep the parents in their Labor and Delivery room over here farthest from the rest of the rooms. And cover up the monitor so they can’t see other babies’ heartrates. We try not to play the lullaby while they are here as well.
“Then we make sure to take footprints and handprints, if the mom wants them. And we’ll do matching bracelets for mom and baby. One bracelet will go with the baby and one will stay with mom.”
Sadly, about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States each year, affecting one in 160 women. The hours spent in the hospital after delivery may be the only memories parents are able to make with their baby. “Juliana’s Gift” will now allow parents at Martin Army Community Hospital to keep their baby in the room for as long as possible.