BOISE — The loss of a child is something no parent wants to imagine, but the Little Joys Remembrance Foundation is helping give parents more options if that fateful day comes.
The foundation is supporting Idaho's hospitals with cuddle cots. They help lower babies' body temperatures to extend time with them after they've passed.
"January 6, which will be Monday, will mark six years since my husband and I welcomed our trio," said executive director of Little Joys Remembrance Foundation Erica Willenbring, "our triplets were born too soon and passed shortly after birth, so this was not an option for us in 2014, and frankly, not any hospitals in the U.S."
"I don't know that anything prepares you for that moment."
Now, she's a mom on a mission to equip all of Idaho's hospitals with more resources.
"There has to be a purpose and validation for them entering our lives, and I wanted to put forth that effort, energy into something, and cuddle cots were it," said Willenbring.
Cuddle cots look like a bassinet, but they have a cooling system, which gives parents more time together. Some families want that time for taking photos or waiting for grandparents to fly in, or just being present in the precious moments.
"Doing the normal things they would do at a delivery, giving the baby a bath, dressing the baby, wrapping the baby in blanket, doing footprints, things like that, washing their hair, those are all really important aspects of that birth experience that we really don't want to take away from them," said Leslie Gunnerson, perinatal program manager for St. Luke's.
It's not required for use, but it's an option parents now have in 25 different hospitals. They're just two cots away from having placed the units in every hospital in the state.
"In comparison to years ago when we used to really just hurry things up thinking we weren't wanting to prolong suffering, taking away baby from mom, we really know now that's not a good practice," said Gunnerson, "so keeping them together in the same room really helps them in the big picture with process their grief and moving forward after they go home without their baby."
Once all hospitals receive them, Willenbring's not too sure what the next steps are for the foundation. She says she'll support and raise awareness however she can.
"It's not just a cooling device; it's a bereavement support tool, and it's really showcasing that the hospitals are making that extra effort to provide emotional support for the families," said Willenbring.
They have three cuddle cots ready for hospitals in eastern Idaho, and then they only have two left to place in the northern part of the state.
Each cuddle cot costs approximately $2,764.00. The Griddle and Boise Rainbow Project helped fund the last two cots. To support the last two cuddle cots, or the foundation, click here.