Abby Hillinger was 36 weeks pregnant when her daughter died in utero. Three days later, Abby gave birth to her baby girl. Melody was born on May 26, 2017 and weighed 4 pounds, 12 ounces.
Abby and her husband, Matt, had received the news earlier in the week that their daughter had passed, but Abby still needed to go through labor and delivery. Shortly after the birth, Abby was rushed to the operating room due to complications, allowing her less than hour to be with her daughter, Melody.
Because the decomposition process is accelerated for stillborn infants, new parents might feel that they are only able to hold their child for a limited amount of time. In honor of Melody, and in order to give grieving parents more time to be with their child, Matt and Abby donated a CuddleCot to Beverly Hospital at a dedication ceremony Saturday, May 26, on what would have been Melody’s first birthday.
The CuddleCot is a cooling bassinet that slows the decomposition process, which allows the family more time to be with their stillborn infant.
“You get that news about your baby and you’re just in shock,” Abby said. “In the moment, you think it’s the right amount of time to see your child, but you don’t realize after they take her away, she’s gone forever. I want to at least give parents who want to spend more time with their baby that option.”
The CuddleCot will allow parents, faced with the unimaginable loss, the opportunity to hold their baby longer, to change their diaper, to put on an outfit, or to just to be in the same room with their child.
“Going through a stillbirth is an incredibly traumatizing event,” said Denise Maunders, a nurse for the past 38 years and nurse manager of Beverly Hospital’s labor and delivery department. “While there is nothing that can fill the void of losing a child, with the CuddleCot, we will now be able to offer parents the additional comfort of more time with their baby. We are so grateful to Matt and Abby for this donation and thank them for their generosity.”
Through this gift, the Hillingers hope they will give parents the time they need with their child, while also raising awareness of stillbirths.
“People don’t realize how truly traumatizing stillbirths are,” Abby said. “Our baby died. She wasn’t a ‘miscarriage,’ like people think. She was our baby. Melody was a perfect meld of my husband and me. What people don’t know is, with a stillbirth, mothers still have to go through the whole labor process. The biggest difference is they don’t get to bring their babies home after.”
This story also appeared in The Salem News.