On September 20th, 2017 at 32 weeks pregnant with our second baby I just knew something was wrong. After getting ready for the day, my nephews 2nd birthday I took a second realizing I hadn't felt Harley move all morning. With no real time to spare I put the fears to the back of my mind and headed over to my sister in laws to celebrate my nephews birthday. After eating a full meal and still not feeling any movement, the fear washed over me, I silently started a kick count ( A count where you ensure baby moves 10 times in an hour). 20 minutes in and still no movement I let my husband, my sister-in law and my mom know what was going on. Everyone insisted that I call my doctor. But doing so made it all real. It meant something was most likely wrong. I already felt hope slipping away. I called and while we waited for a return call, my sister-in-law insisted we just go to the hospital. Still not trying to alarm anyone I was cool, calm and collected. I did not shed a single tear. Not yet anyway.
Once we got to the hospital, magically my husband got there at the same time, my son, my husband, and I checked in at labor and delivery for lack of movement. They put us in a room and per usual went at trying to find baby's heartbeat with the monitor, after 2 minutes (what truly felt like forever) the nurse said she was going to get another nurse to try. I just knew. I didn't need proof. I didn't need to hear the words every parent fears. We silently waited, when 3 nurses came back in with an ultrasound it was confirmed for me in that moment. Everything I had been holding back came out before they even had the wand on my pregnant belly. She was gone. My baby girl was gone. After not being able to find a heartbeat they brought in a second ultrasound and a doctor. The words were finally said, "I'm sorry there is no heartbeat". Just like that the room cleared and my little family and I were left broken hearted, raw with what was happening and what was to come.
After 2 days in labor, hours of tears, pain and sometimes numbness, on September 22nd, 2017, Harley Judson was born still. The room was quiet as the nurse handed me my lifeless daughter. I had no idea where we would go from there but she was perfect, tiny at 2lbs 15oz and 18 inches long but perfect nonetheless. In the end we had 12 hours with our precious Harley. Not nearly enough when we had spent the last 8 months thinking we would have forever. We let our family and friends visit with her after she was born and took as many pictures as we could. This would be the only time we would ever see our daughter. How do you say goodbye when you never got the chance to say hello? We wish we could have had more time. But we just couldn't let her suffer any more. Hadn't she been through enough? Hadn't we? Watching her skin and body disintegrate before our eyes was a nightmare worse than knowing we would never hear her cry or see her smile. So at 9:00pm just 12 hours after her lifeless body was brought into this world we said our final goodbye and watched her placed in a bassinet, covered with a blanket and wheeled to the morgue. Our Harley was gone forever, almost like she had never been here.
We struggled with the knowledge that we were the only ones that could keep her memory alive. That she wouldn't have touched hundreds of lives in the course of her lifetime that would remember her. Some days the weight of keeping her alive is too much but we had to find a way to let her touch the world.
That's where the Cuddle Cots come in. We didn't get the opportunity to use one as our Hospital Scripps Memorial La Jolla didn't have one. Upon further research we found that no Hospital in San Diego had one. How was that possible? Didn't stillbirths affect more than just us? Wasn't there a need? Let me back up a minute and explain what a Cuddle Cot is and why it could be so valuable. A Cuddle Cot is a cooling pad that is placed in a bassinet, crib or bed to bring the stillborn's body temperature down to preserve the body without being too cold for the parents to hold and love on their little one. Without a Cuddle Cot some hospitals intermittently take the baby to the morgue/ freezer to preserve their lifeless body which can cause horrible separation issues. Fortunately for us that was not the case. Harley never left our side until we said that we were ready. However, the 12 hours we had with Harley just wasn't enough. It wasn't enough time to memorize her face, her body, her hands, her feet. Memories that would have to last us a lifetime. Would a Cuddle Cot have made a difference in our grief? Absolutely, without a single doubt. We could have had days with our baby girl, we could have had hundreds of more pictures. We could have taken our time in saying goodbye. I regret so many things that day that seem ridiculous but aren't. I regret taking a nap. How could I have been so selfish? Those 2 hours that I napped were 2 hours I would never get back with my daughter, but hadn't I just labored for days and delivered a baby? Wasn't I allowed to rest? Why didn't we put a diaper on her? Why didn't we give her a bath? Why didn't I memorize every inch of her body? There just wasn't enough time. I can't change any of those decisions for myself or my family. But I can hopefully with the help of family, friends and strangers alike give the gift of time to another family in need. This will not replace their baby and it definitely will not take away their grief, but it will give them time to process and be with their baby and hopefully have less regret.
Our goal starting with Scripps Memorial La Jolla is to raise enough money to donate 2 Cuddle Cots. From there we would like to continue to raise money for all Scripps Hospitals in San Diego County that have a maternity ward to have 2 Cuddle Cots and then continue on to other hospitals in the area.
Please help us keep Harley's memory alive. Help us give the gift of time to the next family that will suffer a similar loss.
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