Her doctor delivered the devastating news that her unborn son no longer had a heartbeat.
Bartel delivered her son at 36 weeks, whom she and her husband, Jeremy, named Briar. They spent limited precious hours together in the hospital, but the time would never be long enough for the heartbroken parents. This was the only physical time they would have with their child.
“The support we received after Briar was born was phenomenal,” remembered Bartel of her care at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center. “You could see on the faces of all the staff that they shared our pain.”
Remembering those moments when everything seemed to slip away, the Bartel family wanted to make a difference for future families in the same situation, to give them something to hold on to.
Another mother who also had lost her baby shared the same goal, and together, they set out to find a service, program or piece of technology to help grieving families.
They found CuddleCots™, a device originating from the United Kingdom. After the death of a child, either within the womb or in childbirth, the CuddleCot™ allows the family to spend precious moments with their child.
The CuddleCot™ is designed to cool the baby, helping maintain the skin’s integrity. Families can be with their child physically longer, take pictures, memorize features, and offer kisses and strokes on the cheeks.
To bring CuddleCots™ to Avera and enhance the bereavement services, Bartel approached the women’s and children’s care team at Avera McKennan with their idea. “We believed this was a way we could honor our children.”
Bartel’s story captured the attention of the Avera McKennan Foundation. The foundation graciously offered to purchase the cot through their children’s fund as they knew it would enhance patient care at Avera. Within months, South Dakota’s first CuddleCot™ arrived at Avera in November 2015.
“The concept behind the CuddleCot™ is to give these families adequate amount of time to bond with their child,” said Jamy Anderson, Avera McKennan Labor and Delivery Nurse Manager.
The CuddleCot™ supports babies as young as 16 or 17 weeks all the way to full term. Depending on their size, babies are swaddled and placed in the cot crib or a basket.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling. We don’t want anyone to have to go down the same road we did,” Bartel said. Even though losing her child was never part of her plan, Bartel appreciates the legacy Briar left for future families.
In the midst of their grief, Bartel says she and her family continued to have hope, based upon their strong faith in God. Today, she and Jeremy celebrate the fact that they now have their third child, Bennett, in their lives, in addition to big sister Rilynn.
You can support the Women and Children’s Bereavement Program at Avera by specifying your donation online or by calling 605-322-8900.