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Community rallies around family to provide a special service that parents hope they never need

Couple with stillborn child donates four CuddleCots to rural hospitals

Robby and Haley Emerson standing with CMH team members next to donated CuddleCot

It was devastating. You plan for a baby for nine months, posting progress on social media, celebrating with baby showers, and then all of that is ripped away from you. Every parents’ nightmare had come true for Robby and Haley Emerson of Danville, Virginia. Sydney Amelia Emerson was stillborn on March 3.

Just two months later, the grieving parents donated a CuddleCot to VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital. For the families that choose to use it, the little bassinette cools the deceased baby’s temperature to extend time to spend with their baby as part of the closure process. The Emersons’ GoFundMe page raised enough for four CuddleCots, which they are in the process of donating to smaller area hospitals that otherwise couldn’t afford the equipment.

"It was crazy," Robby Emerson explained. "People we didn’t know were donating. It’s the good side of social media."

"It restored our faith in humanity," Haley Emerson added.

They didn’t have the luxury of a CuddleCot where they delivered and wanted to make sure that didn’t happen to anyone else. The cot has an engraved plaque that memorializes Sydney Amelia Emerson, letting new parents who go through this tragedy know they’re not in this alone.

"You’re taking a deep hurt and making something positive out of it," said Joanne Paynter, the nursing director at the Garland Birthing Center at VCU Health CMH. "This will make a big difference in the lives of those who need it."

This is no small gift. Each cot costs around $3,000. The couple plans to reopen the donations on Sydney Amelia Emerson’s birthday each March.

Stillbirths account for 1 in 160 pregnancies and sometimes the cause is unknown. VCU Health has resources to help parents experiencing pregnancy loss.