When Annet Janssen’s infant daughter died two days before her delivery date, the family was devastated. But a second disappointment came when the stillborn, named Reyanna, had to be taken away to the funeral home just a day later.

Janssen and her husband, originally from the Netherlands, asked for a cooling system that would allow them to have a bit more time to say goodbye to their daughter – but Abbotsford Regional Hospital had never heard of the device, common in Holland.

“We were shocked that the hospital didn't have anything for us to keep Reyanna cool and have her be able to stay in my room,” says Janssen, a mother of six who lives in Abbotsford, B.C. “It was a disappointment for us…We felt we didn’t have the time for our family to say a proper goodbye.”

After Reyanna was buried, Janssen found an article on Facebook about a mother who donated a CuddleCot cooling system to an Edmonton hospital after the death of her baby.

A CuddleCot is like a tiny water mattress that can be placed in a bassinette or crib. Cold water is continuously pumped through the mattress, preserving the baby’s body and giving the family a significantly longer time to say goodbye.

Inspired, Janssen and some friends created the Facebook group “Bringing CuddleCots to B.C.” Their goal: raise money through auctions to purchase CuddleCots for hospitals throughout the Fraser Valley.

“I had to do something, I couldn’t not do anything,” says Janssen.

CuddleCots cost around $3,000, and are manufactured by the British company Flexmort. This fall, Janssen’s group donated five cots to Fraser Health hospitals in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Langley, Surrey and New Westminster.

A sixth cot was also donated to the Abbotsford hospital by a mother who had a stillborn several years ago.

Kristyn Chatwin, nurse and manager of the maternity ward at Abbotsford Regional Hospital, says the CuddleCots are going to make a huge difference for future families.

“All the hospitals that have received CuddleCots are very thankful,” Chatwin says, noting that Abbotsford was the first hospital in B.C. to get CuddleCots. “This just makes such a difference to keep the baby in the room for as long as the parents would like.”

The maternity ward in the hospital can be the happiest place in the world, she adds, but it can also be the saddest. According to Stats Canada, the stillbirth rate for infants was around six per cent in 2011.

“It’s huge as a nurse to be able to support the parents for that goodbye,” says Chatwin. “What these moms have done for the community and for Fraser Health is immense… we’re hoping that more hospitals in B.C. will be able to bring these on now that we’ve forged the way.”

Janssen ‘s group is currently fundraising to bring CuddleCots to hospitals in White Rock, Ridge Meadows, and Burnaby – as well as to give additional cots to hospitals in Surrey and New Westminster.

“I just find it really important that family get time to spend with their stillborn baby, because you don’t have anything else,” Janssen says.

“I’m feeling pleased about what we’ve achieved. I wish they had CuddleCots earlier for our sake…But it definitely feels good knowing that there are families that can spend extra time with their baby if they want to.”

Interested in donating to the CuddleCot initiative? Visit: https://chimp.net/groups/cooling-cots-for-the-lower-mainland