Grange member gives mothers time to grieve
"When I got into the delivery room, the doctor already knew that Brian was dead." A local woman slowly sputtered the words.
"They took him out first, they did a c-section, and laid him on the end of the operating table where my husband saw him," she said.
"I wasn't allowed to see or touch him, which upset me a lot."
"To be able to have held him even for five minutes or less would have given me some peace."
One Canby resident has made it her mission to give mothers this very gift—the precious gift of time after a stillbirth.
Maryssa Yager, of Canby's Warner Grange, began organizing fundraisers in 2017 for the purchase of refrigeration systems called CuddleCots that preserve fragile stillborn infants to allow grieving parents more time.
"It's the time," Yager said. "It's the time that the parents get to spend, uninterrupted, in the privacy of their own space—in their own hospital room."
At hospitals without the cots, staff members must transport the infant back and forth to the morgue, keeping the baby cool while trying to offer the family more time.
Oregon Law labels stillbirth as "fetal death," and according to Yager, families aren't provided a birth or death certificate.
"Really the only memories they have are delivering the baby and saying goodbye," Yager said.
And that's why Yager is so passionate about making sure Oregon hospitals have CuddleCots. The idea first came about when Clarkes Grange members presented the idea at Warner Grange. Some Clarkes Grange members had been affected by stillbirth, so the club raised funds to purchase a CuddleCot for Willamette Falls Hospital. According to Yager, around this time in 2017, there were only five CuddleCots in the state of Oregon.
Spearheaded by Yager, and with the help of fellow grange members Shannon Yager, Jamie Yager, Andi Rounds, Becky Wilkey, Don Kingsborough and Carly Itami, as well as generous donors, Warner Grange raised $23,000 and purchased seven cots for local hospitals.
Yager and others delivered the cots in person to the hospitals—Legacy Emmanuel, Providence St. Vincent's, Legacy Meridian Park, Legacy Good Samaritan, OHSU Hospital, Legacy Mt. Hood and St. Charles Hospital in Bend.
"The nurses that I have met with when I've donated these cots to the hospitals, they can't even begin to express their gratitude because it makes it easier on them as well," Yager said. "It makes it easier for them to say, 'I'm sorry. We do feel your pain. We understand. We can't do anything more to help you;' but this gives them that avenue to say, 'Spend as much time as you need.' "
Yager found that hospital staff members were doing their best to support families after stillbirth. Some hospitals offer angel gowns—garments made from old wedding dresses for photos or burial. Some offer photos, porcelain casts of the infant's hands and feet, and even angel certificates.
"They do try to make the accommodations they can," Yager said. "But at the end of the day, there's only so much time and resources that they have."
Yager was honored in December for her efforts. She received the National Grange Youth Department Project of the Year award. And now she's at it again. Yager is organizing a second fundraiser with a goal of raising $40,000 to place more cots in more hospitals.
She invites anyone interested to the dinner and auction fundraiser at Warner Grange, 10100 South New Era Road in Canby, on Saturday, April 13 at 5 p.m. Last year's auction boasted 111 items; Yager anticipates more items this time around and possibly higher value packages.
Tickets are $20 each, and there are 150 seats available (though Yager said she'll make more room if more people want to come). To purchase tickets, visit the Facebook page at facebook.com/givethegiftoftime or contact Yager at 503-347-9476.