NEENAH, Wis. - Tabitha and Sal Lazaro of Menasha were looking forward to becoming new parents.
"It caught me off guard," said Sal. "It was surprising, because we had been trying for awhile. It was really exciting."
But halfway through the pregnancy, the doctor delivered devastating news. Their baby, Brooklyn, had fluid on her brain, club hands and feet and needed heart surgery. They would later learn that she had the rare, chromosomal disorder Trisomy 6.
"It really was just keeping hope and a lot of prayer, and just having faith that God was going to pull through, and really whatever that situation was there's meaning behind it," explained Tabitha.
She was 33 weeks pregnant when her daughter's heartbeat went silent. She delivered Brooklyn at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah. She knew it would be the first and last time she'd get to hold her little girl.
"So every little wrinkle on her face, every curl on her black hair, I need to memorize her."
The Lazaros describe feeling rushed to both bond and say goodbye to their precious baby.
"It was only about an hour-and-a-half or so that we had with her before we realized we needed to start having people come in and meet her," said Tabitha.
Time had simply run out.
In the months that followed, Tabitha learned about Cuddle Cots. They're a special bassinet that's made in the U.K. Inside, you'll find a mattress and a cooling mat that's connected to a device that filters cold water through the mat at a consistent temperature. The Cuddle Cot helps preserve the quality of the stillborn infant which allows it to stay with the parents up to five days instead of just hours or minutes.
"The longer that they're able to spend with their infant holding and caring for them as a normal baby, in the end, they have a better grieving process," explained Ashley Ebert, ThedaCare OB Registered Nurse and Bereavement Coordinator.
The Lazaros want that for other families, so with the help of loved ones, they collected $2,800 to purchase and donate a Cuddle Cot to ThedaCare on March 20th in memory of Brooklyn.
"Delivering it on her birthday was huge," said Ebert. "I think it was a great gift to ThedaCare and our program.
With Brookyln's name displayed on a metal plate on the Cuddle Cot storage box, nurses plan to share the Lazaro's story to let other grieving parents know that they're not alone. It's also helping the Lazaros with their healing.
Sal said, "Just knowing that a piece of her still continues, it's a really good feeling."
"She was meant to not just be another baby we have in heaven," added Tabitha. "She's meant to have a purpose here."
ThedaCare expects to use the Cuddle Cot about two to three times a month, which the Lazaros hope will make the journey of these families a little easier.
The couple said this experience has not only made their marriage stronger, it has also strengthened their faith. They still want children in the future and plan to continue exploring their options.