Alumni Achievement Award winner Kristy Wiegele wanted to be a nurse when she left high school, but hated needles and would faint at the sight of blood. Now, she is an expert midwife helping parents around Western Australia who have lost a newborn baby. Wiegele’s emotive story describes how the sudden passing of a tiny boy made her the person she is today.
“In 2014, a beautiful boy, the most perfect baby boy, was born at my hospital. He was full-term and his mum had a very uneventful, text-book pregnancy. She woke up one morning with some blood loss; by the time she arrived at the hospital, her baby had passed away.
Named Lincoln John Cook, he was born to Shannon and James on August 29, 2014, and he was divine. But his short life has given so much.
Lincoln inspired me to fundraise for a cold cuddle cot for my hospital, St John of God Mt Lawley. I started ‘A Midwife’s Gift’ to raise the money and now, $104,000 and 21 cots later, we have ensured that almost every maternity hospital in Western Australia has a cuddle cot available to anyone who experiences the tragic loss of their baby.
The cuddle cot is a bassinete with a mattress that has refridgerated water pumped into it, allowing the deceased baby to remain with its parents rather than taken to the morgue. It gives the family the gift of time with their baby. Time to hold, to love, to cuddle, to grieve, to bathe, to make memories.
Every family I have looked after at my hospital that has used the cuddle cot has valued it so much that they have gone on to fundraise with me to honour their baby and pass on a cot to another hospital. It’s not for everyone – there are some people who don’t want to use it – but to have the option is the most important thing.
Through donating cots and presenting to various groups, we have opened up so much dialogue in this area. With six babies stillborn in Australia every day and one in four pregnancies ending in miscarriage, it is much more common than people imagine, and I can almost guarantee that every single one of us has either lost a baby, or knows someone close to them who has.
The last three years working to honour Lincoln’s memory have been a joy. I’m quite proud of this little man and his parents, who have worked alongside me to donate cots, provide education and help reduce the stigma that comes with talking about the loss of a child.
One of the most rewarding things about being a midwife is being able to share such a personal time with families and witness such intense, emotional and amazing moments, whether they be joyous or heartbreaking.
To aspiring nurses and midwives, my advice is: don’t ever think that you are just one person who is not capable of making a difference. Making the decision to start ‘A Midwife’s Gift’ and fundraise for just one cot was not easy because I doubted I was capable. Now, 21 cots later, I look back and wonder why I didn’t do it sooner.”