Updated: Oct 25
By Mary Beth Schweigert
Amy and Steven Lied never expected to leave Women & Babies Hospital without their baby.
The sudden, unexpected stillbirth of their first child, Asher, nearly 33 weeks into Amy’s uneventful pregnancy left the couple reeling. There had been no warning signs that anything was wrong — and adding to their pain, no apparent explanation for their loss.
When the Lieds left the hospital without Asher, they held onto a special gift from their nurses: a teddy bear. Even now, almost four years later, the Lieds still sleep with the teddy bear every night. In addition to providing comfort, the nurses’ gift led to an opportunity for the couple to help others, and to ensure that Asher is not forgotten.
Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health’s Women & Babies Hospital offers a wide array of supportive services to parents after a stillbirth, which is defined in Pennsylvania as the loss of a baby at 16 weeks or later in a pregnancy, or a newborn death. Sadly, between 50 and 100 of these losses occur at the hospital each year.
Perinatal bereavement care coordinator Sharon Kauffman said that most parents, like the Lieds, feel completely blindsided by their loss.
“Most people do not even consider that their pregnancy will result in anything other than a healthy baby,” she said. “They tell me that it’s like a bad dream they can’t wake up from.”
Some women report experiencing actual physical symptoms of their grief, including the sensation of “aching arms” without a baby to hold, Kauffman said. Soon after the Lieds’ loss, the hospital began offering special weighted therapeutic teddy bears to all bereaved parents.
The 4-pound Comfort Cub, which was created by a mother who lost her own son, is designed to simulate the feeling of cradling a newborn baby. The bear gives parents something to hold as they leave the hospital and continue to mourn their loss over time.
After they lost Asher, the Lieds wanted to honor their son by helping other bereaved parents. They remembered the comfort of the teddy bear they received from their nurses, which made donating Comfort Cubs to the hospital seem like the perfect fit. More than 200 parents have taken home a bear so far, most of which were donated by the Lieds.
“Nothing will fill the void of losing Asher,” Amy Lied said. “But it’s nice to know that our son is making a difference in so many families’ lives.”