Donation will help families dealing with loss of children at Fairfield hospital

First she mourned, then she took action.

Butler County resident Ashley Smith came to Mercy Health-Fairfield Hospital on July 28, 2014 with her husband, Joseph, to deliver a child. Instead, their infant boy was stillborn.

Using her home-based LuLaRoe business, she raised money for the hospital's Family Birthing Center, with her company matching each donation. That money went to help babies in the special care nursery, as well as bereaved families that may have experienced unexpected costs.

Last week, she attended a dedication ceremony for a CuddleCot, a bassinet with a water-based cooling system designed to keep the body temperature of a deceased infant low, allowing grieving parents and their family as much time as they need to be with the child.

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The device was dedicated Tuesday in memory of the Smith’s son, Timothy Anderson Smith.

“I was always trying to think of something that I wanted to do for him … and (his) birthday in 2018 was the first fundraiser,” Ashley Smith said. “It means the world, honestly, the fact that it happened so fast.”

The hospital offered to put Timmy’s name on the side of the cot, Smith said.

“It was very touching,” she said. “We felt honored. The way that God has kind of worked it all together for us and helped us get to where we are has been wonderful.”

Stillbirth affects about 1 in 100 pregnancies, and each year about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, “it’s not something people talk about,” something Smith said made her want to talk about it more.

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“When we went through it, I went through post-partum depression,” she said. “It was not easy because you do feel so alone because nobody talks about it.”

Jennifer Lipke, nurse manager of the Family Birthing Center at Mercy Health-Fairfield Hospital, said the donation of the CuddleCot was “one of the most generous gifts” she has seen in her eight years in the role.

“They did this to honor their baby, but (also) to help other families, which is awesome,” Lipke said. “We don’t want to see any other family go through this, but if we do, when we do, unfortunately, we have something awesome to provide the family.”

The CuddleCot ceremony on Tuesday came about not only because of Ashley Smith's donations, but also Mercy Health-Fairfield Hospital's Catherine McCauley Fund, to which employees can contribute during its annual giving campaign.

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The primary sponsor was Ashlie's Embrace, founded by Erin Maroon, whose daughter Ashlie was stillborn at 41 weeks on Oct. 28, 2015. Maroon, of North Canton, said she and her husband Anthony felt "blindsided" by only having an hour to spend with their daughter.

“We read an article about CuddleCots and we decided that we had to do something about it and make sure that they were in every hospital in the U.S. so no family would have to rush like we did,” she said of the founding of Ashlie’s Embrace in March 2016. “You go in thinking you’re going to come home with a baby and make memories and those are your memories of that child now. We wanted people to have more time to create those small memories that they could take with them forever.”

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