“There was nothing I could do to help.”

Kerry Harkin was elated when she found out that she was going to become a grandmother once more and she could barely contain her excitement as her daughter, Natasha’s due date grew closer. However, with just one week to go until Natasha was due to be induced, Kerry received a worrying phone call from her daughter, asking her to take her to hospital urgently. Kerry quickly gathered together her things, expecting she would be meeting her newest grandchild very soon.

Once they arrived at the hospital, Natasha was hooked up to a monitor to check on the baby. Any nervous excitement that Kerry felt soon turned to utter devastation, as the pair listened in disbelief as the midwife told Natasha that her baby girl had no heartbeat.

Natasha was absolutely distraught – her whole world had just come crashing down around her. All Kerry could do was comfort her, whilst still in utter shock herself. Kerry took Natasha home, expecting to return in a day or two to deliver the baby, but no sooner had they walked through the door, Natasha went into labour. Turning straight around, the pair made their way back to the hospital but as they did, Kerry couldn’t help but worry about what awaited them. She wondered how her daughter would cope and how she might react herself, knowing her precious granddaughter would be stillborn. There were so many unknowns, but what she did know is that Natasha would need her support more than ever.

When they arrived, Natasha was shown to the Abby Suite, a private suite on the hospital’s maternity ward, where later that day, after a gruelling labour, she gave birth to Tilly.

As soon as Kerry saw Tilly, she was overwhelmed with love. “I didn’t know what to expect or what Tilly would look like, as we didn’t know when she had passed, but she was beautiful and I loved her instantly. To watch my own daughter go through such trauma when there was nothing I could do to help, or make the situation better, was agony. All I could do was to be there for her.”

Kerry and Natasha were able to stay with Tilly for three nights in the Abby Suite, thanks to the use of a special cuddle cot, and invited family to come and meet her, take photos and make memories they could cherish forever.

Kerry said: “The cuddle cot was a god-send, as it allowed us to spend longer with Tilly. We’ve since even raised almost £2,000 to fund another one for the Women’s Hospital. It meant Tilly’s two big sisters, Molly (seven) and Gracie (nine) were able to spend lots of time with Tilly as well, which was so important, as they had been just as excited as us during their mum’s pregnancy. That precious time just confirmed Tilly would be part of our family forever.

“When Natasha was discharged, we came to see Tilly every day until her funeral and we were given as much time as we needed in a small quiet room just down the hall from the mortuary. As grateful as we were for that extra time with her, it was agony to walk through the hospital every day, passing balloons and the sounds of new babies crying when we knew our Tilly was never coming home.”

When complete, Woodland House will have a family room, with its own private space and access, as well as a private and sensitive mortuary, offering families the opportunity to spend time with their loved ones and make precious memories away from the hustle and bustle of the main hospital.

“As a mother and a grandmother, I truly wish that there was no need for a dedicated bereavement centre, but the reality is Woodland House is so desperately needed. One of the hardest things in that situation is leaving the hospital empty handed when all you can see is people taking their babies home. So to have somewhere away from all that, away from the sounds and away from the place your heart was shattered, will make all the difference.”