Treasured photos and tiny hand and footprints are all Warrnambool's Matthew and Madeline McConnell have to hold after losing their newborn daughter Wren two months ago.
The couple welcomed their baby daughter on April 15 and instead of celebrating her two-month milestone on Wednesday, they're now looking at ways their experience can help other bereaved south-west parents.
Wren McConnell lived for just eight days after a complicated birth and at six hours old, she was transferred to Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital (RCH).
"Unfortunately, we had only eight days to make a lifetime of memories," the couple said.
A week ago they launched an online fund-raising page to help purchase a camera and embossing kit for South West Healthcare to help other families create treasured memories, like they were able to do at the RCH.
"We hope to update the camera on the maternity ward so the midwives can capture all of the beautiful features of babies taken too soon," they said.
They had hoped to raise $2000 but it quickly surged to $11,000 in days.
When the couple was forced to say goodbye, they were given the chance to create embossed hand and footprints, walk her in the pram and capture images of Wren's final moments.
"In a time filled with heartbreak, memories are what we cling to, and we hope other parents and families can find some comfort in making their beautiful memories too."
Mrs McConnell said at the time making memories with Wren was special but to have them to look back on now was "priceless".
"To look at her little hands and bits and pieces like that have been really comforting, or as comforting as they can be, to have that closeness with her," she said.
"You just want as many memories as possible because you know you can't make any more so every little bit counts."
She said they'd had amazing support from family, friends and the South West Healthcare obstetric team who had been "absolutely phenomenal" and the community too.
"The way the community has rallied has been beautiful and it's been so touching to see," Mrs McConnell said. "To know other parents and the community want to support bereaved parents.
"That's one thing we've found here in Warrnambool is we don't have a lot of face-to-face support for bereaved parents, which is hopefully something we'll be able to change."
They've raised enough money to order the camera, a printer and embossing kits and are looking at other initiatives.
A midwife at South West Healthcare, Mrs McConnell is in early discussions with CEO Craig Fraser about introducing a bereavement room and other initiatives for those experiencing miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal loss.
She said when women lost their babies they were left on the labour ward but she wanted a quiet space created where the family could spend time with their babies and not have crying babies nearby.
They're hoping to establish a Facebook page for bereaved families. "You just crave that peer support from someone that's in the same position as you," she said. "Until you're in that situation you don't know what its like. I think it's essential that we have it here in Warrnambool."
They said what they were doing was for the community and they welcomed ideas and suggestions.
"We didn't get to parent Wren so we're putting our energy into something that will be in Wren's name but it will also help other people in our situation," she said. "It's good to put that energy into something at the minute. It's part of our healing process but we're hoping it will help others heal too."
To donate go to gofundme.com and search Wren's Gift.
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