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Family donates weighted bears to go to mothers of stillborn babies

Updated: Jun. 4, 2021 at 5:46 PM CDT
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MARSHFIELD, Wis. (WSAW) - For 34 weeks, Kara and Matt Houck were preparing to become first-time parents. Then, Kara noticed her son, Vincent, was not moving.

The Minnesota couple went to the hospital to check for a heartbeat.

“They told me those unfortunate words that there is no heartbeat,” Kara said. “I spent a couple (of) nights at home just to process everything and then we went into the hospital and Vincent was born on March 5, 2020.”

The Houcks only spent 26 hours together, a much longer time than they later realized most couples get to spend with their stillborn child, but still too short for the life they lost.

“I went in the whole pregnancy thinking I was going to walk out of a hospital with a baby and I was about to walk out of a hospital with empty arms.”

As they were leaving the hospital, a nurse placed a weighted bear in Kara’s arms.

“It was honestly at the moment that I needed it the most.”

Another mother of a stillbirth child, Brooklyn, wanted other mothers not to leave the hospital with empty arms. Carrie Roderick purchases the bears from Build-A-Bear, fills them with bags of sand, and hand sews them with her mother. She then donates the Brooklyn Bears to hospitals in Minnesota for the nurses to give to families who have also had a stillborn child.

The bears weigh about five pounds. Vincent weighed 5 pounds 1 ounce.

“When Kara walked out of that hospital with this bear in her arms, she just seemed like a proud mother,” Kara’s mother, Colleen Shupe said.

The impact the Brooklyn Bear had on her daughter inspired her to pay it forward and honor Vincent. Shupe works for Marshfield Clinic Health Center in Marshfield and ultimately purchased 25 Brooklyn Bears to donate to the center’s Birth Center Together Learning to Cope bereavement support program when she learned it did not offer that added comfort to families.

“These bears are an enormous gift to the families that we serve and we are very, very grateful,” Stacie Krieg, the bereavement coordinator said.

“(It’s) helped with my grief journey and given me a lot of comfort,” Kara Houck said. “Honestly, just having this bear as a representation for Vincent, we’ll have him in photos, in family photos, so it’s always a reminder that Vincent is still a part of our life.”

Houck hopes the donation also helps to bring awareness to stillbirth, the ways to prevent it, that it is a possibility, and how hospitals and others can support families in that process. To learn more about managing pregnancy loss, click here. To learn more about stillbirth, click here.

correction: The name of the bereavement coordinator, Stacie, was spelled incorrectly in the broadcast version of this story. It has been corrected to the proper spelling, Stacie Krieg.

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