Diana Donaldson’s plans to raise her first son, Ethan, were shattered when he was delivered stillborn at 36 weeks old.
To honour her son, the Swift Current woman supports other women who have lost a child at the Cypress Regional Hospital, as she did.
Diana Donaldson, her husband Jason Elder with their sons Bryden, Burton and Ryder (from left).
Donaldson and her husband, Jason Elder, found out they were pregnant with a boy in 2007. They were thrilled after having a miscarriage in 2006.
At 36 weeks pregnant, Donaldson went to see her doctor for a check-up and everything was fine. But by the next day, Donaldson no longer felt her son moving in her womb.
“The doctor confirmed there was no heartbeat. The next morning I had to be induced,” said Donaldson. “He was a baby. A fully-formed, six-pound, 13-ounce baby.”
Ethan Donaldson-Elder was delivered into the world on Nov. 1, 2007. He never took a breath, never saw his parents with his own eyes— it was complete heartbreak for the couple. Donaldson was not prepared for this to be her reality.
Fast forward 11 years and Donaldson and Elder have three healthy sons— Ryder, Bryden and Burton.
“If someone asks me how many kids I have, I usually say four. If they ask further details though, it can be hard to explain.”
To teach her sons compassion, empathy and to shine a light in Ethan’s name, Donaldson has made several donations over the years to the Mother and Baby Unit of her local hospital on or around Ethan’s birthday.
Diana Donaldson (seated, right) with the blankets she donated to the nurses of the Mother and Baby Unit at the Cypress Regional Hospital. Staff will distribute the adult-size blankets to women grieving the loss of a child and the baby blankets to new parents. Back row (from left) :Tiffany Wilkins, Lauren Wells, Brandi Zacharias, Brianne Radtke and Lacey Duncan. Front row: Stacie Empey and Diana Donaldson.
This year she donated handmade blankets for new babies to go home with and adult-sized blankets to comfort women like her, who have lost a child.
“That way they can have something to take home from the hospital.”
One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage and nearly 10 per cent of babies were delivered stillborn between 2014 and 2017, according to Statistics Canada.
“That’s why I’m so open about my story. When it happened to me, I didn’t know how to process it. The day before I had had a healthy check-up — this is not what’s supposed to happen. But it does happen, and I want these moms to know they’re not alone.”
It’s not always blankets Donaldson donates. Once, she donated engraved jewelry that said, ”I’ll hold you in my heart until I can hold you in heaven.” Sometimes she just visits the staff and brings coffee.
This year, along with blankets, Donaldson and her boys brought bags of toys for staff to give to children who have to be in hospital on Christmas Day.
Her sons are actively involved in these projects and know about their brother Ethan. Donaldson has always been open about her loss. She hopes these kinds of conversations can make things a little easier for other grieving mothers. Improvements made by the Cypress Regional Hospital have certainly made things a little easier, she said.
Donaldson nurtures her relationship with staff on the Mother and Baby Unit and has participated in some pregnancy- and infant-loss ceremonies.
“The nurses know they can always contact me if one of the moms is going through a hard time. I don’t shy away from telling it like it is and sharing my story because I know it can be lonely.”
Staff on the Mother Baby Unit now offer to take pictures for grieving parents. Donaldson took her pictures of Ethan at the funeral home.
“It was just unheard of back then to do that, but now it’s different.”
Lastly, the hospital has a cuddle cot that is cooled by a small, quiet, refrigeration appliance. This gives new parents the gift of precious time to spend with their children in their room. As this was not available in the past, babies were swiftly whisked away to the morgue.
Despite the trauma Donaldson endured, she can’t say enough about the care she received in 2007, and since then, delivering her three boys, and once more, when she suffered complications from a miscarriage in 2008.
She’s also thankful for the “top notch” care she and her family continue to receive today. The young family visits their hospital frequently. Just recently Donaldson’s youngest had his tonsils removed.
“I always feel very grateful for the care we receive. They’re so good here. We’re so blessed to have these doctors and nurses, as our journey to being parents was not an easy one.”