When faced with the insurmountable loss of her child, Emily Pennington made a decision. She could let grief drag her down to the depths of despair, or she could rise up to help other mothers and families.
In 2016, Emily, her husband, and three daughters were expecting a little boy, the first boy in their family. Then, at 36 weeks pregnant, she received the devastating news that their son, Kolton, had passed away. On October 26, 2016, Kolton was born via C-section. “He was a beautiful baby and I wanted to soak up every minute with him. I was only able to spend a few hours to say goodbye. Having to leave the hospital empty handed was the hardest thing I’d ever done in my life. Going home where we’d already had the house prepared for Kolton was gut-wrenching,” Emily explained.
Not only did Emily have to pick up the pieces at home, but she also had to deal with the physical aspects of recovering from Kolton’s birth. “I started producing milk for a baby I no longer had, so I decided to pump and donate Kolton’s milk,” said Emily. Through her despair, she dedicated herself to pumping and donating milk for the next ten months. Any mother that has ever pumped can relate to all that pumping entails. Between the pumping, packaging, and sterilizing, Emily estimates that she spent around 10 hours a day readying her milk for donation. All the days and hours were worth it to Emily though; she felt that she was “holding on to Kolton through the milk.”
Emily ended up donating over 15,000 ounces of liquid gold! Two of the milk banks she donated to offered compensation for donated milk. She stocked away the money knowing that it would have some important purpose for Kolton’s legacy in the future. When she finally decided to quit pumping, Emily described being depressed and needing help. She needed something more to give meaning to their tragedy. Emily poured herself spiritually and mentally into research. She was determined to help other families facing similar losses.
Time is cruel to babies born sleeping. Grieving families are robbed of precious moments with their stillborn babies. Their little bodies must be cooled to be preserved which presents logistical challenges for most hospitals. Caring Cradles were created to give families time. The Caring Cradle is an in-room cooling unit that preserves the baby’s body, allowing the family more time to say goodbye. Emily explained, “I thought of how much this would have meant to us when having to let go of our little Kolton. I knew I wanted our local hospitals to have it available to other families and this was the way to share Kolton’s milk money.”
So, Kolton’s Kradles of Love was born. Emily purchased a Caring Cradle for Lovelace Hospital in Roswell, where she said both hello and goodbye to her firstborn son, Kolton. This donation is an extremely generous one; Caring Cradles cost around $5,000 to purchase.
It’s not much, but it’s something to let these grieving moms know that they are loved, and not alone.
Kolton’s Kradles of Love’s generosity doesn’t stop there. In addition to the Caring Cradle, Emily teamed up with Faith Baptist Church in Artesia and Cavern Baptist Church in Carlsbad to make Love Baskets to be placed in the rooms of families whose babies have passed. Love Baskets are filled with a journal, pens, books on stillbirth, lip balm and lotion, packet of forget-me-not seeds, tissues, disposable camera, and a bible. In addition to these helpful items, Emily has thoughtfully created a guidebook of sorts to help parents navigate their loss. She includes advice ranging from where to find support groups to how to spend time with and remember your baby. Emily also wrote a heartfelt letter to newly bereaved mothers to help them feel less alone. She modestly states, “It’s not much, but it’s something to let these grieving moms know that they are loved, and not alone.”
To date, Kolton’s Kradles of Love has gifted over 30 baskets between Carlsbad, Roswell, and Ruidoso area hospitals. Emily even makes a fun basket to be gifted to the first baby born on Kolton’s birthday, October 26. It is Kolton’s Kradles of Love’s goal to also present Carlsbad Medical Center with a Caring Cradle in the future.
We should all take a cue from inspiring women like Emily Pennington. In the face of a crippling loss, she not only continued to care for her three daughters, continued to be a loving wife, daughter, and friend, she dedicated herself to helping others. She could have wallowed in her grief but she did not; she found a way to spread a little bit of light on a mother’s darkest day.
The raw vulnerability of motherhood can be staggering. Pregnancy is such a hopeful and tender time and to imagine the loss of a baby is just unspeakable. We don’t have words in our vocabulary to accurately articulate such pain. So, when mothers can find purpose to through such a deep loss, their valiant deeds deserve recognition.
Interested in donating to or partnering with Kolton’s Kradles of Love?
More information can be found via Facebook under Kolton’s Kradles of Love or call 575-706-7555.
Article originally published in Focus on Carlsbad 2020 Spring edition.