When Emma Ping was 35 weeks pregnant with her fifth child, Selah, she thought she was in the clear. After suffering a miscarriage months earlier at six weeks pregnant, she had been nervous when she conceived again. But deep into her third trimester, her odds for a healthy birth were overwhelmingly positive.

Then, at 36 weeks, Selah died in utero when her umbilical cord wrapped twice around her neck. Ping joined the countless mothers throughout history left swollen with milk and yearning for an alternate reality after delivering a stillborn child.

There was, however, at least one small comfort amid her nightmare. Ping and her husband did not have to rush immediately into heart-wrenching decisions like choosing a headstone, a song for the funeral, or a tiny burial outfit from among the baby shower gifts.

Instead, the Pings were offered something called a CuddleCot, a miniature cooling unit disguised as a bassinet. Rather than whisk away Selah’s body for physical preservation, the hospital allowed them to keep their baby at the bedside for up to 48 hours in the cot, offering a chance for her siblings, friends, and family to hold and meet her.

In past years, and in many hospitals still, the baby would have been relegated to a distant morgue. Selah’s presence was a salve for Ping, who described a night when she woke up traumatized in her hospital room at 2:30 a.m. and “could not bring myself to turn over and turn away from her.”

She counts it a great comfort just to “have that experience that people have when their babies are born living, so the baby is with you all the time and you can take care of them, dress them, take photos, spend that time with them.”

It was not that long ago that a stillbirth—the ...

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