It seems every OB/GYN and maternity ward nurse and staff is prepared and ready to welcome a newborn baby into this world; after all that is their innate passion and the reason why they chose that career, but are they also prepared to handle the loss of a baby, while offering the most support to the family?
Personally, my husband and I were blessed to have had the most amazing team of OBGYN doctors, specialists, nurses, technicians and staff. They knew exactly how to incorporate all their years’ worth of education and training while offering the emotional support, care, love and attention we desperately needed.
Based on our experience this is a list of the main details that each hospital and medical staff should offer:
Put yourself in the family’s shoes.
Medical staff need to try understand the pain, fear, anger, and mixed emotions the family is experiencing and with that offer comforting and compassionate care. Do not rush the parents through any appointment, but instead explain carefully and in detail and answer any questions calmly and supportively and with a positive and calm attitude.
Offer advice and important information.
Every medical team should have a list of FAQ’s and information that they know are important and relevant to the families. Topics should include: complications, prognosis, types of care available, what to expect, items to take to the hospital for the baby, mother, memento ideas, how to prepare for the delivery, passing etc.
Information that may seem trivial can make the difference between a more comfortable experience and an even more agonizing one.
Do a walk-through of the hospital ahead of time.
To meet the staff and nurses in charge and to be able to ask questions and discuss their needs and fears. If possible, a final checklist should be provided to the families to be fully prepared for delivery date. The checklist should include final reminder of what to bring, important phone numbers for them to call in case of an emergency, special medical notations etc.
Social Worker(s) should meet with the family ahead of time (if possible).
Social Workers should discuss every item and plan calmly with the family. Do not be judgmental or impatient. Each decision must be respected however, in my opinion it is important to offer them alternatives and possible solutions to burial or cremation services, and offer guidance on the most suitable options based on the families’ circumstances and needs. Every social worker should be prepared with topics, solutions and alternatives to offer the family and be prepared to write everything down and respect the final decision.
Do not rush the time ‘after’ the baby has departed.
This is by far the most difficult time so it is important to remind the family that they can take as long as they need to with their baby and not feel rushed. This time is critical to the overall healing process and no family should ever feel rushed.
Bereavement baths are offered by some hospitals and from my own personal experience I totally recommend them! It is a bath that is given to the baby after the passing. The baby is laid on the incubator to keep him or her warm and the nurses give him one last warm bath with all baby products. It is a symbol of cleanliness and purity and it gives the parents another opportunity for more time together, additional photographs if desired and a feeling of knowing that even until the end, their baby was lovingly cared for and kept clean.
All of the memories collected during the entire stay can be beautifully put together by the hospital in a memory box offered by many non-profit organizations.
Preparing to leave the hospital.
This is an extremely difficult moment where the parents are now forced to leave the hospital empty handed – without their precious baby. Therefore, nurses can recommend that the mother hold a blanket from the baby or a teddy bear close to her arms or tummy, as this will bring tiny bit of comfort. Additionally, if possible the parents should also be escorted out via a different exit of the hospital so to avoid seeing all the other mothers and fathers proudly leaving the hospital with their babies in arms.
Follow up with the family.
Now this is something that not every hospital thinks of doing but in our experience helps so much! A couple of days after arriving home, we received a couple of phone calls from the nurses asking us how we were coping both medically and emotionally. They spoke to us about their time and experience with our baby and even cried on the phone with us. They shared their insights and memories, which made the entire experience more loving and real.
Offering those special thoughtful words and actions can make the biggest difference to grieving parents. It can make the entire experience a little easier to handle and it also helps immensely with the parents’ healing process as they can now remember the experience with some happiness and special memories. Every medical team ought to remember that during such times, parents are at their weakest and most sensitive state and with this in mind, and they should offer them anything and everything that can help ease some of the indescribable pain they are feeling.
Photo credit: adapted from Alcaldía de Joseph Cueva | Flickr