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I am an OB, RN and have recently volunteered to become the bereavement specialist in our little hospital. We experience a decent amount of loss at our facility and I would like to offer mothers and families comfort and assistance with their loss. Though I have experienced a miscarraige at 12 weeks, I have never gone through the pain of a nonviable birth or loss of a baby in the hospital after delivery. I do have some personal experience with loss as my husband of 9 years and father of my 3 beautiful boys passed away a few years ago. I have a strong desire to help and support moms who are faced with losing their baby. The intent of this post is to get some ideas, suggestions about things that can help during this time. Maybe things that others have done that were helpful, specifically during the hospital experience. Sharing your tender experiences will hopefully help me to implement things that will make a positive difference in our facility.
 

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Despite the horrible circumstances of having to deliver our daughter at 18 weeks after she had already passed, our hospital experience was not terrible. We were in the hosptial for three days and two nights. The hospital did a lot of things right and a few things not so well.

The good:

-Our door was discretely marked with an autumn leaf so that all hospital staff knew before they entered that our baby had died. This prevented any of those akward "how's the baby doing" moments.

-When we arrived at the hosptial, a very kind nurse was waiting for us at the front desk and whisked us to our room so that we didn't have to answer any questions or wait in the lobby with the other pregnant mommies waiting to check in.

-The nurses were, for the most part, the most compassionate people I have ever met. They handled us with kid gloves, did not intrude on our space yet were always ready to help with anything.

-I had to have surgery after the delivery due to a hemmorage. In recovery, the nurse offered to bring our daughter in so that we would have an opportunity to see her and hold her. She had her wrapped in a baby blanket and handled her so sweetly.

What they could have done better:

-I so desperately wish that someone had taken foot and hand prints. I know that other moms who have lost babies have gotten those after deliver and it would mean the world to me to have those.

-I wish someone had actively helped us with cremation/burial choices. We were given NO information and were pretty much left on our to figure out what options were available. It's not the time to be doing your own research.

-We had one nurse that was HORRIBLE. She was so nasty that I ended up calling my doctor's office to intervene - which they did. Seriously, only the most commpassionate nurses should be assigned to moms whose babies have died.

Jen... married to my superman, enjoying life with my three girls (19, 17,13) and two boys (13, 8), and forever missing my Hannah Grace (born still October 2009 at 18 weeks). Praying for my rainbow baby November 2011.
 

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I miscarried and had a D&C at a surgery center, so not quite the same - but I had good/bad experiences as well:

good:

my doctor and his nurse were very kind, and took time to explain the things I asked about to me.

my follow up visit was hard, because being there caused me to relive things - they were very understanding and patient.

my nurse took care of cancelling all of my scheduled prenatal appointments so that I wouldn't have to deal with that.

bad:

the surgical staff was surprised that I wanted to bury my baby's remains and was unprepared to help me retrieve them. They acted like I was over-reacting - that there wasn't anything worth burying.

The US tech was always bubbly asking about my baby before, but immediately began to refer to him as the products of conception afterwards. That was inconsistent and inconsiderate.

I was in shock from the news, and all of my options were not presented to me. Had I had more time to think and been better informed, I would have made different medical choices. I wish that my options had been explained, or that I was at least given more time to process before they rushed me into a non-emergency surgery.
 

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I haven't lost a baby at birth, but I did work as a volunteer with our local hospital's bereavement team. I provided tiny sewn gowns, small little miscarriage pouches that are similar to little sleeping bags for babies too small to be dressed, memory envelopes from March of Dimes, and tiny little stuffed animals that I found at Michaels. (They are in the doll section - teeny tiny and about 1-2 inches tall.)

The hospital also did the following:
-marked doors with butterflies so that the staff would know the situation
-doctors encouraged mothers to labor when possible
-parents and family were encouraged to help bathe, dress, and hold the babies
-babies were kept warm with flannel blankets and baby warmers
-families were encouraged to keep the baby in the room as long as they needed
-with the parent's permission, the hospital took as many pictures as possible of the baby and parents. If the parents were not comfortable viewing the photos at the time, the hospital will store them indefinitely.
-children's chaplains are brought in if the parents would like blessings, prayers, or counseling
-foot and hand prints are taken, and a lock of hair if possible
-if the family did not have clothing with them for the baby, the baby was dressed in the sewn gowns and caps that were donated.

I'm sure I might have missed a few things, but that is all that I can remember at the moment.
 

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When we lost our son, the hospital staff was amazing. I never imagined nurses and doctors could be so kind.

- Our door was marked, and I was moved off of the L&D floor as soon as possible, so I wasn't subjected to other newborn babies and pregnant moms

- I was absolutely starving right after I had my son - a very sweet nurse brought me a cup of coffee in a real mug (I am guessing from the nurses station) and a bag with candy bars, chips and an apple. I suspect she got these things from the nurses station herself, and something about her bringing me coffee in a real mug meant so much to me. Its always the little things, I think.

- I didn't think, at first, that I wanted pictures of my son. His birth was traumatic for me, and I wasn't ready to relive any of that. The bereavement coordinator at the hospital took pictures anyway, and when I called her two days later in tears regretting my decision not to have photos, her disclosure that she had taken them and would send them to me right away meant the world to me. She also sent his tiny blanket and hat. She did not have to do any of those things, but I am thankful for her foresight every single day.

- The bereavement coordinator had a list of funeral homes that offered their services free for deceased children. It was just a matter of looking at the list, finding one that was close to us, and making one phone call. That way beyond helpful.

- When I left, I was given an informational packet that included the name of a local non profit that offered individual and group counseling to baby loss parents. I didn't have to do any research, I just had to pick up the phone and make an appointment when I was ready.
 

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We lost our son Ben who was stillborn. He was full term ( 41 weeks) . His heartbeat fluctuated in the last hours of delivery, we ended up with an emergency c-section and he never breathed outside the womb.

The hospital helped us wash his body, took photos gave us a choice. We could release his body up for a series of tests, to see if they could determine why he had died, or if we wanted we could hold his body with us until we were ready to let him go. They also told us that in only 50% (or less) or the cases do they ever really determine properly why a stillborn baby has died. We kept him. It was incredibly powerful experience for those next 16 hours of holding him, loving him, crying with him, letting him go, when suddenly both my husband and I said - He's gone ! We called a nurse and they took the body away.

We were given all sorts of pamflets and leaflets from SANDS (the UK stillbirth and neonatal death society) including one for Grandparents. My dad read his leaftlet and then came and apologised for saying something he shouldn't have (he had tried to console me by saying it was okay I could always have another baby).

They kept us in a private room, away from other babies.

They let us put a page/poem in their memorial book which is kept in the ward - which we have gone back with our two subsequent children to show them.

They were quite simply very very kind. I was in hospital for another 5 days because of the c-section. I remember screaming out in grief one morning and nurse bounding in with such presence, but she didn't say anything but just sit on my bed and said I know. I know.

They were willing to keep me in hospital for longer if going home (to face the pile of baby clothes, moses basket etc) at home waiting for us was going to be too much.

The doctors talked to us several times afterwards and invited us back 6 weeks later to check that we were okay. I did feel they were a bit nervous in case we thought they had done something to have caused Ben's death, which came across as slightly defensive, however overall they were very understanding.

I am amazed that my son Ben, born and died in one day, gave to me such a journey of grief, healing and beauty and kindness that I am just in awe of his love for me. And my love and gratitute towards him is boundless and unceasing. What I know to be true is that he didn't need to live for me to love him always.

Ben White 26th December 1997
 

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How kind of you to ask. I only had a miscarriage, but after a shocking variety of responses from various medical staff, I think all medical staff should be taught that after any one says that any one has passed away their only response should be, "I'm so sorry." They literally don't need to say anything else because the patient will then say, "Thank you and this is why I'm calling/I'm here/why I'm talking to you, etc." I'm sure you know this, but I guess it needs to be told to all medical personnel.
 

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I find this post quite informative---I am glad to see that we are doing all the positive things

1. We have trained staff to never say "products of conception" but to say "Your baby"-

2. We do pictures and food and hand prints and a lock of hair if any. We have volunteers who knit/crochet hats. We make memory boxes for the family.

3. We encourage family to hold baby and ask questions, and give them as much time as they need.

4. All family members get guest meal trays

5. We out a leaf with a drop of rain on the door as a warning to anybody entering

6. the social worker and the clergy are notified and most funeral homes offer free or VERY inexpensive care.

7. We talk about sadness versus true depression and ask family members to call if any concerns, and we follow up with a phone call in one week to make sure no problems with depression.

One thing I have found over the years is that nobody sends flowers---I guess there is no Emily Post for this---but it holds true almost every time. So that is one thing I do---as a physician--I usually have a LOT of flowers in my garden--and I bring in a colorful bouquet and a card that says "....you are still a mother..."
 

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One hard thing for me was that in the NICU they had all these beautiful pictures of happy babies & mamma's everywhere. Also not everyone seemed to know what was going on. When ever I would call to order food they would always be confused because I didn't have a baby there, the kept being like "wait, I can't find your info, what is your babies name?' And I would say, we don't have a baby, and they would be like "what are you doing in the NICU, you can't get food if you are just visiting" So every time I called I would have to explain that he died before they would send us our food. And the resident that tried (and failed) to give the epidural seemed to think it was just a normal birth, she was acting all happy and upbeat, she said things like "oh don't worry, this is normal to take a while" she was getting annoyed with us for being upset. Having a symbol on the door sounds like a good idea.
 

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Despite our horribly tragic experience, I was very surprised by how most everyone was amazing and provided more support than I ever dreamed of.

Good:

We were new to the area without family or friends of any sort, thousands of miles away from anyone we know and trust with our children. The nurses in the triage area of the L&D floor took our kids out (we all had to go to the emergency room together, hubby and kids, because we had no babysitter) and put on cartoons and gave them snacks and watched them while we were given the terrible news.

Once we were taken to a real l&d room (at the very end of the hall where we couldn't hear or see any other families), the hospital sent up a social worker who works solely with the hospital. She set up a playroom in a labor room right next to ours, and gathered snacks, coloring books, movies, bubbles, etc., for our children and babysat them the entire day, including changing diapers, putting our youngest down for a nap, etc. She was amazing and I don't know how we would have dealt with the situation without her help. When her time came to leave, after watching them over 12 hours, she brought in a college girl who babysat them until 4-6 hrs until they were brought into our room where the spent the night.

Every nurse I had while in labor was incredibly supportive, my first nurse, especially. When I got an epidural, she sat in front of me and when I cried and cried and said over and over again that "it wasn't supposed to be like this", she just acknowledged my feelings, and said, "no, it's not". She let me cry, she prayed short, sweet prayers (knowing I was Christian and wanted that)

I was terrified of how the actual delivery was going to go. Having had a homebirth before, I didn't know what to expect from the epidural. I was terrified that my son would be born and I wouldn't even know it. I was scared of how he would look when he came out, scared of what it would feel like, scared of feeling the inevitable loss and death of my son and all the dreams that came and went with him. Every nurse answered my questions, listened to my fears, etc. When I did feel him coming down the birth canal, I began panicking. My husband and the nurses kept looking me in the eyes and reassuring me. When the doctor came in, I panicked again, because I was scared that he was going to mess up the "plan" I had. I didn't want my baby flopping around. I wanted my husband to catch him, just as he'd caught our last son, born at home. The doctor quickly saw how panicked I was, and reassured me that they were all going to do whatever I wanted them to do. My husband caught our baby, protected his arms from "draping" and we both held him and just cried and cried. It was horrific, but beautiful, too, if that makes any sense. Everyone was very respectful of what we wanted.

One of the biggest things that made a huge difference, that I was really surprised about, was how the staff really encouraged us to hold and keep and love on our baby as much and as long as we wanted. I started becoming fearful that they would think it was morbid or gross to hold him as long as we did (I gave birth around 4pm and we kept him with us overnight, never once putting him down, and didn't hand him over until we were ready when the lady from the funeral home came the next day around 2pm). The nurse took pictures of him as he was coming out. We, of course, didn't have a camera with us, but the hospital gave us a decent camera to use. They took lots of pictures and left the camera with us to take as many as we wanted. They came in and did hand and foot prints. They wanted to do hand and foot impressions in one of those heart-shaped plaster things, but I didn't want that.

They also had a blue satin-covered box they brought in that had a tiny hat, gown, blanket, and pillow in it, along with the cards for hand and foot prints, a journal, and a little book of resources and comfort.The clothes were actually too small, but I loved the box to keep his things in.

The staff were all accommodating to everything we needed and wanted.

The next morning after our son was born, we were overwhelmed with what to do about having him cremated, etc. We wanted a place that would carry our son in hand, not in a box or container of any sort. The nurse called around to all the local funeral homes and crematoriums and helped us pick one. The lady from the funeral home came in with a beautiful, thick quilt just for our son. When we were ready, we wrapped him, hat, blankets and all, inside the blanket and handed him over to her. She covered him and walked out. He was cremated in the blanket without being removed from anything.

Our church group, from the state we were in before, sent us a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a card. We didn't get flowers or cards from anyone else, and it was very nice to feel their love from afar. I kept the bouquet and pressed the flowers to save them.

Bad:

The first doctor we saw, the on call OB, was just absolutely horrendous to deal with. Kept calling our baby "the fetus", and when my husband, sobbing and desperate for a way to make things ok, was pleading to find out if we could do an emergency c-section to resuscitate our son, the doctor literally yelled at him, "Sir! The fetus is DEAD!". I, in the middle of dealing with this tragedy, had to correct the doctor and basically remind him to compose himself and act like a professional. He was awful, and was reported.

I later bought the book, Empty Cradle, Broken Heart. I bought several books afterwards and and found this one, by far, to be the best. Not only was it a source of comfort, but it was full of all kinds of information and resources I hadn't known about. It has lots of information for parents who are making decisions about labor and delivery, etc., if they have not delivered their baby but know that it is coming soon. I would love it if hospitals had a stack of these to give to parents who've experienced loss. It is great for any stage, early miscarriage, mid pregnancy, or even shortly after birth.
 

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I didn't have a stillbirth. But, I did go into the ER at about 12 weeks, at which point they gave me an U/S right away. They had the screen turned away from me and I asked the lady to turn it around and she said she couldn't, because it was their policy. I made a joke and said something like, "I know there's a baby in there because I had an early U/S" and she said something like, "well, maybe there was a baby in there once..." And my heart just dropped, and I knew. But, they then made me wait 6 hours in the ER to wait for a doctor to tell me that she's sorry but the pregnancy had ended. Then they sent me home, in tears, but of course I still had to stop and sign my life over to them (for which I'm still in debt about 10K for, yes, for an ultrasound in the ER). I waited for 6 hours when I knew the baby was dead, to be released to go home.

There was also another doctor who, much later, told me that they did a pregnancy test on me and it still showed up pregnant, but it was probably from the miscarriage HCG. I just started sobbing and don't know why. He was just very casual about it - I guess I didn't act all bereaved; I told them I had a recent miscarriage but I was there for another totally unrelated reason. But when he brought it up so casually, well, I just couldn't stop crying. I had to sit in the waiting room and I couldn't stop crying at all, and people were all uncomfortable and the staff brought me a box of tissues but I had to wait there so I could pay. The doctor was tsk-ing because I was so emotional about a miscarriage. I guess what I'm getting at is that, even if a client doesn't appear too distraught on the surface, it might still be painful for them. Of course, not everyone is just a rolling mess like I was - heck, I didn't know I was like that! I was fine at the visit until he made a casual comment about the pregnancy and my world fell apart. I guess, umm. It's a no-brainer, but don't be casual about it even if they don't appear devastated?
 

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Oh, Seawitch, I am so sorry for your experience. Some people can be so INSENSITIVE!!! Even though you didn't have the blessing - yes, it was a blessing for me to be able to deliver and hold my daughter, even though it was at the same time completely devastating - you DID have a baby. And for others to be so casual and dismissive of that fact is so sad. Again, I am sorry that you had to go through that.
 
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