How do you, as nurses, help families through a still birth? I can imagine that that would be the hardest part of the job. is it a frequent occurancE? (well, not FREQUENT, but, un-rare)
how do you comfort the mom/dad/gramma, etc?
any help with this would be greatly appreciated!
Dec 6, '01
There is no easy answer to this. I have had more than a few stillbirths and how I act completely depends on the family. I listen, I comfort, I pray with them, I cry, I hug, I call the chaplain, I encourage the parents to hold the baby and say their goodbyes, I make sure they don't feel rushed at all, whatever feels right at the time. We also have a policy whereby every stillbirth receives a memory box. They are carved by a local volunteer and we put in pictures of the baby (with the parents if they want to hold it), locks of hair, his baby hat and receiving blanket, a poem and the number for Compassionate Friends a grief support group for parents. Even if the parents don't want it we tell them we sill save it if they ever change their minds. I had a mom come back to collect her box a year after the birth. I wish I had a do this answer for you, but there isn't one.
Dec 6, '01
The only suggestion I can add is to insure privacy for the grieving parents and all of their family members and friends. Remember that this is the only opportunity they will have to see and hold the baby, and they should be given all the time they need.
When my youngest baby was born, following a high-risk pregnancy and lots of uncertainty, we were anxious to share our happy news with relatives all over the country. The phones in the labor rooms could not be used for long-distance calls (really poor planning), so my husband went out in search of a phone to use. He ended up in the family waiting room just outside the doors to L&D. There was a large group of people in the room, apparently waiting for another patient to deliver. He made several joyous calls, and while returning to my labor room, he over-heard 2 nurses discussing the family members of the "fetal demise patient" who were in the waiting room.
Needless to say, he felt like an a** for having added to their grief by broadcasting our good news in front of them. So, no matter how busy your unit is, or how pressed you are for space, please give EVERYONE a private place to wait, even if it means using an empty patient room on another unit.
Mar 3, '02
I agree with everyone above and we do some of the same things. I also have a brother and sister in law who lost a baby at 23 weeks ( his twin survived and was born at 37 weeks).
I think it is such a personal thing and think people do appreciate when you grieve with and for them. The memory box or file is important because sometimes they just want to be away from the situation and it is just too much. We frequently have people returning months or years later when they can better deal with it..
I have found that even a fetus born well below term gestation may be considered a miscarriage by state law, but is still a baby to mom and dad. Have to keep that in mind for the grieving process...It never gets easier.....But they DO appreciate your presence and empathy, even if they can't or don't tell you....
Mar 31, '02
Gosh--this is a passion of mine and I have initiated a bereavement committee where I work. Our chaplain is involved and he will call the families at 6-7 weeks post discharge to pick up photos. This enables him to have another encounter with the family and ensure they have access to resources, like support groups. We also do memory boxes. We purchased a set of tapes called "At a Loss for Words" and "Footprints on our Hearts".
The video's are documentaries, featuring parents/grandparents who have experienced this loss. They are an incredible resource for staff since there are no good words to express our empathy. "At a Loss for Words" is expressly designed for caregivers and all the nurses on our unit have watched it. If nothing else, it reaffirms that no one has a canned mantra that is appropriate (no magic words). It also definitely points out some things that make the situation worse (like telling a Mom that she'll be able to have another baby--someone may think this is comforting, but that isn't so, etc.).
To close, I hope that this is always difficult for you (not because I am mean or vindicitive) but because that is what makes you compassionate when dealing with these families. I worked with a nurse who took a demise because "as many dead animals as I've delivered this doesn't bother me at all anymore" That really affected me--I can't imagine getting to that place in my career--especially when it comes to a such an incredible loss as a demise--the loss before the potential for life ever comes to fruition. I worked ICU/CCU for years before OB and losing an adult patient was never easy, either--but, fetal demise and neonatal loss are much worse. The only difference we can make is to make the connection with the family human--meaningful.......
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