Treat the baby as if he or she were alive by the way you speak about him or her.
Call the baby by their name. They are still a person. The baby may be bruised with torn skin but it is okay to refer to them as a “beautiful baby”. This baby’s family will remember how you refer to their child.
Ask the family what their wishes are.
Encourage the family to hold their baby.
Encourage the family to have some skin to skin time.
Place a ‘tear drop’ next to the patients name on the door of their room. That way anyone entering knows that they have suffered a loss.
If you have to place the family on the same level as the rest of the maternity ward, speak to the family about that and gently let the family know that they may hear other babies cries and that you know this will be hard for them.
If possible under hospital regulations ask the family if they would like to take their baby outside under some sunshine, or even take their baby home with them over night.
Let the family be angry. If they snap at you, try not to take it personally, they do not mean for you to be hurt or offended. They have just had their hopes and dreams for the future brutally shattered.
It is okay for you to show emotion in front of the family. It shows that you really care.
Take photos of the family with their baby. A family portrait is so important. Although it may seem like a ridiculous thing to do at the time, the family will have this in the future. You want to help to stop the family from suffering as many regrets as possible.
Make sure that the father is remembered. Ask if he would like to clothe or bathe the baby. Refer to him as a “beautiful dad” if you witness him doing something for the baby or the partner.
Help to bathe the baby.
Take hand and footprints.
Take a lock of hair if possible.
If the photographer services are available such as Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (USA) and Heartfelt (AUS) please ask the family if they would like these services.
Offer hospital services if they are available like Grief Counselors and Chaplins.
Send the family a card after they leave the hospital.
With everything thing on these lists of things to do please ensure that the family gets some quiet time together with no interruptions by staff, family or friends. At the least a solid hour. Advise the family that you want to give them some time and that if they need anything to call the midwife.
♥ Things Not To Do Or Say
Do not be overly cheerful around the family. While this family does need positive energy, being cheerful is not appropriate at a time like this. They need a gentle voice. This is a very sacred and holy time for them, regardless of whether or not they have religious believes or not.
Avoid harsh medical terms to describe the baby like “fetus” Do not say things like “The baby needs to go back to the freezer now” Yes. A doctor did say this to his patient! I know, isn’t that just awful?!!
If you need to take the baby out of the room for any reason, make sure the family sees that their baby is wrapped and warm. Even though the baby cannot feel anything at all, the family wants to know is that their baby is warm and secure.
Do not tell the family that they are young and they can try again. Do not mention the possibility of another child at this time. This little one cannot be replaced.
Never tell the mother or father not to cry. I know, that one is really obvious.
Never tell a woman who has experienced the loss of her baby that she will one day make a beautiful mother. She already is a mother. Nothing and no one could ever change that. She has carried a life. That baby will never be anyone else’s baby but her’s. And that baby will never have another mother but her. This goes for the father as well.
♥ Choose Empathy over Sympathy
There is nothing that you can say that will make this situation any better. People believe they have to try to make the person hurting to feel better by showing them the positives in the situation. What they do not know is that the easiest option will actually be the only one that does help. All you have to do is sit with the person and acknowledge that “Yes, this truly is awful. Just know I am here for you. I am here to listen.”
This RSA Short is a brilliant film clip to share with your friends and family. It opens people’s eyes to the difference between empathy and sympathy.
♥ For 6 Week Postpartum Checkups
Advise the receptionist staff that the patient lost their baby and to be compassionate towards them.
If you have a spare quiet room they could wait in that would be so wonderful as seeing other women come in with their newborns could be heartbreaking for the patient who as no baby to care for.
Do not rush through the appointment.
Ask the woman if their was anything she felt the hospital could have done better and take notes.
I have some printable pamphlets through this link that you may find helpful to keep on you at work. They could be used as a reminder for you of things to do while your patient is under your care.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this information and if you are ever in the situation where the family you are caring for has lost a baby, know it is a great honour for you to share this experience with them even though it is completely heart breaking. Thank you for your amazingly important work. It is completely respected and appreciated.