Infertility in Labor and Delivery

Every day I work, I take care of pregnant women. Some of these women wanted to get pregnant, while others got pregnant unexpectedly. As a labor nurse, sometimes I see patients who try so hard to have a healthy pregnancy. They limit their caffeine, they don’t smoke, and they stay away from prohibited foods. Some exercise, and some minimize stressors in their life. Some can’t seem to stop smoking, others don’t even try to stop smoking, and some don’t stop doing drugs. Labor and delivery nurses see it all. Seeing pregnant patient after pregnant patient, it’s easy for forget about all of the people who struggle to get pregnant in the first place.

Sad-Woman-Silhouette

I have known many women who have faced infertility. Emotionally devastating does not even begin to describe it. “Trying to get pregnant” is initially said with a smile on your face and a mischievous twinkle in your eye. Then your period becomes a monthly reminder of everything that escapes you. Finding an answer, and then exhausting your options is emotionally, physically, and financially draining. And time becomes water slipping through your fingers. Even the strongest of marriages can fracture from the weight of it all.

I once labored a woman who was a complete and total mess. She was disheveled, pieced together with pajama bottoms and uncombed hair. I don’t know if she couldn’t answer simple questions because of her significant lack of a basic education, or because of the drugs she couldn’t manage to stop smoking while she was pregnant. She had multiple children from multiple partners, all of which she had lost custody of. The father of this baby had left her months into her pregnancy, and she had decided early on that she would give this child up for adoption. Even with her pile of bad decisions and her lack of good judgment, she was a sweet patient. I supported her decisions: she did not want to hold the baby after delivery and she did not want the baby to stay in her room. I set up the couple adopting the baby in an empty room on the unit, so that they could bond with their baby. I knew they needed this as much as their baby did.

The adoptive parents arrived at the hospital carrying gifts for my patient, and a diaper bag embroidered with the name they had chosen for their baby.  They were bursting with excitement over the birth of the child they had been waiting for. I talked to the adoptive parents about skin-to-skin contact, and I showed them how to bathe the baby, change her diaper, and how to swaddle her. On the day the baby was discharged home, I grabbed an extra package of diapers to give to the parents. When I walked into their room, I was struck by how beautiful the family looked. They had not heard me enter the room. The parents were standing in front of a window with the baby bundled up in her car seat, which was situated between them. Their hands were clasped together and their heads were bent in prayer. The sun was setting behind them. Rays of light came through the window, making a golden halo around the three of them.  In that moment, I felt the love they had between them, and I felt the love they had for this baby that had not come from their bodies, but had been born to them out of wishes, and prayers, and a desperate ache in their hearts. I left work that day, thankful that I had been a part of a different type of delivery, that I had been witness to the making of a different type of mother. I was thankful that that baby would get the very best start in life.

I found out days later that my patient had changed her mind about the adoption the next day, when her boyfriend decided to come back into her life. I was crushed by how unfair it all was. I cried for that baby, and I cried for her adoptive parents, who had to give their child back after getting to initially take her home. Even now, years later, I wonder how long she kept that diaper bag stitched with her baby’s name across the front. My heart broke for a woman who was only given the chance to be a mother for a moment, and to this day I hold hope that that little baby knew how much she was loved in that instant that the sun set slowly around the three of them.

This year, I hope everyone gets the gift they’ve been longing for. If you’re the woman struggling with infertility, I hope this month is different. I hope this is the month that doesn’t weight you down with disappointment. I hope every single one of your wishes come true, and that you find peace with the wishes that evade you. When I saw that family bathed in light, I really understood that families are made in many different ways. If you are a nurse, know that we must celebrate and fight for the families that are made in front of us.  And if you are a patient, know that we must fight for what you long for together.

Until my next delivery ❤

RESOLVE works with advocacy volunteers and other organizations to ensure equal access to all family building options for men and women experiencing infertility or other reproductive disorders. In 2016, RESOLVE will be tracking bills that impact the infertility community, whether they are pro-family or anti-family bills. Find out what is happening in your state.

Get involved!


71 thoughts on “Infertility in Labor and Delivery

  • December 29, 2014 at 7:07 am
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    Amen! No one can fully comprehend infertility and loss without experiencing it, but it’s SO important to find people who are compassionate and supportive–thank you for recognizing the struggle. It is SO hard. And I am SO grateful to be in my third trimester–you will never hear me complain when people ask me how I’m feeling. XOXO

    Reply
    • January 2, 2015 at 3:21 pm
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      Thank you for this! I’ve been a labor and delivery nurse for 13 years and 6 years as an infertility patient. It’s hard and I’m so glad that we have people praying for us, many that we don’t even know! Love your blog!

      Reply
    • December 30, 2014 at 5:24 am
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      this is a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing.

      Reply
  • December 29, 2014 at 10:07 am
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    As an l&d nurse who experienced inferililty there is nothing more difficult! I am a proud mommy of 2 beautiful babies that I was thankfully able to deliver. Sadly I know a PP nurse who experienced almost the exact same thing as your family…her beautiful baby was taken back by its biological parent. There is nothing more difficult than daily seeing women take home babies to less than ideal situations when there is nothing else more that you want, and while you love your job, nothing is harder than going to work! Infertility happens to all social and economic classes, and treatment needs to be more readily available and accessible. Thank you for sharing your experience, we all need to work hard to end the stigma associated with infertility and to make sure it becomes a treatable disease!

    Reply
  • December 29, 2014 at 12:46 pm
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    Reblogged this on Expecting the Unexpected and commented:
    Oh my. So much is said here. Infertility is another kind of loss- a more invisible one, so I’m glad this blog took a post to highlight it. It also makes me think of all the L&B nurses, OB providers (among many others) who care for these women who might too be struggling with infertility. She said it best: “This New Year, I hope everyone gets the gift they’ve been longing for. “

    Reply
  • December 29, 2014 at 12:55 pm
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    My heart aches for the couples who cannot get pregnant. I had my oldest at 19, an unplanned pregnancy due to my own fault (I’m sure I took my pills late or skipped one or something). I did not have my 2nd until 8 yrs later, after I had completed college, met a new man, married, bought a house…did all of the “right” things. My heart ached for a baby SO bad, but I wanted to wait until all of those steps were complete. I even found myself getting upset with friends or family members who become pregnant, whether on accident or on purpose. When my husband and I were ready to start trying, it took only 3 months for me to get pregnant. At that time, it felt like a lifetime. I just KNEW I would get pregnant immediately. Each month that passed that I started my period, I cried. I know it sounds petty but I did. But, I know how blessed and fortunate I am to be able to get pregnant and my heart goes out to those that so desperately want to, and cant.

    Reply
  • December 29, 2014 at 1:53 pm
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    This should probably come with a warning: Caution, May cause uncontrollable crying. Such a sad touching story.

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  • December 29, 2014 at 2:13 pm
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    This is an absolutely beautifully written piece. It brought tears to my eyes.

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  • December 29, 2014 at 3:31 pm
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    Thank you for writing this. I have many, many friends who have struggled with infertility or still are, and it’s a life altering, heart destroying thing. I’m also an adoption social worker and have seen birth mothers change their mind as well. Such an emotional thing for everyone involved.
    I suffered two miscarriages before having my daughter, and one nurse shared with me that she tried for 8 years before she had her first child. I felt connected to her instantly because she KNEW the pain of desperately wanting a baby and feeling that dream might never come true. Because of my losses, I was anxious throughout my pregnancy (that my baby would die) and even during labor. My baby’s heart rate dipped several times and I was wild with fear. I must have asked my nurse a million times “is she ok?” and I’m certain she grew very sick of me. But the other nurse, the one who knew infertility first hand, paid extra attention to me and gave me the reassurance I needed every time I asked for it. I appreciated that so much.

    Reply
  • December 29, 2014 at 5:24 pm
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    This is very beautifully written. I too am a labor and delivery nurse, as well as a woman that suffers from infertility. I’ve only been pregnant once that ended in a miscarriage. I get asked all the time by patients ‘do you have any kids’? and all I can say is ‘not yet’. Sometimes I just want to turn and cry but I keep up appearances. I love my job and I think that birth is the most beautiful thing in the world. My heart aches for other women out there that will not be able to experience this wonderful thing. I am now faced with the need to have a hysterectomy and to know that my dream of having a biological child will never happen. I am a ball of emotions even as I type this, but I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. May the women that are able to have children, love and care for them like no other!

    Reply
    • December 31, 2014 at 1:26 am
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      Please hang in there. We went thru ivf for 11yrs dx’d with undetermined infertility. Due to insurance change we were led to a new Dr. He mentioned embryo donation as something to consider if our next cycle didn’t work. It was a lightening bolt moment. My husband and I looked at each other and simply knew it was right. At that exact moment we told the Dr we preferred to switch direction and go straight to embryo donation. We knew the obvious science behind it, but not anything else. At that point genetics didn’t play an important role to us. But funny enough during our last RE appt, it was mentioned that in the first trimester the carrying mother and baby do share DNA. Additionally there is epigenetics where the carrying moms dna highlights what characteristics will be activated in the baby’s. In essence it takes three people to create this beautiful little life. Already our baby now only 27wks in utero is taking after me. My donors were very short. In rather tall! At my ultrasounds my Dr has repeatedly commented that our baby has the longest legs she’s ever seen in utero! The main part of DNA has come from 2 amazing donors who created 53-58 cells. But the rest is me!
      Wishing you a wonderful road to build your family. Happy New Year!

      Reply
  • December 29, 2014 at 6:10 pm
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    Very well said! Thank you for sharing this! I pray all the same for you as well!

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  • December 29, 2014 at 8:46 pm
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    After 5 years of fertility treatments and 9 miscarriages, we’ve exhausted our accounts and can no longer seek out other treatments that might work for us. It’s unfortunate, as for the last 5 years we’ve paid for everything, while insurance covered nothing, and now are left with reassurance that this one treatment would work but the amount it would cost is just too great for us right now. I didn’t know about that act, thank you for posting about it. I agree with you, that those who are longing for a baby get one (in one way or another) and agree with a commenter above who said “May the women that are able to have children, love and care for them like no other!”

    Reply
  • December 29, 2014 at 8:54 pm
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    This is truly beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
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  • December 29, 2014 at 11:26 pm
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    Reblogged this on Sophia's Story and commented:
    Another very thoughtful post by my favorite nurse blogger. Her perspective shows just how multifaceted nurses are (let alone compassionate and empathetic). Nurses see the good, bad, and downright ugly truth behind the struggles their patients endure.

    Reply
  • December 30, 2014 at 12:32 am
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    This broke my heart and made me cry. I ache for those adoptive parents’ broken hearts. I imagine the pain is similar to losing a child to death. So many hopes and dreams for that little one dashed just like that.

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  • December 30, 2014 at 1:01 am
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    You painted such a vivid picture of love in my mind. I truly hope those parents got the chance to offer their love to another child. Thank you for sharing this story.

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  • December 30, 2014 at 2:35 am
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    As hard as I know this is on the mama’s, this can also be devistating to the dad’s and potential daddys. I won’t go into any personal details, but I will say God bless the women who choose to put babies they can’t keep (for whatever reason) up for adoption. There really are couples out there who would love nothing more than to have a little one of their own!

    Reply
    • December 30, 2014 at 3:39 am
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      i’m going to write more about the men in these situations when I get a chance. it’s hard to put into words.

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  • December 30, 2014 at 10:44 pm
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    I was a labor and delivery nurse for 19 years, then began working at an infertility clinic. It was an eye opening experience to see how many couples suffer from fertility issues. Fortunately, our clinic had very high success rates and I had the privilege of telling some of these couples the good news that after the long, expensive, emotionally and physically draining journey, that they were pregnant. But, also had to let the unfortunate others know that they were not. It was emotional for me as the caregiver, and can only imagine how it must feel to be on the other side. I am back in the obstetric field again, but value my experience in the infertility world. Thanks for writing this article!

    Reply
  • December 31, 2014 at 3:02 pm
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    I’m sorry, as much as I feel bad for those with infertility, as a society we should not subsidize IVF! IVF is a horrible practice where embryos are created and destroyed on a whim. The babies that are born are often weak and face autism, health problems. … babies are miracles, we should not take that for granted.

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    • January 2, 2015 at 4:03 am
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      Do you have any scientific citations for your claims lori – or are you just an asshole? Betting on the latter…

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    • January 2, 2015 at 9:18 pm
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      Lori – I respect your opinion, and although I am going through infertility myself and have had to pay almost $20K out of pocket in one year, I am not necessarily for government subsidizing of IVF. Personally, I’d rather see better private insurance coverage of these items, which I’d be willing to pay for. I haven’t given it much thought, as I have already paid mine off and have zero plans of going through that process again.

      However, I did want to share some insight with you. First, I do encourage you to research the medical claims you have made.

      Yes, it’s true that many women who are enduring IVF are of advanced maternal age, and therefore, have lower egg quality which may increase genetic abnormalities. More clinics are utilizing young egg donors to combat the risks of advanced maternal age (35+), which helps to overcome these issues. However, there are a staggering number of women like me in their 20s and early 30s who have good egg quality but other challenges that prevent them from fulfilling the desires that God placed in their heart, such as endometriosis, PCOS, tubal issues, or unknown reasons where everything else looks perfect but years and years of TTC results in nothing.

      It’s also true that many clinics in the past have pushed multiple embryo transfers in order to increase their success rates, and this has led to an astonishing number of higher-order multiples as a result of IVF. Higher-order multiples (more than two), or even just twins, are at an increased risk of pre-term delivery, low birth weight, and yes, are weaker due to being born early. The great news is that this is becoming a thing of the past. Due to advances in the field, standard practice now is to transfer one or two embryos, and most clinics will not transfer more than 2 at a time and leave the choice of 1 or 2 embryos at a time up to the parents. We chose to transfer 1 at a time to maximize maternal and infant health, although it may take longer. You see, even in a natural conception, I understand that there’s really only a 20-25% chance of successful implantation, so many couples conceive but never know it because nothing implants and no pregnancy results. The same implantation odds go for a healthy embryo developed through IVF.

      As for embryos being destroyed, I also personally disagree with this practice for ethical and religious reasons, and I’d like to share with you that the parents have full rights to decide the fate of their embryos, just as a traditional mother has the right to decide to have an abortion. The difference is that women who choose to destroy remaining embryos are discarding a few handfuls of cells (from a material standpoint, not really trying to get into a spiritual or religious discussion here), where abortions are actually normally terminating a baby with a beating heart and fully formed features, although sometimes it is actually induced to help “abort” a baby that has already passed along and is putting the mother’s life at risk. I am not pro-abortion, and I also did not choose to destroy my embryos. During my single IVF stimulation, they allowed my husband’s sperm to mix with the high quality eggs they collected, and this created several embryos that were allowed to divide and develop on their own. Each day, they’d observe the embryos and some of them did not divide. These embryos that had arrested development, yes, were discarded, but only after they had ceased development. This is also what happens in natural fertilization. It’s biology naturally choosing the highest quality embryos to develop. At the time that they transfer and/or freeze remaining embryos, they are a clump of between 20-30 cells, if I am remembering correctly. We will give each embryo an individual chance to transfer and develop in their mother’s womb, and if we have remaining embryos, we will donate them to a family that is unable to conceive due to egg quality or age, as they would have great chances with our embryos.

      So, I wrote this only to give you another perspective, and to say that not everyone who does IVF or many other infertility treatments that do not involve as invasive procedures (some women just need a little minimally invasive surgical help or an oral medication for a few days to be able to conceive), fits into the steryotype you described. Also, the field has undergone and is undergoing drastic advances such as advanced freezing techniques, micro-IVF (where only one or two embryos are created at a time), etc.

      IVF babies are still miracles of God, in my opinion, but there are many toxins in our environment causing chemical imbalances which affect fertility and general health. It’s a miracle that God has given us the tools to help women and families overcome these challenges. Now it is our responsibility as a society, the infertility medical profession, and human beings to utilize these tools in ways that are most ethical and in both the mother’s and child’s best interest. This is where I see the industry going. I am not a medical doctor or a medical professional, only a consumer of these services who cares a great deal about what it going on with my body and the decisions I am making for my family. Having a child or a family was not a whim, it has been a lifelong plan and pursuit of mine. IVF was not the first resort to fix a problem, it was a result of years of trying naturally, medical testing, confusion as to why all my tests came back normal and I was unable to get pregnant, prayers, soul-searching, and a belief that this is what was best for my family at the time.

      Reply
      • January 19, 2015 at 5:20 pm
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        This was a wonderful response (informative, calm, and respectful) to an otherwise ignorant comment.

        Reply
  • January 1, 2015 at 3:55 pm
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    Thank you for sharing. Infertility and L&D are my passions. I am a nursing student (changing careers) who has three miracle babies through the infertility process. It is difficult both physically and emotionally. I am able to offer advise and hope to friends and acquaintances through my experiences. I wish more people knew that it is not uncommon. So often, I hear women saying they feel like a failure or are the only ones. But, they are not. We are a sisterhood… A difficult one not asked for, but bonding nonetheless. My prayer is for all those dealing with infertility to know that they are not the only ones. And, that the day they have a biological or adoptive baby in their hands. It will all be worth it and far more rewarding than ever imagined. I also see that those of us in this group do appreciate parenthood in a different way and don’t take little things for granted. XO

    Reply
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  • January 11, 2015 at 3:21 pm
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    Coming at you from the NICU side with much love and respect. I can’t do my job without the wonderful L&D nurses I work with. But I wanted to say Thanks. Your posts are very eloquent and concise. You’ve said everything I feel right now in this moment without me saying a word. So I thank you. It’s really wonderful to know that other nurses are thinking this way. It is very reassuring. Best wishes for a good year, can’t wait to read more posts.

    Reply
  • January 18, 2015 at 7:19 pm
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    This is so so beautiful. Thank you for sharing!! We are heading toward that road of adoption and know that this story is such a possibility. All prayers and support are eagerly welcomed, but I can only assume that this family’s prayer included that possibility and also included the prayer that their child’s birth mother would find peace.

    Reply
      • January 18, 2015 at 9:01 pm
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        I will! We are a little ways off, still, as we recently hit some large financial hits that we weren’t prepared for (yay for dog surgeries and debt payoff?), but I will definitely be posting about it.

        Reply
  • January 19, 2015 at 4:17 am
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    So lovely. Thank you. I am a RN as well. I also suffer from secondary infertility. We recently had birth parents change their mind about n adoption. All I could do was send a meditation to the baby letting her know that she was loved and wonderful that two families wanted her with them. All I can do is send those parents love and hope for the best for them.

    Reply
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  • January 21, 2015 at 8:04 pm
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    Very interesting subject , thanks for putting up. “The maxim of the British people is ‘Business as Usual.'” by Sir Winston Leonard Spenser Churchill.

    Reply
  • January 22, 2015 at 3:36 pm
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    As a labor nurse for 20 years, those adoption stories of mommas hanging their minds for whatever reason are the most difficult for me. The grief from all people involved is immeasurable. Who do we advocate for? It is such a heartbreaking situation. Thank you for bringing this out of he darkness.

    Reply
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  • February 4, 2015 at 3:53 am
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    People with infertility deal with a lot of struggles that are invisible to those surrounding them. Thank you for bringing some of these struggles to light, and for sharing your unique perspective on them.

    Reply
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  • April 21, 2015 at 11:34 am
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    A large number of people are suffering from infertility issues. It’s sad that some doesn’t know the blessings of maternity. Please stop smoking and consume drugs while you are pregnant.

    Reply
  • May 21, 2015 at 8:25 pm
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    Oh my goodness… I felt like you wrote this story for me…however ours took a different twist. Our b.m. kept her wish, but birthdad fought us hard for her. In the end, mom’s wishes were granted, she stayed with us after dad’s rights were terminated by a jury trial. We brought Korrie Ann home from the hospital at 2 days old… and adopted her at 9 months. Yes every day was a struggle knowing if we could have her one more day…. but I told everyone, it doesn’t matter how long we have her…she needs to be loved by someone and God chose us. Never give up…never… He hears your prayers.

    Reply
  • May 21, 2015 at 9:03 pm
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    You nailed it. That’s how it happened and that is how it felt. Heartbroken.

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  • April 17, 2016 at 11:52 pm
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    Great post. I work in L+D, MB, and NICU and am wondering if you have seen any support groups or information for Nurses in our field that experience miscarriages, stillbirth, and/or neonatal death? I have experienced multiple miscarriages and have found it quite difficult to return to work and be around pregnant women and newborns. It’s been 4 years since my last miscarriage but I still experiencing emotional pain whenever I work. I have not been able to find a support group that has worked for me because it never quite touches on nurses experiencing pregnancy loss that also work within maternity units. Any information you have would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
  • August 24, 2016 at 4:22 pm
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    There is nothing sad about baby being with her natural mother. Read from adoptees how they feel when they don’t get a chance to be raised by the woman whose smell and heartbeat they know. The sadder part was that she was almost raised by complete strangers who she wouldnt see any genetic mirrorig from and likely feel like she had to spend her whole life trying to fit in.

    Reply

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