More Than Birth and Babies

Perinatal nursing is sweet and magical and everything you think it would be.  But everyone only thinks of the birth and the babies.  No one ever thinks or talks about the pain of pregnancy, the heartbreak of infertility, or the difficulty of death.

I remember once I was working triage, and I seemed to be seeing patient after patient.  It was just one of those days…of course, I didn’t think the charge nurse was helping me like she could have.  I felt swamped.   By lunchtime, I had finally cleared all the beds in triage and was finally going to eat breakfast when a patient walked through the door with a slew of family members.  As she filled out her paperwork, I gave the unit secretary a look and she smiled at me.  I was thinking that I was about to see my 7th patient in 6 hours for a “I’m bleeding when I wipe” issue.

The patient was very tiny.  As I walked behind her I could not even tell she was pregnant.  As I put her in the triage bed, she told me that she hadn’t felt her baby move since the night before.  Tomorrow was her due date.  I put the monitor on her belly and heard nothing.  Even though I knew at that moment that her baby was dead (she was so tiny, I should have been able to put that monitor anywhere on her and picked up her baby’s heartbeat), I moved the monitor around and around hoping to hear something.  When I began tracing her heart rate at 120 beats per minute, for a moment I grasped on to the hope that maybe THIS was the tiny patient that had the baby I just couldn’t find to trace.  But the patient already knew.  I knew.  She began crying and her husband sat in the chair next to her with his head in his hands, not knowing what to say or do.  She asked between sobs for her mother, who was in the waiting room.

I went to get her mother, and when she saw me she immediately said “he’s gone, isn’t he?” Of course, as a nurse, I’m unable to say anything. I held her arm as I led her into the triage room, and only told her that the physician was on his way to speak to them.  My heart ached for a mother who lost her first child, a dad who lost his first son, and a grandmother who lost her first grandchild.  When her physician arrived, he pulled an ultrasound machine to the bedside to visualize the still and silent heart of her baby.  Everyone cried again, because this time they could see his heart not beating.  And the only thing I could be thankful for at that moment was that she had the support of her partner, that she had the support of her mother, and that the rest of my triage beds were empty and that no other woman had to hear the cries of a patient who had just been told her baby was dead.

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Not every nurse can labor a patient with a full-term IUFD.  We have all shared this same story in one way or another, and after this kind of work day, we will leave physically and emotionally drained. You have to watch your patient and her family crumble in front of you, with no words to ease their pain or to provide any type of comfort or closure.  On top of that, they have to experience every pain and emotion that comes with labor.  As nurses, we walk a fine line of wanting to medicate them until they are semi out of their misery, and encouraging them to be present for a time in their life that they will eventually want to remember.  There is no other patient that we want to see have a vaginal delivery more than her.  As we labor her, we pray that she doesn’t leave the hospital with a scar across her belly, a permanent physical daily reminder of what she went through. They may not remember everything we said, or everything we did.  They probably did not know that we cried for them, alone in an empty room where no one else would be able to see us.  And even though we all see all too many of these, I can honestly say that I still remember every single one.

So for any mother out there who never got to carry her baby to her due date, or to any mother who never got to bring her baby home, know that your nurse remembers you.  And even though everyone else moves on, your nurse will always know that a part of you was left behind in that labor room.

 

Until my next delivery ❤

 


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Jen
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Jen

Said so beautifully. All so true. As a fellow nurse (a long way away) sharing your same job, I just love reading every single post you write. Thanks for sharing. x

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Worked L&D for 37 years. Lots of joyful tears. It isn’t always that though, as we L&D nurses know. This is so well written, captures the feelings of sadness for the family and the helplessness we feel.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Beautifully said, thank you! I know a woman who had that situation and while everyone knows they are grieving, I thought about how the family has to go home to that empty nursery and put away all the little clothes, etc. What a stab in the heart. I am so thankful for my 2 healthy girls that were born when I was 39 and 41.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

That honestly, was one of the hardest parts. Our daughter, Zoe, was a stillborn. Two days before her due date. 12/11/13. I had my boyfriend go home and clear everything out of the house. I couldn’t bring myself to walk in and have to see everything right away.
All of our nurses were so amazing! They cried with us and hugged us constantly! I brought them a box of chocolate and a bag of coffee as a thank you. (When I could finally gather the courage to go back up to L&D) it was the least I could do for them!

Denise
Guest

This was very touching. Thank you so much for sharing. I’ve always appreciated nurses. You are the front line that must to stay strong through all that you see on a daily basis. Continue doing what you do. Blessings to you!

Ashley
Guest

I did get to take my baby home eventually, but she was a meconium baby. During the 30 minutes lying on the delivery table watching my baby get chest compressions and be intubated, my nurse was our rock. After my littel girl was transported to another hospital, my nurse was there to cry with me, help me pee and offer me both the reality and hope of our situation. I don’t know how y’all do it, but thank you. I’m so glad you do!

Adam Burner
Guest
Adam Burner

Thank you for sharing this.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

This seriously touched my heart. I unfortunately lost my baby at 7 weeks and went through the horrible situation of a D&C. The nurses were AMAZING and I will never forget the way they made me feel that day. Thank you for what you do, day in and day out.

babylossmama
Guest

To you, and to your fellow nurses: we, your patients, also will never forget you. Never believe that there are “no words to ease their pain or to provide any type of comfort” – your gentle words, your tears, your efforts to help us remember through pictures, bring us so much comfort. You (well, not you specifically, but your compatriots) cried with us. We know you care, about us, about our baby. We see you suffer with us, and we love you more than you will ever know. http://babylossmama.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/a-letter-to-a-nurse/

babylossmama
Guest

Also… on my blog, if you read my son’s birth story, you’ll see a better tribute to an L&D nurse, specifically, who stuck by me through the awfulness of my son’s dramatic birth (the link above is a tribute to a NICU nurse who was there when my son died). I just wanted you to know that we remember you all, by name!

Becky
Guest
Becky

As a now nurse Manager with 20+ years of L&D experience, I tell my new nurses that caring for patients experiencing a fetal demise will never get any easier, and they will remember every one. I also tell them that if it does get easier it is time for a new profession.

Lauri Hertzler
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Lauri Hertzler

I disagree Becky. I was often the nurse assigned the IUFD’s and it did get easier. Not because the pain of the situation was easier or that I cared any less, it got easier because I learned how to manage my emotions and how to better support the grieving family. I don’t think it’s fair to your new nurses to put that kind of pressure on them or make them feel guilty for maturing as a professional nurse. I have cried with almost every single demise, but not all. I guarantee that every single mother never doubted for a second… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I would agree that it does get easier. Partly because I have a strong faith and am at peace with death, so my own fears and emotions don’t cloud my care. And partly because we have an amazing perinatal loss coordinator. She has taught us how to help families celebrate the life of the baby and create memories in a short time. Now, I ask patients what dreams they had about their baby and what the imagined doing with their baby. We read books to their baby. I help new mamas paint their little girl’s fingernails, etc. It’s not easy… Read more »

Grid
Guest
Grid

Well put.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I think what she meant is that it never gets emotionally easier. You never lose that gut-wrenching feeling you get when you put the us on and see that little heart still, void of life. It affects you the same way 1st time or the hundredth time. And that’s ok- we have chosen nursing because we care passionately about the well-being of our patients

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I tell people and more specifically new nurses that it’s easy to be a labor and delivery nurse, no mater how terrible the shift can be or busy or difficult you’re patient and often her support people were… At the end you give them this wonderful little person.. But when you labor a family through the worst thing that anyone can imagine…. You really get to be a nurse…. You are her nurse… They may not appear to be engaged but they hold on to every word… Touch… Gesture… Tear…. And like all things on life, time does help dull… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Taking care of a pt with an IUFD is,of course,one of the hardest things about being an L&D nurse. Many times,I would be wrapping the baby in a warm blanket,looking down @ a perfectly formed baby, & just shaking my head & thinking “this should not be happening.” One thing is for certain,these are the families that you will bond with the most. They are so thankful for everything you’ve done (when you feel like you haven’t done or said enough) & you won’t want to leave without hugging every single person in the room.

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

i have spent 28yrs as a labor and delivery nurse and 16yrs of that as a bereavement counsler i remember all my mothes and families as if they were my first. you did a wonderful job telling our story thank you.

Colleen Ryan
Guest
Colleen Ryan

Brilliantly said….touchingly real! I had 3 miscarriages…with the 2nd being at 5 1/2 months….no heartbeat they said. It’s comforting to know that it is not JUST a job to the wonderful women who help us! Thank you so much for what you said….and helping us through it all.

Michelle
Guest
Michelle

Well said. I can relate.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

I was fortunate enough to have worked with the most incredible nurses and physicians at Palmetto Heath Richland ( Memorial) …. I loved every single minute of it and will never forget any of them…..

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Well written and so very true..hug yourself..you are a true labor nurse and and a true good person.. from one labor nurse to another

Eileen
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Eileen

So well written, and I know how you feel. Hug yourself, you are special and a great labor nurse..and we all know this sadness..the job is not all happiness..but its what you do, and what you are so very good at..

Angela
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Angela

14 years ago our first child was stillborn at 7 months. My husband and I were devastated. Our nurse, Anna, saw me through labor. She was incredible. The other nurses were amazing as well. 6 years later I started working in post partum. It has been such a blessing to give to my patients what had been given to me. One last thought. I treasured my stretch marks because they were a physical reminder that I carried my baby, that he really existed. When it’s the first child, you know in your heart you are a mom, but with no… Read more »

My Dragonfly Moon
Guest

Thank you for writing such a powerful post. I have been nursing for over 20 years and have been in L/D for over 9. I spent the first 7+ years at a High Risk OB hospital for women and children so I have lived this very scenario many, many heartbreaking times. Those of us who stay in OB have to deal with it sooner or later and as hard as it is, these poor families are the ones that come to mind first. So many special memories of them and so many nights praying for their hearts to heal. Thank… Read more »

rfs1031
Guest

Thank you for what you do!!!

Just over a year ago, our sweet Ivy Raye was stillborn at 38 weeks, 3 days. We’ve never experienced such grief!! The nurses of Southern New Hampshire Medical Center Birth Place were our “angels”. We lovingly refer to them this way. Their tender care of our Ivy Raye, and gentle support and care for us was remarkable. We left a piece of our hearts that day! We’ll never forget each name and face!!! God bless you all!

rfs1031
Guest

You can read our story at http://www.theivyleagues.wordpress.com

Thank you,
Rachel

k2bluefish
Guest

Beautiful and I really appreciate the perspective of the nurse. We induced and delivered our beautiful baby daughter at 22 weeks four years ago July 2, born silent. The worst day of my life. I wrote a letter to every doctor, nurse, midwife that was involved. You are deeply appreciated, and you are right. We leave a piece of us that died that day in the labor room.

becky
Guest
becky

Your daughter and my son share a birthday. he was stillborn last year, he died during labor.

k2bluefish
Guest

I am so sorry for your loss Becky. I rarely come across other mom’s with babes who share her birthday. It’s a deep connection that I appreciate in odd ways. Sending you love and light. I started a blog regarding her and how she has impacted my life, but nothing like your blog.

Kathleen
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Kathleen

It takes a lot of strength to help the family through hard situations like this. Sometimes I don’t arrive at work feeling very strong but have to dig down deep. After working in L&D for 29 years I have come to realize a few things about sad outcome situations in our department: Don’t try to fill up the silent moments with these families ( when words are needed, the right ones come), I haven’t met a grieving patient or father who seemed uncomfortable being held during those really hard moments that come intermittently, and, most importantly, it is a privilege… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

My wonderful daughter in law is a labour&delivery nurse & loves her job! The tragic loss of a baby effects her in more ways that are known to the patients.Her heart literaly breaks when a mother loses her child.She cannot show her feelings at this terrible time, but takes her tears & heartache home with her after such a tradgedy. She has also lost a child too early & lives with this each day but continues to do her job with love & compassion. Please remember your nurses are people too,with feelings the same as you and I. Love to… Read more »

Robyn
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Robyn

I am a labor nurse also. recently, I delivered my second child by classical c/s at 26 weeks and she passed away two days later. I appreciate this post. It helps to read such beautiful words.

Irene
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Irene

I lost one of my identical twin baby girls to twin to twin transfusion. Not only was I told my baby no longer had a heartbeat at 21 weeks, but I was then seen by the l&d nurses 3 times a week for the remainder of my pregnancy for biophysical profiles, nonstress tests and growth scans. Every single time I went in, the nurses were amazing. I had to see my survivor and be scared to death that she wasn’t going to make it, but also go through the agony of seeing my angel baby each visit. Without those nurses… Read more »

Donna Dyrek Burman
Guest

As a labor and delivery nurse for over 30 years, this touched my heart. Ultimately in my practice at a Level III Perinatal Center, I found myself focused on the care of these patients and their families. You almost know before you look for the heart rate whether you will find one or not- and brace yourself. My thoughts are that pretty much anyone can care for a patient who takes a healthy baby home, but the family who leaves empty handed remembers the care and compassion that was shown them. I do remember my loss patients and they each… Read more »

K B
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K B

Well said. I’ve been a labor and delivery nurse for almost 15 years and will never forget the sound of the mothers wails when their fears are confirmed and I will never forget sharing the moments of birth and thereafter with these families. Making momentos for them to cherish since they will not take their baby home with them is the least we can do for them. The feeling of a heavy spirit which clings to us for days following these experiences and the lifetime of tears we hide behind our smiles can only be known by those who have… Read more »

EJ
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EJ

Wow, I too get somewhat annoyed and “frustrated when people find out I am a labor and delivery nurse and say, ‘Oh, you have the most FUN job EVER!'” or even better, “what a happy place to work!?” “…most days it is joyous but on the days it’s not…” It’s gut wrenching. It IS so “horrifically sad.” They’re not supposed to be childless. This post was perfect timing. Last night (only hours ago) I witnessed one of the worst cases yet. Her cries were heard by staff and patients alike; they brought tears to all of our eyes. We all… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I’m bawling as I read this because yesterday morning at 0130 (July 3rd) this story came to life before my eyes. Almost word for word….. We as a unit cried together over the delivery that happened only hours before it was scheduled to. Thank you for putting into words what will be in my dreams for weeks and months to come.

RN Sarah
Guest
RN Sarah

Thank you for this beautiful post. How true this is. I like to say, as L&D nurses, we experience the highest highs and the lowest lows. No one should ever have to leave their baby behind in a morgue. And yes, every one of those families remains in your heart. Your heart breaks with them and tears of grief are shared with the family. It’s ok to show you are grieving with them. Not only does it show you are human too, but it also shows them that they are leaving their precious little one with those who truly care.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I’m not a mom yet, but as someone who spends many days and hours surrounded by doctors and nurses, I can attest to the fact that it is my nurses who’ve made the differences in my life. I have the highest respect and love for you and what you do. :-)

hmcleod91
Guest

Thank you for writing this, I think all you midwives do an amazing job, when I found out much like the patient mentioned here that I had lost my daughter the midwife we were with was so wonderfully kind and supportive, and was there with hugs and cups of tea throughout my labour despite her not being my midwife for my labour. It must be heart wrenching to watch families go through this but please know the work you do stays with us families aswell.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

As I care for a family who is experiencing the gut wrenching dispair of an IUFD I try to remember that I am one of the few people on earth who had the privilege of meeting their baby. Many of their family members may never even see a picture of their tiny face and hands but I got to hold their baby, possibly baptize her if the parents wished and take photos of them holding their precious child for the first and last time. Such important work we do for each and every one of them.

Jessica
Guest
Jessica

I haven’t been in L&D for a while now, but it is my passion. I changed to a clinic job because it was easier on me as a single mom and I miss it every day. I still remember all of the women and families that I took care of in this difficult time. I cried with them, in other rooms, and when I got home to my precious healthy little boy. His hugs and kisses made it a little better. I think of those families every day and hope they were able to overcome the tragedy and eventually have… Read more »

Gloria Robins
Guest

May our God bless you and all of the nurses who help these parents through this situation . Such a special calling. God love you all. Gma. R.

Evie's Gramma
Guest
Evie's Gramma

Oh my. Thank you. My granddaughter was 37 weeks when we lost her. I was there when the news was delivered to my son that ‘we can’t find the heartbeat’, to the moment our 13 pound 13 ounce baby was finally pulled from her mother. It was THE worst and most heartbreaking experience of my life. I was the first to hold her and went with the nurses to see her first and only bath, to see her bathed, diapered, dressed and then wrapped in a warm blanket so her mommy could hold a warm baby. Lois. Lois was the… Read more »

Kim Schamburg
Guest
Kim Schamburg

Thank you for this post. I lost my son Seth at 39 weeks. I walked into the hospital that day in labor and it was my L & D nurse that discovered that my baby’s heartbeat could not be found. I have struggled with her response to me as I labored and delivered my baby. She seemed lost, distant unsure of how to comfort me. Reading your words help me think on it differently. Maybe she was one that went into a quiet room and cried over my baby boy. Maybe I am at the patient and my son is… Read more »

B
Guest
B

Beautiful and thank you for sharing. I can tell you, the day I gave birth to my son it was my nurses hand, her sweet words, her gentle encouragement that got me through the delivery. I am forever grateful for my nurse. So grateful, she has her own page in my son’s baby book.

Debbie
Guest
Debbie

Thank you for sharing I spent over 20 years at the bedside as a labor & delivery nurse. I had many meaningful experiences but the mothers I remember most are the ones who left with empy arms.

Leah
Guest
Leah

You’re absolutely right: your nurse never forgets you, mothers who have suffered to the depths. There is a permanent memorial in that room, at that bed, at that warmer, so don’t ever worry that your experience has been forgotten or that no one but you really remembers those moments and hours. Hugs.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

My wonderful sweet godchildren lost their baby at 37 weeks with placenta abruptio. Every so often, I get a little squeeze around my heart at this tragedy for these young people, and for those of us who so looked forward to knowing and loving this little boy. He changed us forever, even in his death. My appreciation goes out to the nurses who took care of her when we couldn’t, and when we didn’t know how, and when it just wasn’t our place. The appreciation of the staff regarding the demeanor and composure of the young ones also expresses the… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I ‘ve had my worst 4th of July ever, it started with one fetal demise ( almost term) diagnosed in her Dr office and brought in for induction. So young and so devastated . I have cried at probably every delivery of an IUFD I have delivered, sometimes alone in our bereavement room, sometimes with the family. It never gets easier emotionally, but the care, what to say and hopefully when to say it, and the paperwork have become easier. Everything was progressing well when at 5:30 a second mother presented for nausea, vomiting and ultimately a IUFD. This will… Read more »

laurakutneyLaura
Guest

This story reminded me of this quote: I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Maya Angelou

Mary McKay
Guest

Been there many times. I have held the Moms and cried with them. U do leave part of your heart with them each time. Your heart breaks when you hold the baby in your arms,,to clean them up, weigh them and measure them, and photo them. You try to wrap them pretty, put a crochet cap on them and give Mom a keep sake. You feel so helpless at this time…as a Nursery and L&D nurse, I do hope the Mom’s, Dad’s and grandparents felt my love for them….You certainly sound like a kind, caring Nurse.

Eileen
Guest
Eileen

A very thoughtful and difficult post to write. Very much appreciated. As a former L&D nurse I could easily put myself in your position. Caring for a family whose baby died was the most difficult but also the most rewarding nursing care I have ever provided. Have a look at a research documentary I was lucky enough to be part of. We have had excellent feedback from nurses:

Judy
Guest
Judy

This is so true. I don’t think it gets easier. It is just that we have done it before and maybe know how to handle it a little better for us and the patient and their family. Just retired after 28 yrs working that area. Will miss the good and bad of it

Carol Hughes
Guest
Carol Hughes

Hi Jen, I was the mom on the receiving end of this powerful nurturing 37 years ago. My first baby was stillborn. My strongest memory in those first twenty-four hours are of the nurses who made a point to come in and speak to me. Two of them had lost full term babies also. I saw a psychic years later who told me that that spirit had just needed to touch in and move on and to my surprise, that I had done the same. Months before I was born, my aunt, who had the same name as my mother,… Read more »

Rebecca Wood
Guest

This was a lovely piece.

I missed my baby’s birth due to general anesthesia for my emergency c-section at twenty six weeks. However, I do have pictures of my baby’s first appearance. A nurse was kind and thoughtful enough to call out to my husband, “Quick! Give me your cell phone!” as they raced me back to the OR.

I’m so grateful for the kindness of the nurses during my last moments carrying my baby. It’s so nice to hear something from that side. Thanks for writing this.

jaimerose
Guest

Oh my goodness. I needed these words today. Thank you for this post.
-a fellow labor nurse

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I recently went through a near-term IUFD-I can’t imagine a full term. The images from that day will stay with me forever, for some reason more than an early pregnancy IUFD or miscarriage. Everyone thinks L&D is the happiest place on earth & some days it truly is. Other days I swear it’s the darkest place in the hospital. Thanks for your blog.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

My daughter was born at 28 weeks as a stillborn, I found out the day before and then had to deliver her via c-section the next morning. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to go through, this was 9 years ago thus Saturday and the nurse Shannon who was in the OR with me and then stayed with me the rest of that day and took pictures of my daughter for me and stayed by my side for all of it is someone I will never forget! I have had two other children since and… Read more »

Erin
Guest
Erin

What an incredible touching post. Thank you for your incredible heart. What a true gift and blessing you are.

Carol Brown Everest
Guest

I had given birth to 3 healthy normal kids, when 11 years after the last I was thrilled to find out I was pregnant again. My pregnancy was normal, everything seemed fine, except for the feelings and dreams I was having. I had a strong premonition that this baby wasn’t going to come home with me. I couldn’t see myself coming home with a baby. I tried to change that vision, I tried to change what felt like was really going to happen. I couldn’t tell anyone, not even the Dr. I didn’t think anyone would listen to me. I… Read more »

Rhi
Guest
Rhi

Very true. I remember every one of my IUFD families. They have a special place in my heart…

Nicole
Guest
Nicole

Thank you for this post. I have been a nurse for 6 years. I spent my first five years as an ICU nurse and therefore have taken care of many patients who have passed on and cried with their grieving families. After almost a year in L&D, this week was my first time taking care of a patient with an IUFD and I can’t believe how emotional I am even days later.
It’s hard to explain to friends and family how you can feel so connected and need to grieve for someone that you only just met.

arranbhansal
Guest

Lovely post, thank you

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