Recently I met a nursing student who was doing her rotations on the labor and delivery floor. She was gracious enough to listen to my story about Caleb's stillbirth. After she left it got me thinking about the need to train nurses. Maybe they are already being trained, I'm not sure, but I do know that I would want to share the following things with them.
We were very lucky to have had GREAT nurses when we delivered Caleb. In fact the nurse that actually helped deliver him has become a good friend. She walked with me throughout Abigail's pregnancy and then came back to help with Abigail's delivery.
She was truly such a bright light in the midst of our darkness. Because of her and so many other nurses that cared for us, here is what I would tell new nursing students when dealing with a stillbirth:
- Say the baby's name. Our nurses always called him Caleb and never just "the baby." The simple gesture of calling him by name showed me that they really saw him as a person even though he was dead. I loved hearing his name and felt like they knew him too since they were all calling him by name.
-Do the "normal" things. One of our nurses wrote Caleb's weight and height on the white board just like you would for a live baby. We took a picture of it and to this day its one of my favorite things to look at. Because it was "normal." So much of our experience was not normal so to have this one little gem in writing was a big deal.
-Tell them about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. Often times a nurse is bound by hospital rules and cannot inform the patients about this incredible service. That's fine-if you cannot tell them, find someone who can! Our midwife was not under the same "rules" and was able to pass along NILMDTS information to us. EVEN if you or the other nurses take pictures of the baby later on, please still call NILMDTS. These are taken by professional photographers and from what I have seen are always better than the ones taken by the nurses (no offense to the nurses, but the photographers usually have better equipment and training).
-It's ok to show some emotion. Right before Caleb was born I remember seeing a tear slide down our nurse's cheek. It meant so much that she was sad too. Obviously she kept it together during her shift so that she could do her job, but showing some emotion is never a bad thing. It made me love her all the more.
-Send them home with as many resources as you can give them. This might be your only chance to give them information on support groups, meetings, anything that can help. Even if they do not want it now, let them know that later on they may want it and send it with them anyways.
-If there is a funeral or visitation for the baby-go to it. I did not see the nurses myself at Caleb's funeral but I saw that they signed the guest book. It meant so much to me that they would go out of their way to honor my child in this way. If you can't make the funeral, sending a card in the mail is a nice gesture to let them know you are still thinking of them.
-Pray for them
Nurses have the ability to make a terrible situation a little less terrible. I'm so grateful to our nurses and each year on Caleb's birthday we bring treats back to the hospital to say thank you for the fantastic job they did helping us through. Thank you to all nurses who cry with us, help us, and walk with us through our loss.