When There’s Nothing to Celebrate

SHELLY
Recently, I left work so late my kids were already asleep by the time I got home. Part of me wanted to wake my daughter up, ask her about her day, and stay up late talking about all the things she had done throughout the day. I wanted to scoop up my sleeping son, smell his baby-ness and cover him with kisses. The other half of me was so exhausted, I was glad that my husband had put them to bed before I had gotten home. I fell into bed, asleep before my head even hit the pillow. I woke up the next morning before anyone else was awake, put on a clean pair of scrubs, and went back to work, rested and renewed, but determined to finish charting in time to be home at a normal hour.

It was busy that day. A few hours before shift-change, a young mother came in to be triaged because she hadn’t felt her baby move for almost twelve hours. All of our triage beds were full, so we had to put her in a labor room. When I couldn’t find her baby’s heartbeat, there were so many things I wanted to say to her, but couldn’t. It wasn’t the right time and I was only her nurse. But this is what I wish I could have told her:

  • It didn’t take me long to stop looking for your baby’s heartbeat. I knew then the next chain of events that were about to occur. I couldn’t tell you anything, even though I wanted to, because I have to wait for your doctor to break the news. I hope they’re not too far away, and that they’ll be able to get here quickly.
  • The moment I stopped trying to find the heartbeat, I know all of your suspicions were confirmed, even though neither of us said a word. Your husband did not know to be concerned yet, because he wasn’t the one that had stopped feeling the movement. I know you needed him, so I chose my words carefully: Because I could not find your baby’s heartbeat with the monitor, I’m going to get someone to do an ultrasound. I will also call your doctor. Do you understand what I’m saying? Your eyes were glossed over with tears, but you did not cry. Your husband put down his phone.
  • When I walked out of your room to call your doctor, I prayed the entire way to the nurse’s station that maybe I was wrong. When I got to the nurse’s station, every single nurse, unit secretary, and tech asked me if I had been able to find the heartbeat. When I told them no, the tone changed on the entire unit.
  • When I called your doctor to tell them, I heard their voice catch in their throat. They didn’t have to tell me…I knew they were going to drop everything and come straight to the hospital.
  • When I walked back into your room, your husband was holding you and crying. I told you that your doctor was on their way to see you. I was so thankful that your husband finally understood and was next to you, comforting you.
  • When the ultrasound confirmed everything we already knew, you cried silently and your family cried hysterically. It’s usually like that. You won’t cry hysterically until you deliver your baby and see her with your own eyes.
  • As a labor nurse, when we are going to deliver someone whose baby has died, we hope with everything we have that the baby hasn’t been dead for long. We want you to remember her as she was: perfect, only sleeping, silent, and still.
  • You will want to know a reason, but you probably won’t get one. If you do, it won’t make anything easier, but, like you, we still hope you get one.
  • Even if you came to the hospital the moment you stopped feeling her move, it would have been too late. So don’t blame yourself for anything you did or could have done.

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I did not cry in front of the patient. I hugged her and kissed her head, got her towels and helped her into the bath. Afterwards, I put extra pillows in her bed as I tried to prepare her for her induction. I didn’t feel there were any words I could say at that time. She probably won’t remember that I stroked her arm when her physician verbalized her fears. She probably won’t remember me telling her husband to call her mother. She probably didn’t know that I went home and cried for her, while I was in my bath. And she probably doesn’t know that I’m still thinking about her and writing about this, months and months later.

As nurses, we make every situation the worst one: Oh, this was their first boy. Oh, they were finally having a girl. This was their first baby. This was supposed to be their last baby. Their daughter was finally going to be a big sister. Their son really wanted a brother…As a patient, you experience the delivery as a stillbirth. As a nurse, we experience the delivery as an IUFD, or intrauterine fetal demise. I have never personally had a stillbirth, but I’ve experienced an IUFD at practically every stage of pregnancy. It’s never easy when there’s nothing to celebrate, and your situation is always the worst one for us.

I stayed at work late that day, not wanting to leave the patient until her mother had gotten to the hospital. I knew the young couple would need their parents, I knew that woman would need her mom. When I got home, my house was quiet with sleeping kids. That night though, I scooped up my son and crawled into bed with my daughter and asked her to tell me all about her day. She talked endlessly about everything, until I finally fell asleep with her hair in my face and her knees in my back, thankful to be next to their two little warm bodies.

I hope that every mother out there who has ever been shattered by the silence of her baby’s unbeating heart knows that our hearts broke for you the day you came in to have the baby that you would not leave the hospital with. And every single time I watch someone leave the hospital empty-armed, I close my eyes and wish that if we meet again, we will all have something to celebrate.

 

 Every Kick Counts

More Than Birth and Babies

Until my next delivery



Categories: Grief Support, Random

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254 replies

  1. Our Joshua was born still in November of 2006. My midwife and my nurse were the most amazing people I’ve ever seen during his delivery. Our nurse chose to work over her shift when my delivery went too long. She stayed, not only until he was delivered, but to sit with me until I was somewhat calm after. I had a CD that I brought to the hospital with me and they both sang worship songs and hymns with us during labor and delivery. I have 6 other children and that delivery was so precious to me…in part because it’s all I have of my son, but more because of how gentle those two women were with me. They were angels in crocs and I’l never forget them. In November of 2007, I delivered my next baby. She wasn’t my nurse that night, but she was on the floor when I was doing my laps around the halls during labor. She stopped me and told me how glad she was to see us back. She remembered and that memory touched my soul. L&D nurses are some incredible people. Thank you for this post. It was a blessing for me to read through the tears.

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  2. I often wonder how the lovely staff felt who looked after me when my baby April died. Thanks for your blog. Now I know xx

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  3. I have just cried reading this, and remembering the birth of my first baby. She was stillborn at full term seven years ago. I can relate to so much of what you have written, because I do remember the hugs, kind words and tears of the nursing staff. I remember the midwife crying when she delivered my beautiful baby girl, before the emotional enormity of what had happened had hit me. The midwife stayed with me throughout my 9 hour labour, and I remember feeling sorry that she had to manage my stillbirth that day. I will never forget the love and care that the medical staff showed me on the worst day of my life. I have the utmost admiration for the work that you and your colleagues do. Thank you x

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  4. Such a moving post and beautifully written. We lost our first baby at 21 weeks and went through an induction. I will always remember how well we were treated by the doctors and nurses who looked after us. Every one treated us with such kindness and professionalism. When we left the hospital one of the midwives told us she would look forward to seeing us back in happier circumstances and sure enough we returned the following year when I had my daughter and again more recently for the birth of our son. We are truly blessed. At the hospital, sure enough, we bumped into one of midwives who’d met us when we lost our firstborn and it was lovely to see how happy she was for us.

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  5. Our first son was born at 21 weeks after I went into premature labour. In the same hospital I had both very good, and very bad care. The first midwife I saw was amazing, and took fantastic care of me. She stayed on after her shift had ended so that she could come see us after our son was born. We had a newly qualified midwife, who had never delivered a baby in those circumstances before and she was fantastic. She treated my son with such dignaty. I will never forget the care and attention those two women paid to me, my husband and our son. Neither will I forget how some of the other people ‘looked after’ us (or rather didn’t). But mostly I am grateful to the ones who were compassionate, caring and treated my son with dignaty and as a baby rather then a ‘foetus’.

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  6. What a lovely piece of writing x

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  7. As a Midwife, I have been a bearer of the bad tidings before. It breaks my heart. You have done a superb job of writing about it. Thank you so much.

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  8. Thank you for sharing this with us. This touched my heart because 19 months ago I was in that hospital bed looking at my nurse like she didn’t know what she was doing because she couldn’t find one of my twin daughters’s heartbeat. This has opened my eyes to the dread she must have felt when she was seetting me up with the monitors and already knew what the doctors were going to find. Thank you and all the nurses for taking our stories home with you and keeping a part of us in your heart. Without that care provided by you guys during those moment, we wouldn’t have the strength to continue forward. So thank you again from the bottom of my heart and much love to you and your family.

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  9. Thank you. Your words brought me peace in a time of such distress. I’ve read and reread this post probably 30 times in the last 6 months. I have been so comforted knowing that your hearts hurt also.

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  10. Beautifully written, as a midwife going through another woman’s loss it conveys exactly how we all feel, we remember everything.

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  11. My daughter was stillborn almost 12 years ago. I knew going into the hospital that night that I would be leaving with empty arms. I had some amazing nurses help me through the next 24 hours. You would be surprised what a mom will remember of that time. The comfort of hug or kind gesture from a nurse will likely be etched in her memory forever… even as time turns the heartache of the loss into bittersweet memories. I will never forget the nurse that worked so hard to find my daughter just the perfect gown out of the many that had been donated. The nurse that wouldn’t let go of my hand as labor pains become almost too much to bear. And my doctor, who had to quickly leave the room after my daughter was delivered because he didn’t want me to see him cry. They all became part of my daughter’s story. One that I will never forget. So, from a mom who had to endure this loss… Thank You.

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    • Thank you so much for this wonderful post. As a mother who lived this experience 21 years ago, I can honestly tell you is something you never get over. I also had a great nurse who I remember dearly from that awful experience. I have since become a nurse myself and strive to give my patients the understanding and compassion they deserve. Thanks to all the nurses that go the extra mile for their patients and family because they care, we certainly don’t do it for the money.

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    • I picked out the perfect donated gown and hand knitted hat today. I sit here crying and trying to regroup from our day. We labor nurses put our hearts and souls into every patient! I want families to know that they are loved and thoughts are carried in our hearts at all times!

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  12. Just beautiful……

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    • That was beautiful, you have me in tears, I now want to go hold my babies like you did when you got home that night and my heart aches for all the women who have to face this, I wish there was a magic wand to bring those babies back to life. I miscarried my first pregnancy at 8 weeks, my husband and I believe that it just took two tries for our oldest daughter to arrive, so we don’t think about it much, but sometimes late at night I wonder if I will meet a little girl or boy in the summerlands that is that first child.

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  13. Beautifully written. As a former L&D nurse, I had this experience too many times. Now, as a high risk ob home health nurse, I recently had a pt at 34 weeks with no heart tones. I was in her home, and I knew her baby had passed but couldn’t tell her. My heart sank. I had to send her to the hospital to confirm what we both already knew. Her little girl was gone. That day has never left my memory. We keep in touch as she is pregnant again and of course, very nervous. This really hits home for me as a parent too as my newborn son died almost 28 years ago, just 3 hours after birth. The pain never leaves us. We hurt as much as our pt’s do.

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  14. Someone already said this in a comment, but she probably does remember. When I lost my baby, I remember the strangest things about what the nurses said and did for me. Thank you for this beautiful post.

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  15. I am sitting here in tears as I read this story. As a new labor and delivery nurse, I experienced my first fetal demise delivery recently and shared in the sorrow with the family. I could not speak much without my voice breaking and once I thought I had my emotions under control, I would feel the tears well up in my eyes and start running down my face again. It is hard to keep a “brave face”, but we try to give as much support to our patient and family as possible while trying not to show our own emotions. We dressed the baby and helped family to hold her and took pictures for them. Like you, I cuddled my own babies when I got home. Another thing hard about our situation is we cannot come home and talk to someone about our day for fear of violating HIPAA so we do grieve in our own quiet space.

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  16. As a 30 year L&D RN I have practically seen it all. A few times still ‘haunt’ me to this day. A couple having a stillborn were grieving at the delivery. Her parents lived a good eight hours away by car. On the way to be with their daughter her parents were killed in a car accident. This is still in my head.

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  17. Recently I went through this experience. I delivered my son, who was going to make my daughter a big sister and be our first son and our last child. We longed for this pregnancy, 2 years of trying, multiple fertility drugs, multiple trips to a specialist, following a miscarriage. We thought for sure we were going to have our completed family after making it to the 2ND trimester.

    I went to the hospital because on Braxton hicks like pains. Your view from the ER to delivery is verbatim how I felt. Down to the husband on his cell phone, not having a clue as the nurse struggled to find a heartbeat.

    I am also a nurse. Not l&d nurse, but I understand how you feel. As the patient and as the nurse. I knew how those nurses felt in my delivery room while my entire family was crying… I saw they didn’t have the words to say, but they didn’t have to say anything.

    Thank you for doing what you do, and writing this story so perfectly & beautifully.

    💙

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  18. This is my story 26 years ago. Please know nurses and doctors it is okay if you shed tears with us. It brings comfort rather than anguish. It lets us know you care and that we are just not another patient.

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  19. 2 weeks ago Sunday I lost my twin boy and girl at 23 weeks due to PPROM. Although my situation wasn’t exactly the same as described, so much of this resonated with me. I am so unbelievably grateful for the 3 nurses who cared for me and my husband during our time in the hospital, praying my labour would subside. During the worst moments of my life, those little moments of support, care and emotion, shown to myself, my husband, my Mom and my beautiful angels, will always live with me.
    Thank you for what you do.

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  20. Thank you for this post. On November 18, 2014 I went into labor knowing that, outside of a miracle, my daughter would not live long after birth. My entire birth team also knew this and they all did an excellent job. But my labor and delivery nurse is the one who still sticks out in my memory. She was an incredible support to me and walked alongside me every step of the way. I will never forget the tears in her eyes as she took our baby girl to bathe her … and when she came back later to give us our memory box, her eyes brimmed with tears as she told us she thought our daughter was beautiful. I have remarked many times to my husband that I do not envy her job but am so very grateful for the peace and comfort she gave me during a devastating day. Thank you for all that you do. Your job is so very important.

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  21. Thank you for sharing this story. My son was born still at 39 weeks. I didn’t know he passed when I went into labor that night. I had seen my dr just hours before and she said he was fine and scheduled a c-section for 3 days later. I do remember my nurse not finding his heart beat and waiting for a doctor to come and tell us. I didn’t cry silently, I screamed and tried to get out of the bed and go home. By far the worst night of my life. Thank you for sharing that the nurses feel our pain and remember our babies.

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  22. I want to give you all a great big HUG and tell you that I am in awe of the fact that you have been through so much and still show great LOVE for each other., Yes Midwife’s jobs come feel like Hell some times.Only God knows why He returns the little ones to Him so soon. May His Peace and LOVE be with you “TODAY”

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  23. A friend and his wife lost their full term baby yesterday. I am not sure what happened yet, as I don’t have the details, but whatever it was, it was sudden and unknown. She was full term, about 39-40 weeks and even just a couple days ago, everything was fine. All I know is that she had to deliver her 8lb 21in sleeping baby, and my heart hurts so bad for them.

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  24. So beautiful. You have no idea how comforting and how much it means that you are there for your patients like that. It’s been almost three years since I delivered my sleeping girl and every nurse I came into contact with was so amazing I don’t even have words to describe it. You felt our pain, you took care of us, you ushered my brother into an empty room when you came across him crying in the hallway. You told me my daughter was beautiful. Virtual strangers, yet you showed so much love.

    When we came back, almost a year to the day to deliver my daughter that I would get to bring home, you celebrated with us. You weren’t the nurses I had before, but now I know you were celebrating out daughter’s live birth after comforting someone else after their stillbirth. You held my hand and understood my tears that were tears of joy, sadness, and fear all in one.

    To this day I think of all my nurses that took care of me during both of my daughters’ births. Please know that your kindness stays with us long after your shift is over and we are discharged. Thank you for what you do.

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  25. Hello, this post really means a lot to me. When I was 18 my daughter was stillborn at 37 weeks. I remember every second of that day, calling the hospital because I was bleeding, realizing I was in labor on the way in, the triage nurse not finding the heartbeat, but mostly I remember my labor nurse who stayed with me the entire time. My mom was the only person I had with me but my nurse was my rock that whole day. It made me want to become a nurse and help people on the worst day of their lives. Now it’s 10 years later and I AM a nurse , I can appreciate that labor nurse even more. Thinking back on it I’m so sure she stayed well past when her shift was over. I came in there at 3am and delivered at 10:35 and she was there for every second. She reassured me I could get through labor even without the promise of a baby that gets most women through it. I’m pregnant again now, and I think about her even more. I will never in my life forget that woman, and I hope to help someone the way she helped me. Thank you for posting this.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I am a Labor and Delivery Nurse.This is so true The feeling is so real. it brought tears to my eyes just thinking of the many patients I have cared for with a stillborn.It hurts all of us.Thank you for shareing

    Liked by 1 person

Trackbacks

  1. A Nurse’s Worth | Adventures of a Labor Nurse
  2. A Nurse’s Wish | Adventures of a Labor Nurse
  3. A Nurse’s Wish in Labor and Delivery – by Shelly Lopez Gray (Registered nurse) | Kindness Blog
  4. Thanks, Miscarriage Memoirs! | The Pregnant Physicist

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