To The Parents Of A Stillborn Child – From Your Delivery Nurse

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To the parents of a stillborn child.

Hi, I am your nurse labor and delivery nurse. I helped you say hello and goodbye to your child, all at the same time. You probably don’t remember my name, you might not even remember my face, but I hope you remember the care I gave to you.

Before this, you thought of the labor and delivery ward as the happiest place on earth. I did too.

But in that moment, it was the saddest place we have ever been.

I remember your call, wondering if you needed to come in because you haven’t felt your baby move in a while.

You told yourself that you just haven’t been paying attention today. You told me how much water you drank and what activities you did today.

You could not let yourself think of what could happen, but my heart sank. I took notes on a napkin I had in my pocket with your information as I silently said a prayer for your child.

I told you to come in, just so everyone can have peace of mind. I told you to drink more water, and you told me that you’d be here in 30 minutes. We hung up the phone.

I remember calling the doctor to give her time to review your chart.

I remember telling my fellow nurses to keep an eye out for you when you showed up. We all came up with a plan to cover my other patients so you could feel more comfortable knowing I was your nurse to see you through this.

I prepared your room, rolling in the ultrasound machine that would show us a still heart. You cried, and you didn’t see me but I cried too.

I stepped out of the room, and hung a picture of a fallen leaf on your door. It was our way of communicating what was happening, and letting our staff know what kind of delivery room they were walking into. I texted my husband to tell him to light a candle, which let him know what kind of wife would be returning home to him. 

I helped you decide your birth plan, and I did absolutely everything I could to follow it exactly.

I made sure you had the same doctor, the same anesthesiologist, and the same nurse. You needed to feel comfortable.

I told the housekeeping staff to talk to me before entering your room. You needed your rest. I administered pain medication and antibiotics. Your body needed to heal. I ordered you food and made sure you ate.

You needed your energy. I held your hand so your husband could take a break. He needed a minute to take care of himself. 

I asked you what your child’s name is, and I encouraged you to hold him.

I sat and cried with you as we examined every feature on his body. He had his dad’s nose. I remember you helping me take his footprints. I didn’t stop until I got the perfect copy, because I wanted you to always have them.

You were scared when his nose started to bleed, but I calmed you down and explained how you could help him by adjusting his position. I helped his dad give him his first bath while you picked out his outfit. He was so handsome. I left the room to let you be a family alone for a moment, and I could hear you cry as I shut the door.

I called a local photographer, and asked them to donate their time and work for you to have pictures of your child.

You said you didn’t want to at first, and I had to remind you that you might want to remember what he looked like. The photographer came back a few weeks later to show me. We cried together, as we hoped our work helped you.

On my lunch break I filled out mountains of paperwork. I made sure everything was correct, because it would be easier for you.

I made a bracelet with his name on it out of cheap beads for your daughter. She was 3, and couldn’t understand what was happening.

I talked on the phone with our chaplain, who said he would clear his schedule to see you right away. Before the chalain walked in your room, he sat and prayed with me. He understood that I was grieving your child too. 

We sat and discussed what would happen next.

Just as you were starting to get to know your child, you had to say goodbye.

We discussed funeral homes. I called around and found a director who would do a small service and cremation free of charge. We discussed your discharge, and how your body was going to change.

You cried when I explained that your milk would still come in. We gave you information on people to talk to, and recommended books to read. I reminded you that the last thing your child heard was your heartbeat inside of you, and I think that gave you comfort in his death.

You left the hospital with empty hands. It was unfair.

I couldn’t begin to imagine what your journey would look like from here. So I prayed for your family. Before you left I gave you a box, with his outfit, hospital bracelet, and footprints in it. We cried one last time together going through that box, and I left you to lean on your husband as you walked out the door.

My 12 hour shift turned into 15 hours that day. I stayed late to make sure your son was taken care of after you left. You trusted me with that, and I want you to know I took it seriously.

I took an extra moment to say goodbye to him. I reminded him that his mom and dad loved him.

You see, no amount of training could have prepared me to take care of your family. I hope I did it justice. Thank you for allowing me to get to know your child. It is unfair that he was born sleeping.

Thank you for trusting me to take care of you. Love always, your labor and delivery nurse.

26 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Eternally grateful for the love and compassion a L&D nurse bestows upon a grieving women during her lowest of lows. You will never be forgotten.

  2. I wish I could remember my nurses names from that night, especially the one that gave me the idea of where to keep my son’s ashes. When my heart aches badly for him, I go to my china cabinet and take out the only teddy my youngest son can’t play with and I rock and cry out in agony for my baby boy…even 10 years later.

    • I still cry out in agony also. Such holes/wounds in the heart never closes or heal. I have 2 and the never ending torment of grief and pain is horrible. I love you.

  3. I remember my L&D nurse. It went much like this. She was both my caregiver and my warrior protector. She did not leave me until I left her at the end of our ordeal. I will never forget the care she gave me, even when I cared the very least I’ve ever cared for myself in my entire life.

  4. My son was born sleeping. I wish I had you as my nurse to help me through the most painful experience of my life. When the shock wore off I realized how many things I’d wished I had done with my son, and how much guidance I needed in a time where I was incapable of thinking of the memories of him that I would want to have in the future.

    All of us mothers who had babies born sleeping appreciate everything that you do.

    Veneita

  5. This is so beautiful. I had a stillborn daughter in 1975. I didn’t find out about her being stillborn until after delivery. At the time I was in shock and couldn’t bring myself to see her. That is the biggest regret of my life. They quietly brought her to funeral home and buried her. Nowadays they do things differently and more lovingly.

    • My experience was similar in 1972. I carried twins full term and when the first one was delivered she was whisked away as the doctor commented “ This one is not going to make it”. She was already gone! In the midst of that grief, I had another baby to deliver and she was perfect. There was no time to mourn the loss of one when I had a healthy one to take home. In the years that have followed I have felt I am the only one who mourned her death as I was the only one who had felt her move and had caught a glimpse of her in the overhead mirror as they took her away. I never saw her again, never got to hold her and never got a picture. Things are so different now and i am glad for the parents have other options if they choose.

  6. Dear Julianne, as a mother who lost three precious babies in the womb, thank you for your compassion. You make a world of difference to grieving parents by sharing your tender heart and going the extra mile.

    I run a non-profit that makes infant burial garments from donated wedding dresses. We have them to hold the containers of remains from the earliest miscarriages all the way to full term angel gowns. We would be honored to send some to your hospital so that the babies who have to leave us far too soon can be dresses in something lovely.

    • Susan Walker
      Where I you located? I have a gown I would love to donate. My great nephew was stillborn and I would love to donate.

  7. You guys are truly Angels, I watched my precious granddaughter come into this world sleeping,Watching my daughter birth her sleeping princess was a moment etched in my heart. I thank God you all

  8. I am the grandma of a sleeping sweetly baby girl named Isla Grace. She is my always tiny baby girl! See you in heaven my little one.
    My daughters nurses were very much a deep part of those few days in the hospital, but will forever be in our hearts!!!

  9. Thank you. There are tears sinking down my face right now as I think of my own L&D nurse. In a way this felt like you were talking to me. Thank you.

  10. This was beautiful. Thank you to you and other nurses who do this. You are doing the world a huge service by showing this level of care and concern for families who have babies born sleeping.
    God bless you!

  11. Nurses are a special blessing from our Loving God. Things do not always go as we wish in this world so God has special people who help to make things easier to bear and nurses are some of those people. Thank you, God, for nurses.

  12. This story is so very similar to my own experience!! ? I still recall my midwifes name and the doctor, they were amazing and so supportive with what i still believe to be the hardest time in my life. The support, love and care is amazing!! I am sure its one of the most rewarding and hardest jobs on earth!! #babybornsleeping #babyisabellejade

  13. Thank you to all L and D nurses for all that you do. My sister had a similar situation and she was devastated. Unfortunately I could not be there for her as we live in 2 different countries. Thank you all for taking care of my sister and others like my sister and my nephew. Ty

  14. 15 years later, I remember her name, her face and her kindness. As an ICU nurse myself I know the pain that comes with supporting families through grief but NOTHING compares to what the L&D nurses endure when Moms go home with empty hands, full breasts and hearts that will never repair fully. This year I created a scholarship in my daughter’s memory for the nurses in L&D to take compassion fatigue courses. They are heroes that need our love and respect as much as they showed our beautiful children.

  15. I’m crying as i’m reading this story and trying not to be angry as I was not given the opportunity to deliver my stillborn child 34 yrs. ago. My daughter who is a sweet, gentle L&D nurse told me they do things a lot different these days with compassion as in this story. I was almost 5 months pregnant with no prior complications and started to hemorrhage after a solar eclipse occurred (along with 4 other women in ER) and was told my baby had no heartbeat and had to do an abortion. I was young and didn’t ask if I could still deliver it as I was hoping for a son. So to this day I don’t know for sure….but I want to believe that was my son and would be my older daughter’s only full brother. Because I did not visually see my baby, I had to go on with life after the abortion as though I was never pregnant (and yes I did feel the baby kick and move)…..I feel cheated and realize I never had the change to fully grieve that loss! 🙁 I’m glad doctors, nurses & hospitals are more compassionate as it does make a difference in the grief recovery. Thank you for your compassion!

    • It was 47 years ago, in a military hospital not much bigger than a clinic, that I gave birth to my son at 26 weeks gestation. He was born alive or 3 hours later he died. I don’t remember any compassion whatsoever except from friends who lived nearby. I was told untruths about my son’s condition and I believe they thought it was in my best interest to force me to make certain decisions. I was not encouraged to see or hold my son either and when a friend expressed, with all good intentions, that when she lost her baby she had held him and it was much too painful and she didn’t recommend that I do the same. I believe the loss of my son was the beginning of the end of my new marriage and It took me eight years to finally grieve. I did so in the psychiatric wing of a hospital in a state far away from his birth and burial. I am so grateful that things have changed over the years. 11 years later, after having remarried, I went into labor at 30 weeks and feared the same outcome. God was with me and He answered my sincere prayers that my little girl survive. It was a tough go for the first five months of her life, two of which she spent in the NICU. That was the end of my childbearing career. Even though I wanted to have a house full of children I couldn’t bear the thought of having another premature baby. I am so grateful to the labor and delivery nurses today that do so much for the mothers that they serve. God bless you all.

  16. My son was born sleeping on December 6th, 2019. This brought tears to my eyes reading this. Thank you so much for your compassion. People like yourself make it easier on the grieving parents. I am so grateful my nurses were like you as it definitely made the hardest day of my life a little more functional.

  17. I was a labor and delivery nurse…and can relate to all of this and it brings tears and many memories…but the most were that of when i was working as a nurse aide during nursing school when we had a stillbirth at our hospital. The nurses brought the baby to me to prep for the funeral home…I bathed the baby…lotion and a little gown…wrapped her up in a baby blanket and took her to see the parents…and asked her if they would like to hold her …they were surprised they would be able to…I cannot remember if we took pictures but I’m sure i offered. We cried together…They were thankful for that experience. I myself had 2 miscarriages however very early in the pregnancy.

  18. Thank you, I was 16 when I lost my son. I was giving him up for adoption to a nice couple, it still hurts thinking about him. Thank you for writing this, thank you for help women like us who don’t know what to do or think but cry.

  19. I remember my nurses, Dr, etc. It was a traumatic, life changing experience. I am forever grateful for their compassion, grace and strength.

  20. I lost my daughter on Feb 6,2020 at 7:38am. I don’t know how I would have gotten through that first day with out my nurse. She took care of me so well when I couldn’t. She prayed with me when I couldn’t find the words through my anger. The jobs these women have must be so hard. Thank you to all the nurses that take the time to care for not only us sad and grieving moms but our angels as well. I will always be thankful for the footprints she got for me. The box she put together to have and remember my Audrey. This article is a sad read. Especially now. But I could see my nurse writing this. And I will never forget how she loved me that day. A stranger going through the worst moment of my life. Every day since has been agony but she helped so much get the the first and I will never forget you. Thank you.

  21. One of my sons was born sleeping August 7th 1996 and another on July 27th 2003. Unfortunately, I have had 3 other miscarriages as well. So much pain. Ironically, my name is Julianne and the name of my nurse during my second major loss was named Julianne as well. She was an Angel on earth! She made one of the worst days of my life, less horrific and I thank her for that. Thank you to all those angels who walk among us to make all those unbearable moments a little easier to manage.

  22. Thank you to the nurses at St Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City who did all of these things for my sister and her daughter who was born sleeping, and also took care of me quietly, without my sister knowing, when the day’s stress caused my own signs of early labor, as I was also pregnant and a few months behind my sister. You were all angels.

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