It had been another busy month at work when I stopped to think what I might write about this month for my MIDIRS midwife blog.
The experience that stuck in my head the most was my limited but precious involvement in the care of a couple who had sadly lost their baby at 23 weeks’ gestation.
I wasn’t even the midwife caring for this couple, but had offered support to the midwife who was. I’m quite sure the family didn’t even realise I was involved, or were aware of the impact that their tiny baby had on me and many other members of staff that day.
When their midwife came to tell us that the baby had been stillborn, she had tears in her eyes. We might be professionals, but we still feel grief with each tragic loss.
I hope they know how much we all cared and were touched and saddened by their loss. The grief of losing a baby never fails to reach far and wide to everyone involved no matter how small the part they play.
The family had chosen to have time alone with their baby to say their goodbyes. They were aware they could take as long as they wanted, but everything was in place when they felt they were ready to go.
My heart broke seeing the family leave empty handed, and my immediate urge was to make sure their baby was not alone after they had gone.
I marveled at his tiny ears, nose and nails, and spoke to him using the name he would never hear. I was very gentle as I weighed him and took his hand and foot prints, making sure they were the best I could get. This would be a precious memory that his parents would keep forever.
Born sleeping, I put him to ‘bed’ with a teddy, and left him looking comfortable and peaceful.
I’m sure families are concerned about what happens to their babies after they have said goodbye, but this little baby was shown love, respect and care and touched more hearts than I think the family realised.
Coping with loss
People often tell me what an amazing job I have and how lovely it must be.
That’s mostly true, but they don’t often acknowledge the painful side of my job. The ones who do ask how I cope with loss.
Well, it never gets any easier. Each loss is very painful for everyone involved, but I personally feel privileged to support these families through probably the most devastating time in their lives.
I can’t change the situation, but I can offer support, empathy and gentleness to help them through this terrible time, and I treat their babies as I would my own.
The recent Baby Loss Awareness Week encouraged people to talk more openly about the subject and commemorate all those tiny lives lost. Hopefully family and friends who have suffered a bereavement can find comfort that they are not alone.
This topic can be difficult to discuss for most people, but as midwives we are sadly under no illusion of how often this can happen, at any stage of pregnancy, and continue to offer the best support we can for the poor parents affected.