When a fetal demise happens, it is a heartbreaking situation. For the mother and father. The family. Friends. Believe it or not, it is hard on the nurses as well. We truly care for our patients. We know how hard it is, we cry too. We want to do everything we can to make your time in the hospital a little easier.
As a patient, it can sometimes feel like the nurse is not aware that you are grieving. We come in smiling, making small talk, passing medications, doing assessments, all very task oriented. But did you see us during report? How we had to tell your story to the oncoming shift? It wasn’t easy. And as we knock on your door, we are taking a deep breath and preparing ourselves to go in and not upset you even further, or break down ourselves when we see you crying.
At the hospital where I work as a postpartum nurse, when a loss happens, the mother has the option of coming to our postpartum unit or being admitted to a medical floor instead. It can’t be easy losing a baby, and then hours later hearing a baby crying in the room next door. Recently there was a mother who suffered a loss, and did choose to be admitted to the postpartum unit. When the baby had been cleaned up for the mother to see, the baby had been wearing a blue hat. During the first few hours, the baby was moved several times, as the mother changed rooms. At some point, this hat was lost. It was the one thing this mother asked for. The little blue hat.
The hat was gone. Not only did the Labor & Delivery nurses search for it, but so did the Postpartum nurses. The hospital morgue was called, and they looked for it. The nurse helped the family search the room. The chaplain was called to ask if he remembers seeing it. I remember sitting at the desk hoping that when she was told that nobody could find the hat, that she knew people really had been searching. This little blue hat wasn’t just being blown off because we had other things to do. I kept looking at the computer screen to try to distract myself from getting choked up. A new hat was eventually brought to the mother, but she understandably wanted the original one.
This was not my first experience with a patient who had lost her baby, but the situation with the baby’s hat really got to me. This one simple item could have made her feel a little comforted, and we couldn’t find it for her. If we could have given her what she wanted, of course we would have. As patients, please know that nurses have feelings too, we are not ignoring your emotions. We may act calm and in control, but underneath that mask we are trying not to break down with you. And please know that we are looking for the tiny blue hat that you may need.