To The Nurses Whose Compassion Helped Me Heal After My Baby Was Stillborn

For all the nurses that heal with compassion after miscarriage and stillbirth

To the nurses,

Thank you for saving me. Your skills and your knowledge saved me from following my daughter into death, but it was your compassion that guided me back towards life. The humanity you demonstrated is what brought me back into life; you made it possible to think about living after death.

For this, I owe you my love and deepest gratitude.

Thank you to the nurses who always made sure my husband had enough pillows when he had to stay in my hospital room. And thank you to the nurses who let him sneak popsicles from the freezer. You recognized that this was an experience for him and that he also needed your care.

Thank you to the nurse who came with me when they rushed me to the ICU from Labor & Delivery. Thank you for being my advocate when I couldn’t speak up because I was too busy fighting for my life. I’m not sure I would have lived to see my daughter if you hadn’t been there.

Thank you to the nurse who taught me how to fill my bra with ice packs when I needed to suppress my milk after my daughter was stillborn. I also want to thank you for holding me as I wept at the burden I could not release. Your embrace did nothing to lighten the heaviness in my breasts, but you brought a glimmer of light into my very dark world.

Thank you to the nurse in the ICU who came in to clean me up after my daughter died.

Thank you for taking the time to help me wash my face and brush my hair. I can still sense how it felt to have you smooth my hair back into a ponytail, it was a touch that wasn’t a poke or a prod. It was a gesture.

Thank you to the nurse who crouched by my bedside and asked me about Dorothy. Thank you for knowing how important it was for her to be real even though she was gone.  I will never forget the way you leaned in, just like we were friends, and asked: “Do you want to tell me about her?”

Thank you to the nurse who dressed my baby and took her picture.

Thank you for making sure her hat didn’t cover her eyes and that her hands were positioned so gracefully. That picture means the world to us.

Thank you to the nurses who took the time to read my chart before shift change. I want to thank you for learning our names and learning the name of our daughter before you walked into my room. It meant so much to hear our names spoken together. It made us feel like a family.

Thank you to the nurse who slipped quietly into my room on my first night without Dorothy so that you could hold my hand.

Thank you for whispering to me your story about your own child who was born still. Thank you for being the first person to lead me out of the isolation one feels after losing a child. Your presence felt too good to be true. I’m still not convinced I didn’t dream you up just so I could make it through that first lonely night.

Finally, I want to thank the nurses who saw me through my pregnancy with Dorothy’s little sister.

Even after Frances came into the world, you never forgot that someone came before her. You knew that the birth of Frances did not make me a first-time mother. It made me a mother of two.

The One You Brought Back

Originally shared on Still Standing Magazine

Photo by Mike Whalen

8 thoughts on “To The Nurses Whose Compassion Helped Me Heal After My Baby Was Stillborn

  1. My husband and I lost a child to miscarriage. We were devastated. The one thing I will never forget was that I was still on the Maternity Ward and I could hear babies crying as they were being brought to their moms to be fed knowing that I would never hear that from my child. I think that I should have been moved to the OBGYN wing so that I didn’t have to endure more pain from my loss.

  2. Rachel, Thank you for writing this. I lost my firstborn daughter, Faye, at 38 weeks on September 1, 2013. The doctors say it was “atypical” preeclampsia–which I have always interpreted as medical speak for “we have no clue.” I had a completely normal pregnancy until a bad headache and slightly elevated blood pressure one day, and by the next day, Faye had no heartbeat. Like you, I nearly died giving birth to her. I lost so much blood they gave me two transfusions. I was in the hospital for at least three days, maybe four, before my blood count was stable enough to go home. Throughout the ordeal, one of the things that I remember most vividly is how incredibly supportive and understanding the nursing staff was. One of them, Nurse Laura, had been the instructor at my birthing classes, and she stayed on an extra shift to help me through labor when she heard what had happened. The nurses followed our lead and took charge when they needed to. They laughed with us when we were trying to joke away the pain. They didn’t ask about my baby because I believe they sensed I couldn’t talk about it. They advocated for me while I was bleeding out (and the very inexperienced doctor seemed not to know what to do). They tried to comfort my husband when he was surrounded by a pool of my blood on the floor. When I stabilized, they made sure I got a recovery room way down the hall from any new mothers, so I wouldn’t have to hear new babies or sounds of joy. They encouraged me to see my daughter, even though I was scared, and they bathed and dressed her, and posed her beautifully for the introduction. They gave her a tiny stuffed bunny to hold–which somehow gave me comfort that she wouldn’t be alone when it was time to say goodbye–and they collected a memory box for us with an informal birth certificate and a lock of her hair. They helped us arrange for a non-profit photography service called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep to come take pictures of her, so we would always have the ability to see what she looked like. They thought of all the things that I never would have in the state that I was in, and I could never thank them enough. I now have two beautiful daughters and am pregnant with my first son. Those nurses were my first shepherds through the lonely world of baby loss, and I’m not sure if I would have had the courage to try again if it had not been for their empathy and thoughtfulness. I’m so glad you’ve shared this, and I hope all of the wonderful L&D nurses out there read it and know how deeply they are appreciated.

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