Stillbirthday aims to provide compassion and support to all providers who are impacted by patient or client loss, including:
- hospice workers
- leaders of pregnancy loss organizations
- mentors or counselors or chaplains
- ultrasound technicians
- paramedic professionals
- if you are a birth educator (author, teacher, social media user, or in any other capacity), stillbirthday interviewed several professionals to bring you helpful information for broaching the subject of pregnancy loss
In Provider Care, the provider comes first – and that’s you!
We do this in three parts: get support, be support, and share.
1. Get Support.
The first way to strive to provide care to the care provider is with our list of articles that pertain to things such as compassion fatigue or other information regarding how to care for yourself as the provider:
- Nurse.com : Good Grief (external link)
- Workingnurse.com : How to Grieve Well (external link)
- Midwives can join the ACNM eMidwife Discussion Groups
- Self-Compassion article
- Obstetricians experience guilt and stress
- Give yourself time to grieve. Whether your professional experience is one loss in your entire career, or, one loss a week, you need time to process what happened. Even if the death of a baby is a common occurance in your work, the death of a baby is not normal. Process the events so that you don’t reflect feelings of fear of death toward patients or clients who will not experience loss.
- As the provider or professional involved, you may face feelings of guilt, whether or not you provided your care to the best of your skill level and ability or not. Please, be gentle on yourself. Blame can be a natural reaction from the family. Their feelings are part of their process and they will need to work through them. You also need to work through your own feelings, of guilt, or blame. Remember that feelings of guilt or blame are secondary to the reality that a baby died. A baby died, and grief is involved – the family’s, and yours. Reading our interview with a midwife on this subject might be helpful for you.
- You will likely still reflect and assimilate the situation, whether there are feelings of guilt or not. Be sure to do this in a healthy, positive way, looking to affirm honestly the ways in which you are a good provider – and, a growing provider.
- Seek additional support for yourself, through our many resources here at stillbirthday, including our long term support, which is listed according to location as well as crisis hotlines, websites and books. Remember that you can best care for the family when you are cared for yourself.
2. Be Support.
You of course also need to provide support for the mother and the family. Do not abandon them. Visit our birth plan section for ways to support the family immediately from the time of birth, helping the mother navigate her many postpartum experiences and choices, and visit our Family/Friends section for many ways that you can provide support. Telling the mother “I’m sorry for your loss” is not a legally binding statement and does not suggest liability. Do not be afraid to say “I’m sorry for your loss.”
Other things you can do to provide support for the family, when you are the provider or involved in a professional capacity:
- hug the mother, and cry with her. Let the family mourn. Mourning is the outward demonstration of the internalized feeling of grief.
- if giving the mother time to process her experience and her choices is at all a possibility, please do so. If you are sharing the news of an impending pregnancy loss or a difficult diagnosis, don’t pressure the mother while you explain what her options may be.
- help coordinate in the immediate events – for example, if this was a homebirth, please visit our home stillbirth page
- help coordinate the longterm events – for example, if the baby has a fatal diagnosis
- ask to attend the funeral or other Farewell Celebration
- help the mother prepare for what to expect during the birth. Stillbirthday has many resources to help with this, particularly in our birth plan section, which links to things like giving the baby a bath and what to expect from the appearance of the baby’s skin.
- help the mother and family with special momentos and keepsakes. If the mother refuses to see her baby or take photos, ask if you can take photos in a nearby room, and include any willing family members. Offer other momentos such as a lock of the baby’s hair. If the family does not want these keepsakes, ask if you can store them for the family as they may wish for them at a later time.
- Don’t tell the mother, “You should have…. (called me sooner)”
- Don’t tell the mother, “Your baby…(did this to himself)”
- Don’t tell the mother, “I’m sorry you think I did something to cause this.” This is minimizing, and focuses on what you may believe to be projection, rather than the reality that her baby has died. Say instead, “I’m sorry that your baby has died. I am here, and I will help you navigate testing and find out what happened.”
- If you are or believe you may be at fault somehow, don’t dwell on that. Assure the mother that medical testing will answer those questions. Again, “I don’t know why this happened, but I am here with/for you.”
- help the mother seek medical answers for her loss if she wishes, including additional testing and perinatologist or other professional referrals
- continue with postpartum care, including physical and emotional care. Our birth plans section provides information on things like breastmilk decisions, Cesarean birth recovery, as well as how to navigate the sometimes conflicting aspects of the Farewell Celebrations and the physical postpartum healing of the mother (for example, how to plan a funeral in the event of a Cesarean birth, so that the mother can attend).
Every level professional can benefit greatly from taking stillbirthday’s bereavement doula program, or for a more immediate reference of additional basic tips on bereavement doula support, you can purchase our Pregnancy Loss Doula Handbook for only $5. Visit The Invaluable Bereavement Doula for more information on these resources.
You also have the opportunity to submit stories and share your experiences with others. You can read these stories here, at the “Providers” category of stories. This can be a very healing way to let mothers know that providers also grieve the losses of those they support, and can give other professionals important insight into helpful ways to support during loss, and helpful ways to process and heal through the experiences. You can also share of your support with “rainbow/subsequent” pregnancies.
A few very important things to know when you submit a story:
- HIPAA is a priority. See Permitted Uses numbers 3 and 4, along with “De-Identified Health Information”. You should consider having the written consent of the mother prior to sharing your story, although it is not a requirement. These stories can be seen by mothers.
- When you submit a story, your name is omitted. It will read that it was contributed anonymously.
- Any and all names of people involved are omitted and/or altered.
- Any reference to time that can be an identifying factor (“Three months ago…”) will be omitted.
- Any reference to medical or other public facilities, or other identifying factors will be omitted.
- Additional information may be also be altered or omitted.
- If a mother believes she has identified herself in any story, and objects to its publication, it will be removed immediately.
- You can view our additional submission information.