I have been a perinatal nurse for over two years now. Most people tend to assume that everything that surrounds perinatal nursing is rewarding and miraculous. For the majority of the times, they are, but then there are those moments like the agony of pregnancy, the despair of childlessness or even the grief of death.
Having been assigned to triage, one fine day; it seemed just more busy than usual. I was checking patient after patient. However, by lunchtime, I had managed to clear all the beds and decided to grab a quick lunch. As I was about to leave, a patient walked through the doors followed by her family members.
As I followed this tiny patient onto the triage bed, I couldn’t even tell that she was pregnant. With a tensed voice she informed me that her due date was tomorrow but she hadn’t felt her baby move since the night before. Putting the baby monitor on her tiny pregnant tummy, I heard nothing. Instantly, I knew that the baby was no more alive inside her. But, I didn’t want to give up. I moved the monitor around the little belly over and over again, just hoping that I would get some indication of a baby’s heartbeat.
The mother knew. She held her husband’s hands and started sobbing softly. In between sobs, she wanted to see her mother who was waiting outside the triage room for her. Just as I approached her, she looked up at me and said, “The baby’s gone, right?”. As a nurse, I really couldn’t say anything to her. Instead, I held her closely and led her to the triage room and told them that the doctor would be on his way shortly.
My heart pained for the parents who’d lost their first child, a grandmother who’s lost her first grand-child. The doctor arrived and pulled out the ultrasound machine to the patient’s bedside in order to visualize the still and silent heart of her baby. This time, the finality of the situation sunk in as everyone could see on the monitor that the baby’s heart was no longer beating. Everyone cried once again. And the only thing that I was grateful for was at that moment the mother had the support of her loved ones around her and that the remaining triage beds in the room were empty. It was never good to hear the cries of a mother who’d lost her baby.
It’s not an easy job for a nurse to help a patient with a full-term intrauterine fetal demise through labor. Most of us working in this area have been through this at some point in time. Whilst we know the extent of pain that the patient and her family goes through, we as nurses are equally physically and emotionally shattered. You cannot offer any comforting words to ease her pain or be able to provide any closure for her. All that is left is the emptiness after experiencing every pain and emotion that comes with laboring towards bringing her baby into this world.
We walk a fine line as nurses. We keep praying that she does not have to go home from the hospital with a lower-uterine transverse scar as a daily permanent reminder of what she went through during labor.
To the patient, we are just momentary guides through one of the most painful times in their lives. They would not remember everything we said or everything we did. They would never know that we cried for them, alone in an empty room where we would not be seen. And while we see this many times in our way of work, I can truthfully say that I remember every single one of them.
And this is just to let all those mothers who did not get to bring their babies home that your nurse remembers you and will always appreciate that a part of you was left behind in that labor room.