Losing a baby is a devastating loss for expectant parents.
Patients grieving a baby often need access to more than just medical care, so the Women and Infants Program at Mount Sinai Hospital also supports families by offering services such as grief counselling and community resources. “Pregnancy and infant loss is something that can be painful to talk about but as a social worker, my goal is to make sure parents know they have emotional support during the healing process, and have access to appropriate bereavement services,” says Marjorie Bothwell, a Social Worker in the Women’s and Infants’ Program. Parents and families are encouraged to spend time with their babies and to create special memories. Nursing staff assist families to create a memory package containing photos, hand and foot prints and other keepsakes to celebrate the baby’s life.
For Kendra and Kristy Fisher, the pain of the unexpected loss of their son, River, was at least somewhat eased thanks to these supports at Mount Sinai Hospital. “The nurses, anesthesiologists and doctors at Mount Sinai made our few days with our baby as beautiful and bearable as it could have been,” explains Kendra. “We were truly blessed to have nurses who became part of our experience and our doctors carried us through the moments we couldn’t comprehend overcoming.”
One of the most precious mementos the family has of their time with baby River is a handful of photos taken by their nurse. When choosing which of the pictures to print and take with them, Kristy and Kendra had a revelation: “we realized as we were going through the photos that there was something we could pass on for future families in hopes of offering them a tiny piece of light through the darkest moments.” The family donated 50 memory cards to Mount Sinai’s Labour and Delivery unit so future families in their position won’t have to try to choose prints of their babies. Kendra adds, “this means that they can take a card with them, so they can feel like they captured every possible second in the little time they had together.”
Another prized keepsake was a stuffed animal given to Kendra and Kristy’s son Finley, to help support him through the loss of his brother. “One of the first moments when we arrived to the hospital, our nurse walked in with a stuffed animal. She explained that past families who had also lost their babies, had donated these for future families who would endure this same tragedy. It was explained to us that this was to be a gift from River to Finley, so he could always hold his baby brother close.”
As with the memory cards, the Fisher family wanted to be able to give back in the same ways previous families had given to them, and donated stuffed animals for future families going through the same trying time.
“Sharing the memory cards and stuffed animals is one way we can remember River and show our love and gratitude to the staff at Mount Sinai, and to give something tangible that will continue to carry other families through this unimaginable journey.”
Perinatal loss, referring to babies who are born without signs of life after 20 weeks of pregnancy, occurs in about 7 out of 1000 live births in Canada. Monday, October 15, is recognized as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day across the globe. It is a day to heighten public awareness of the prevalence of perinatal loss and its associated grief. In recognition of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, everyone around the world is invited to light a candle at 7 p.m. in all time zones on October 15.
On October 25, Mount Sinai will hold its annual Perinatal Memorial Service for families who have lost infants. Families and Sinai Health System staff are welcome to attend. Pre-register by calling the Department of Social Work at ext. 5201.