I wanted to write about something that happened at work recently. I’m going to go right ahead and put a trigger warning here as this post will be discussing issues surrounding baby loss, stillbirth and neonatal death. Please make sure you’re in a good place before reading on.
I work as a receptionist on a maternity ward. We often have families come in whose babies have sadly passed away in utero. A lot of the time these patients don’t know what to say when they come to reception, leading to receptionists like me ending up with our foot in our mouth because we just didn’t know and we end up asking too many questions. It’s happened to me a couple of times before and I’ve felt awful for the rest of the day. I’ve heard receptionists mistakenly ask couples if they are excited or wish them luck. These situations make my heart hurt.
About three months ago I spoke to my manager about it and said we should have a notification system so that these families didn’t have to explain all over again why they were at reception. I heard nothing back from her. Last week I escalated this to her manager and also to the bereavement team by email. Discussions went on and my manager’s manager recommended that I be involved going forward.
Today, I got confirmation that families who are coming in to deliver a baby that has passed or is expected to pass soon after birth will be having a card tagged onto their patient notes (which the lady carries) stating that they are coming in for induction and carrying the SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity) logo. That way nobody asks awkward questions and what is an awful day anyway is not made worse for these families. I know I can’t make it better, but I hope this will make it a little easier. This was formulated in conjunction with the bereavement midwife, but was set into motion by my original email.
I like to think I’ve made a small difference on what must be a dreadful day for these families. I don’t know much about stillbirth or neonatal death. I’ve never been there. I don’t know what these families are going through – I haven’t a clue. I’m not clinical, so I don’t understand from a clinical point of view either. But what I do know is that the process should be as easy as possible and fighting to make it that way is important. That’s what I know from a human point of view.
So, there we go. A little something I achieved to make life just a tiny bit easier for bereaved families… Some things definitely are worth fighting for.