Guest Post by Kim Akel
How did a medical professional help you? How can we help the medical professionals help other women as they face the loss of a child?
In the 7 months since losing our Gene Michael at 19 weeks pregnant, I periodically take a mental pilgrimage to the place where we first heard the saddest news of our lives. The entire pregnancy felt like we were on a swing set, swinging back and forth, back and forth, just hoping for the best. And then suddenly out of the blue, we were laying flat on our backs, out of breath, pointing to our hearts in confusion and shock as we desperately tried to catch the breath that we had had just moments before.
In our losses, each one of us had to interact with people whose job it is to see that we are medically cared for, such as a doctor, nurse, ultrasound technician, case manager, insurance specialist, etc. And each one of these folks has a purpose to fulfill in their specialty; however, most are not equipped to respond to the whirlwind of emotions expectant parents express after being told, “I’m sorry, your child is gone.”
While on my pilgrimage, I think about ways it could have been easier, or where I could have been more supported by the medical team around me. My desire in writing this is to offer some insight for the medical community, with the very high hopes that it will help others facing loss during pregnancy, at birth or in infancy.
A medical professional can support us by:
- Offering a hug, a squeeze of the hand or a warm touch on the back. These warm gestures are appropriate in this situation, and it is okay to say, “I’m sorry this has happened; I am here for you.”
- Do share with us on our level of understanding, and not in medical jargon. Most of us are in a state of shock, so using 2-3 statements to describe our situation and repeating these statements in patience can be helpful and less overwhelming.
- Ask questions and listen to us. You don’t have to respond to every single fear or emotion; simply listening to our questions and acknowledging our feelings is a gift you can give us.
- Offer support resources from the community. Saying, “Call me if you need anything” is not helpful because we actually don’t know what we need. Give us resources before we leave the hospital so we can have them when realize we need them.
Once a loss has been acknowledged, I believe we enter into a sacred space. And the medical professionals have an opportunity to really offer support to us in that moment. What are some things that your medical team did that made you feel special? What are some words that might have brought you comfort in those seconds, minutes, hours and days after hearing the tragic news?