Many people and businesses pull together to care for families after pregnancy or infant loss
By Monica Money, R.N. Oct 17, 2016
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. At Wyoming Medical Center, we are only too aware of the pain that is involved with this as, statistically, 1 in 4 women experience pregnancy or infant loss.
The pain cannot be expressed in words. Through our bereavement program focusing on these families, our hope is that we can make the suffering more bearable and help our mothers and families through the grieving process.
We continually improve our process to help grieving families by talking to patients who have had pregnancy and infant losses, talking to staff who have also experienced this kind of loss, and holding staff training and discussions. Amazingly, most of what we offer is actually through volunteers who have had their own lives changed by this or are simply deeply passionate and empathetic towards these families.
Through the work of The Rev. Leigh Earle – a volunteer chaplain in our bereavement program – we are able to keep in contact with mothers who have been hospitalized at Wyoming Medical Center during their loss. Earle has worked hard to help these mothers through their grief and, thanks to her efforts, a support group in Casper has been developed.
Photography is another element that is vastly important. Many times, intimate portraits after the infant loss will be the only photographs that a family will ever have of the baby that only they knew. At Wyoming Medical Center, we are so blessed to have Amy Christie, a Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep volunteer photographer, who has devoted hours of work into helping us to give this gift to our families. Amy recently organized the first annual Tears Foundation Walk for Babies and was able to raise over $4,600 for the cause of helping families through the cost of bereavement services. This money was largely donated by community businesses who share in her compassion and empathy for those experiencing infant loss. Thank you to our local Casper and Wyoming business owners.
Our funeral homes in the community, both Newcomers and Bustard's, are also extremely gracious. They offer free funeral services – including casket costs – to families who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss. This is a large expense that our funeral homes completely cover for these families.
In addition to empathetic care for the family, Wyoming Medical Center staff provides keepsakes for families. These include plaster molds of the baby’s hands and feet, ink foot and hand prints, a lock of baby’s hair and other mementos. We also provide special infant clothing that has also been donated to our facility by organizations such as Teeny Tears and single donors. We also provide beautiful final burial clothing for babies made from donated wedding dresses by a local member of the Angel Gowns organization.
Many of the people who donate their time, talents and treasures to our facility have experienced a life-altering loss of their own. They find solace in helping mothers and families who went through the same thing they have gone through themselves. In addition to this kind of work, some women also find that donating their breast milk is therapeutic. The Mothers’ Milk Bank in Denver has a special program for this if a mother feels that this will help her in her grieving process.
Wyoming Medical Center along with two staff members in particular – Abby Redden, R.N., and Kristi Watson, C.N.A. – were recognized at Casper’s first annual Walk for Babies on Oct. 8 for the special work we do with our families who have experienced infant and pregnancy loss. We are so very humbled by this recognition. However, without the community resources that I have mentioned in this article, we could not be nearly as effective. We are so very appreciative of all the help we receive from the Casper community and cannot stress enough that our efforts would be fruitless without your support.
In this month of October, we all need to be aware of this truly painful reality that many families all around us face. Many times, they are alone and unrecognized by those around them. When a family loses a member who was unknown to anyone else, we must all remember that this family has already developed a relationship with this child, had dreams of who they thought they would become, and felt the presence of a life that is now gone. At Wyoming Medical Center we are honored to be able to care for our mothers and families who have experienced infant and pregnancy loss.
MONICA MONEY, R.N.
Monica Money is a registered nurse and clinical education coordinator for the nursery at the Ruth R. Ellbogen Family, Mother and Baby Center at Wyoming Medical Center. She has been at the hospital for three years and has been an OB/Nursery RN for the past 11 years. She has a bachelor of nursing degree from the University of Wyoming and is a Certified Lactation Counselor. She also directs the Neonatal Resuscitation Program Education for Wyoming Medical Center. Email her a firstname.lastname@example.org.