The moment a child is born is usually one of the happiest moments in a parent’s life. That’s one reason many choose to work in labor and delivery – to be a part of that special time of celebration. Unfortunately, there are times when what should have been the best day, turns into a nightmare. When a baby is stillborn. According to the Centers for Disease Control, stillbirth affects about 1 in 160 births, and each year about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States.It’s not something anyone likes to think about, but it is a sad reality for some, and an occurrence that labor and delivery nurses have to learn to cope with from time to time.
Many large hospitals have a designated staff person, known as a bereavement coordinator, there to assist parents, family members, nurses and hospital staff when these tragedies do occur. Smaller facilities often times do not have a bereavement coordinator, leaving nurses and other caregivers to navigate these situations, doing their best to comfort families and one another while adhering to protocols and guidelines.
At INTEGRIS Bass Baptist Health Center, registered nurse Talya Gross has taken on this difficult role. Gross has spent her entire nursing career- 15 years – in labor and delivery at INTEGRIS Bass. “Before I started nursing school, I knew I wanted to work in labor and delivery,” Gross says. “I loved the experiences I had giving birth, and I wanted to help make the experience as positive as possible for others.”Gross, however, goes above and beyond when it comes to dealing with stillbirths. “Experiencing a stillbirth from a nurse’s perspective is very stressful. We are heartbroken, but at the same time we still have to make sure we are following state and hospital policies and checking all the necessary boxes.”Denese Campbell, nurse manager for women and children, house supervisors and float pool, has worked with Gross over the last three years. “In a stillbirth situation, Talya works diligently to organize available resources for parents, to ensure that every stillborn baby is bathed and clothed, with its own swaddle blanket, and to make sure each one is treated with love and dignity.”Campbell continues, “Families spend months preparing for their newborn. It’s difficult to imagine leaving the hospital without your newborn in your arms.”Recently, Gross began providing moms and dads with a bag with their child’s name embroidered on it and weighted with sand to the exact weight of their baby at delivery as a way to help families honor and remember their baby. These bags are also designed to help bring comfort and healing.Gross’s compassion goes beyond helping families when a stillbirth occurs. “Even if Talya is not working when a fetal stillbirth occurs, she still makes herself available to the caregivers on the unit to help them navigate through the stressful time and to ensure that the nurses and the family have the resources needed to begin the healing process,” Campbell says. Ultimately, Gross wants to do everything she can to help bring comfort and support to parents and families who experience stillbirth. “I want to make sure that we do everything we can to preserve their child’s memory.”