Two hundred-six babies were born at Texas County Memorial Hospital in 2016.
However, not every birth at TCMH has a happy ending. In 2016 TCMH had five second trimester losses that were delivered in the hospital’s obstetrics department. There are also around 50 miscarriages–pregnancies ending at 12 weeks or earlier–that come through the hospital emergency department.
“Even though there is a much different outcome in the case of a miscarriage of an early term pregnancy or in the case of a late term baby’s death before or shortly after birth, we want to acknowledge the importance of this baby for mom, dad, and the family,” Angel Watkins, TCMH obstetrics department director, said.
TCMH has always provided special care in cases of fetal demise in the obstetrics department, but with the help of a cash donation from the Houston Ministerial Alliance and donations from Isabella’s Embrace, Newborns in Need, Relief Share, and Afghans for Angels, TCMH has been able to offer additional resources and keepsakes following the experience.
Patients with a miscarriage of a pregnancy of less than 12 weeks are typically treated in the emergency department.
“Upon discharge from the ER, patients are given instructions to care for themselves, and now we have the opportunity to provide the patient with special acknowledgement of the loss of her child,” Watkins said.
Bereavement education packets purchased with a $500 donation from the Houston Ministerial Alliance are provided to ER patients along with a “certificate of life” that acknowledges the miscarriage. The packets are bound inside handmade cloth “envelopes” made and donated by Newborns in Need. Inside the envelope with the literature is a tiny handmade blanket made and donated by Afghans for Angels.
The bereavement education literature covers a range of issues related to loss of child in early or late pregnancy or shortly after birth. Some topics covered in the literature include different types of grief, explaining death to children, and saying goodbye. The information is primarily written by healthcare professionals but includes real life experiences from women and men that have suffered the loss of their child before or shortly after birth.
The same literature, certificate of life, and a basket of items are provided to the moms and families that have late term fetal demise in the hospital’s obstetrics department.
“The basket and its contents provide a way for the nurses to help the patient and the family through the loss of their baby as well as providing mementos that the family can use to remember,” Watkins said.
The basket includes information about services and costs of items through area funeral homes. A keepsake heart pendant can be divided to leave part of the heart with the baby’s body. A tiny corked bottle can hold a locket of hair. A small baby blanket can be used to wrap the baby for photos, and a tiny stuffed animal is in each basket to put with the baby for photos.
“Our staff are trained to take photos of the infants,” Watkins said, explaining that the photos will be printed for the parents. A frame also comes with each basket for framing a photo for the family.
The nursing staff also have a bead box and related supplies available to make a keepsake bracelet of the baby’s name, if the family had a name already chosen.
“Our goal with this fetal demise program is to offer a very personal response to a medical situation regardless of when it happens in a woman’s pregnancy,” Watkins said.
In addition to specialized training of the obstetrics department staff in handling fetal demise, the hospital also utilizes the in-house social worker, Angie Gimpel, and, when requested by the family, a member of the TCMH Volunteer Chaplain’s Association can be called in.
Nick Melton, president of the Houston Ministerial Alliance and pastor of Life Church in Houston, noted that “the loss of a baby at any age whether in the womb or outside the womb is a devastating loss”.
“As representatives of the churches in this area, we support and believe in what TCMH is doing to bring comfort to these families through this special showing of care,” Melton said.
For additional information contact the TCMH obstetrics department at (417) 967-1260.