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Carrying a heartache: Pain of losing a baby becomes more difficult in hospital

8 On Your Side

If you or someone you know has ever lost a baby through miscarriage or stillbirth, you know how difficult a journey it can be. 

Many parents are hesitant to talk about the loss, and that can only make matters worse.

Why don’t we talk about it? Look at anyone’s social media page and you see personal details about their lives. 

Many parents carry that emotional baggage around with them. It’s a torment that can be magnified in the hospital or doctor’s office the minute they receive the bad news.

News Channel 8 found hospitals need to do more to help these parents.

And parents will find if they open up, that helps in healing. 

Kathy Yates of Tampa was the mother of two girls when she found out she was pregnant with two boys in 2015.

It was going to be the perfect family, or so she thought.

“It was kind of a shock, to find out you’re pregnant with twins. You get excited,” she said.

Identical twins, but they were sharing the placenta unequally. At 21 weeks, Kathy needed risky surgery in Miami.

“Within 24 hours, we learned that Asher, twin B had passed. From there, you know it was kind of was a rocky road,” Kathy said.

A road far too commonly traveled by parents-to-be. According to the Mayo Clinic, one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage.

“It was a healthy pregnancy, routine checkups, everything was going great,” Ashley Gaghan said.

For Ashley and her husband, Kevin, they were expecting a baby girl, their first. But one day, Ashley noticed the baby wasn’t moving as much.

“I went to bed that night and told my husband, something is definitely wrong,” she said. “We made an appointment with the doctor the next morning and he told us she was gone.”

Ashley was told to go home, get a hospital bag and return for emergency delivery. 

“I think a lot of people don’t understand when you lose a baby at 14 weeks, 28 weeks, 30 weeks, that you still have to go in and deliver that baby,” she said.

And it was that moment and the following days where the grief and pain set in.

“Absolute devastation, that’s the moment of flooding of overwhelm and numbness and almost detachment at times,” Dr. Alison Saff Sager said.

Dr. Sager is a clinical psychologist who specializes in perinatal loss. She says mental anguish can begin the minute you get the bad news.

Both women recall their experience at St. Joseph’s Hosptial in Tampa.

When you walk out you see all the balloons, and you see people coming in with the food and flowers — that’s hard for women who lost a baby. 

“The toughest part of my whole experience was leaving the hospital, being taken to the same exit as everyone who has a baby leaves,” Ashley said.

“Having to witness that at a time when you really need to have uninterrupted focus in order to get in and get out, it’s such a difficult retraumitization,” Dr. Sager said.

In fact, nearly a dozen moms who lost children recall negative experiences at hospitals in the bay area and beyond. Basic things from using a different exit, to being in a different room to much bigger things like acknowledging the loss.

“They never mentioned him, they never came in to talk to me about him, nothing,” Kathy said.

And to make matters worse, “Come to find out one month after leaving the hospital, I get a call from the hospital saying that we never claimed him, so that to me was like losing him all over again.”

“Within the hospital they are probably trying to do the best that they can in offering support but I think it’s really important for those moms and families to educate themselves as much as they can and ask for additional support,” Dr. Sager said.

But the moms agree – the healing and support should begin in the hospital. 

“They need to fold women in, and let them know that yes, this sucks,” Kathy said.

We reached out to St. Joseph’s Hospital for comment and they replied with the following statement.

St. Joseph’s Hospital Statement

The death of a baby can be the most difficult experience that a family ever faces. Understanding this tragic loss, our team strives to provide the compassionate support our patients deserve. In addition, we continually ask families how to better meet their needs both at the hospital and beyond. Their feedback leads to additional opportunities for us to provide the best possible care for all we serve.

When a patient experiences the loss of a baby, we offer:

  • Empathetic team members who understand the emotional upheaval and grief during what is expected to be a joyful time. We respect each family’s unique needs.
  • Placement of a purple blanket on the patient’s lap if they are being transferred within the hospital. This indicates the loss to hospital team members.
  • Patient admission to the gynecology unit, which is an area of our Women’s Services floor. This reduces exposure to newborns and their families.
  • Placement of a discreet leaf symbol on the patient door as a sign to alert staff that the patient is grieving their lost baby.
  • Consultation with our social services coordinators, who provide patients with resources focusing on pregnancy loss/prenatal grief and follow-up calls to home.
  • Creation of a memory box for the family, which includes tasteful photos taken by our hospital photographer, a lock of hair, handprints, footprints and other mementos.
  • An alternate exit to reduce exposure to newborns and their families when the patient is discharged.
  • “A Walk to Remember,” an annual event that gives local families the opportunity to connect and share memories/thoughts of their child. This fall will be the third year that we have hosted the event at Al Lopez Park.

Josh Benson and his wife Tara opened up on Facebook Live about their own loss. Watch here:

Resources and Help

If you, or someone you know has dealt with the loss of a child, here is a list of bereavement resources and support groups in Tampa that can help.

Lifepath Hospice – (813) 877-2200

http://lifepath-hospice.org

AMEND (Aiding a Mother Experiencing Neonatel Death) – (813) 631-9519

http://amend-fla.org

Suncoast Kid’s Place – (813) 631-9519

http://suncoastkidsplace.org

The Life Center – (813) 237-3114

http://www.lifecenteroftampa.org

Bereaved Parents of the U.S.A – (813) 907-1441

http://bpusatampabay.org

The Compassionate Friends, Inc.

St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital – Pastoral Care Office – (813) 872-3950

SJH Pastoral Care Office – (813) 870-4258

http://sjbhealth.org

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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