11: Advice from Hilary Erickson of Pulling Curls and L&D Nurse

We are chatting with Hilary Erickson, Labor & Delivery nurse and founder of the popular parenting and pregnancy website and podcast, Pulling Curls. She covers how she prepares for a stillbirth or infant loss, how she helps the family during this difficult time, and what she advises and encourages those families to do while at the hospital.

Hilary Erickson of pregnancy and parent website Pulling Curls

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In this episode, we talk about:

  • Our new episode publishing schedule, where we will be releasing one family’s interviews during a month. The mom’s episodes will be released on the 1st and the dad’s episodes will be released on the 15th (if there are dad episodes)
  • What we did for our son’s would-be 1st birthday
  • We interview Hilary Erickson of pregnancy and parenting website and podcast Pulling Curls, and her background as a nurse on Labor and Delivery
  • What she does to prepare herself for a family that will deliver a stillborn baby or a baby that will die shortly after birth
  • What to expect while on the L&D unit when they’re expecting a loss family
  • Her advice to families to ask questions while on the floor and after discharge
  • Check out her Pulling Curls website here and podcast here!

Listen to other advice episodes from loss parents:

Full Transcript:


Lee 0:12
This is Still A Part of Us, a podcast where moms and dads share the story of their child who was stillborn or who died in infancy. I’m Lee Redd–

Winter 0:21
And I’m Winter Redd, and in this episode, we’re talking with Hilary Erickson. She is the founder of Pulling Curls, where they talk about pregnancy and parenting. And she is also a labor and delivery nurse, and we really wanted to chat with her, specifically about what it looks like for those who are going to have a stillbirth or an infant loss. So let’s get to the episode.

As a word of caution to our listeners, this discussion contains emotional triggers as stillbirth and infant loss. Please keep yourself emotionally and mentally healthy, and seek help if needed. Hope this helps someone out there!

How’s it going?

Lee 1:11
It’s going okay. We–I don’t know. I was gonna say, we just came back from a little weekend trip. And I thought it was good.

Winter 1:24
It was nice because it was actually the place we went to kind of right before, well, right after Brannan passed away, and it was kind of a little weekend trip to get away just to, to get away for a minute. So it was nice to be up there. We kind of wanted to give you guys an update of what’s going on before we get into the interview with Hilary. We’re excited for that one, obviously. But we celebrated Brannan’s birthday. I know that was a few months ago in July, but we celebrated Brandon’s birthday. Any things, Lee–you want to tell everybody what we did or how that looked for us?

Lee 2:02
You betcha. So first of all, we launched this podcast on his birthday. The introductory episode came out on his birthday. And we had a nice, quiet day ourselves. We didn’t have much expectation, and that was great. We we got up and we went to brunch. And then we just–

Winter 2:24
That was mainly to get us out of bed that day.

Lee 2:27
Get us out of bed. We, we scheduled a brunch, and we got out. And it was nice.

Winter 2:33
Thankfully, I got work off that day, as a recommendation from my boss, which was awesome. I really appreciated that suggestion. One thing that I was a little floored at, was the day before his birthday. And I was so–I couldn’t figure out why I was being so cranky and so snappy with my coworkers. And it wasn’t until, I don’t know, midway through the day when I was like, Oh, actually, today is the day that we found out that Brannan didn’t have a heartbeat anymore. And that’s why I think I felt so crummy. So if I can give any sort of advice is that, it might be wise to, you don’t have to do anything special. Jan talked about this in her episode, but you don’t have to do anything special on the quote unquote, I guess, death date or the date that you found out when your child passed away. But maybe just set it aside, because it could be a rough day, as well as the birth date. And the birth date was lovely. I thought his birth date was really, really nice.

Lee 3:38
It was. Another thing we did for his birthday, we had a, we were raising money in Brannan’s name. And so many people were so generous and showed so much support and love to us. And we were able to raise money to help pay for coffins for–casket. Caskets sounds a little softer.

Winter 4:04
Caskets, I think it sounds a little bit better. Yeah.

Lee 4:06
But we as a community, Winter, myself, Lucy, and all of you who have helped us, we have thus far been able to pay for three caskets. And we want to thank everybody who has shown us so much support in this. So thank you.

Winter 4:27
Yeah, that was incredible to see all the support. We were hoping just to raise enough money for a–maybe one casket–and it was, you guys, above and beyond went. Yeah, it was amazing. And to be able to get people that called out and said, Hey, I have a friend that could use some help. Do you think you guys can help? And we’re like, Yes, it was. It was pretty great. It was–we were really so grateful that so many people donated.

Lee 4:58
Yes. Winter, this is going to be coming, this is going to be better coming from you. Would you like to tell our audience about our new release scheduling?

Winter 5:10
Oh, yeah, I probably should say something about that. Okay, so we, Lee and I, had–

Lee 5:16
We sat down and had a heart-to-heart…

We had a heart-to-heart. And we were realizing that we were–we had taken on a lot with our release schedule, how we publish our episodes. We have, we have interviewed quite a few families, and we’re so excited to bring those to you. But because of everything that we’re doing, because we work and we’re raising our daughter, and we are just involved in a lot of, you know, community and church things, we are going to change our publishing schedule a little.

We are going to basically have one family a month. So we’re going to do the mom and dad’s–excuse me, the mom’s birth story and mom’s advice episodes come out on the 1st. And then on the 15th, if there is another, if there’s the dad episode and the dad’s advice episode, they’ll come out on the 15th. Now the ones where we don’t have both parents telling their stories and giving us advice, then we’re going to try and have available healthcare professionals or maybe just a one-on-one discussion with Lee and I, where we talk about some things that we’ve discovered over the last few months. So I think that will help our sanity. It will help our family.

It will. We were very ambitious. It was a good, it was a good goal. But like Winter said, we had a heart-to-heart talk. And we have found out that, to give you guys a good product and do justice to the families, we can’t do two families a month.

Winter 6:42
Yeah, we can’t sustain that. It’s just going to be, it’s a lot because– Just to give you a little bit of realization, we were doing, we have another podcast called Hungry Squared. And we were doing, I don’t know, four episodes a month about, and that is once a week kind of a thing. And they’d be about an hour, 45 minutes to an hour each. So we were producing four hours of content for that podcast. And we’re going along, we had–we’re doing okay. And then we started saying that we’re going to do these two families. And if you look at it, it’s about twice that amount. For that podcast, for our podcast the Still A Part of Us podcast. So, we were like, we need to back off or else we’re gonna we’re going to burn ourselves out. And we want to be able to like Lee says produce some quality content for you. And I actually honestly think that you guys probably can’t consume it that quickly. Because it’s a lot of hours–

Lee 7:34
It’s heavy and it’s heavy.

Winter 7:35
Yeah. And so a lot of people actually have told us that they’re like, I only listen to this one, I have to take a breather, so that I can process it. And then I’m going to go listen to the dad’s one. And then so that’s kind of how people have been telling us. So we understand, so don’t feel so stressed out. If you haven’t listened to all of them, we get it. It’s heavy stuff. Yeah. So just–we’re going to try and back it off so that you guys have time to–You can, you have time to consume the media, and we have time to produce it in a quality manner, I think.

Lee 8:05

Introducing Hilary Erickson of Pulling Curls

Winter 8:06
Yes. So yeah, those are the kind of the main things that we wanted to fill in everybody with. So without further ado, we’re going to talk to Hilary Erickson. She’s been a friend for a while, and we’re excited to talk to her about her perspective as a labor and delivery nurse. That is, I feel like we got really close to the nurses that were helping us in both of our births that we had. And I appreciate their perspective and all that they do and see on a regular basis, so we hope you enjoy the interview.

We’d like to welcome Hilary Erickson of Pulling Curls. She is actually a longtime friend. We were in band together–just going to make a quick confession there. And we ran into each other a few years back and she’s been blogging for a long time at Pulling Curls and she talks about parenting and pregnancy. She’s an L&D nurse, a labor and delivery nurse. And so we thought that would be perfect for her to come on. And talk a little bit about fetal loss, infant loss, stillbirth–kind of talk about it from her point of view. So welcome, Hilary, thank you so much for coming on.

Hilary 9:10
Thanks so much, you guys. I’m so happy to be here.

Winter 9:12
Yeah, we’re–are you, are you really?

Hilary 9:15
No, that sounded less happy…

Winter 9:17
We’re glad you’re here. So Hilary, tell us how long you’ve been practicing as an L&D nurse, and kind of where you’re located, so we kind of have some context.

Hilary 9:25
So I am a Labor and Delivery nurse in the Phoenix area. And I’ve been practicing labor and delivery since 2001. So a long time. Before labor and delivery, I did hospice and geriatrics and pediatrics. So I have a little bit of varied experience. But it’s mostly been in labor and delivery.

Winter 9:43
Has it always been something you’ve wanted to do?

Hilary 9:45
I love labor and delivery in school, which was surprising to me. I actually don’t really love babies per se. I mean, I love my own children. But I don’t love newborns. And I’m not a huge fan of like after baby stuff. So, but I love delivering the baby and all the excitement of that kind of thing. So labor and delivery is definitely my home. One thing I should say is that while everyone thinks that labor and delivery is a very happy unit, there’s a lot of times that we get to deal with families in grieving moments that aren’t always a stillborn, there’s a baby who comes out who has an anomaly or a severe anomaly that they have to be rushed to a different hospital. So there are–there is a lot in labor and delivery that people don’t think about that we’re constantly just supporting patients through the grieving process of what they thought their baby was going to be like, or what their life was going to be like, because sometimes it is a full life change by what, they’ve had happened that day.

Preparing for a loss family

Lee 10:38
Hilary, I do have a question: When you have a mother coming in, and you know beforehand that the baby has passed away be it, a stillbirth or whatever it is, or if you know that there’s a condition with the child that the child’s not going to be living too long after birth, can you walk us through your, how you get yourself into a proper mindset or what your team does to help yourselves prepare for, first of all, A) telling the family that you know this child is is not one for the earth, and B) how do you keep yourself healthy?

Hilary 11:19
So being real churchy, I do like to say a little prayer that I can be a support to the family that day, I figured that my main job is just to try and make the day as easy as possible for that couple and for that family. I do go through any report that the doctor gives us, so the prenatal records. Usually we like to talk to the doctor on the phone, if they’re the one that found in the office or whatever the situation is. If it was a condition that the baby won’t be able to live after delivery, then we would go through the prenatal record, we would be talking with the nursery nurse because sometimes we involve them just to provide comfort measures or stuff like that. We might be talking to the Neo just to make sure that everyone is on board with the plan that the family is already established, because by the time they would get to us, they would already have a plan most likely. And we do have a giant like binder of all of the resources and things that we need to do. There is a lot of charting that goes on behind the scenes for a fetal demise or something of that nature. And so we do have to get all those kind of ducks started in a row.

How Hilary helps those families

Winter 12:25
And then what do you do when the families come? I’m actually really curious because we saw, we were handled in, I thought, with a lot of care when we were, when we arrived at the hospital. I’m wondering how you guys–you know, I’m sure you choose a certain area in the L&D, so that they’re kind of away. And then how do you talk to the patient about fetal monitoring if the baby is still alive, but there’s likely they’re not going to pass–they’re going to pass away during birth or after birth. What are–how do you explain family wishes during the delivery? And I mean, what kind of things do you talk about? Because I, I felt like we had good care. But I feel like, I almost kind of wish I had a few more prompts from my, my team like, Hey, do you want to do this? You want to try this? I mean, I’m just curious how much you guys give to the patients in information.

Hilary 13:13
I mean, once they come in, I definitely just say how incredibly sorry I am and how much I really want to make this day as easy as possible, to please ask me any question at all. And that, that this isn’t the first time that I’ve done this, and I hope that my experience can help them get through the process today. So and then I just start going through, you know, we always put fetal monitors on first, and we would definitely put the contraction monitor on, if we knew that there was a fetal demise, we would probably just leave the heart rate monitor off. But if we were looking for a fetal demise, and we would, you know, be using our tools in labor and delivery for that type of a thing.

And then we do just have to go through like an assessment, because first of all, I’m a nurse, and I have to make sure that I’m caring for the mom’s well-being. So that assessment is pretty normal, no matter what patient’s coming in. And so we do go through the 6000 questions with a mom. And then we kind of just let them chill out for a little bit. And then, you know, it depends on how imminent things are, they may be in labor, or we may need to start labor, because for whatever reason, you know.

I do encourage them to get an epidural and to have as much pain management as they would like. And we do start the process of, what they’re going to do kind of when they go home a little bit in, you know, I slow slowly start to bring it into the thing, just ask them if they have ever had a mortuary that they’ve ever used or that their parents ever have ever used. And that also depends on how old the baby is. We have, I can’t remember our guidelines exactly, how many weeks–but some weeks, we can take the baby and some weeks they have to take the baby. So it just depends on the situation.

Winter 14:54
Do you ever go through, for example, if there’s a fetal demise or stillbirth, do you ever talk about like how the baby’s, the baby’s body is going to look like or be like when, after delivery? I’m just kind of curious, because that was kind of a sticking point for us at delivery for of our son.

Lee 15:14
Personally, I had no clue about the–what would it what would be a good way to put it?–the degeneration of the body or the–? It’s not a normal, because Brannan passed away, his body is not functioning normally. So I had no clue about a lot of what his body was going through. So it was a little shocking to me.

Hilary 15:38
I have had patients asked me what I think that baby will look like. And for us, it’s really difficult unless we can like pinpoint when the baby stopped moving or something like that. Like if they had a gush of blood or something like that. But most of the time, people don’t really want to talk about it or think about it until after the baby’s out. And so, it’s not something that I routinely bring up. But I have talked with patients about it before and maybe I should bring it up and just be like, Do you guys have any questions about what it’ll, what it’ll be like? It’s honestly not something I’ve really thought of, but that’s a great input.

Lee 16:11
You’re welcome.

Winter 16:14
No, I think, first I think preparation, that kind of thing, sometimes you need to be mentally prepared for it. So that’s why I’m like, That might have been good for us to talk to our providers about that, so…

Lee 16:23
Because I remember talking with Winter, she was, because she does have a medical background, she was like, Oh, yeah, you know, that makes sense, why this and that started to happen to his body. And I was complete, I was completely baffled. I was completely in shock.

Hilary 16:41
Yeah. And of course, you’d hate to prepare them and then the baby comes out and has died very recently and they look absolutely normal. So it’s hard to really know as a nurse.

Winter 16:51
Yeah, that is tricky. And so you mentioned that you kind of talk a little bit about, like, start talking about like, the mortuary and that type of thing. Anything–do you guys, are you guys responsible for doing all the bereavement stuff afterward? Because I–we have social worker come in and hand us this folder. It was like this huge folder full of papers. And it was a little overwhelming. But I’m curious, do you guys start like introducing the idea a little bit more to them or–?

Hilary 17:17
I mean, it depends on how much time we have during the labor process and how families are doing. So, I do try and start it a little bit early on, just because I think if they have some things in motion before the baby comes out, they can enjoy the baby more after. Yeah, so that’s mostly what we do. I bet social work does come in with a giant packet because there’s a lot of resources for people after they have a stillborn so. But I don’t know what, I don’t know what social work does and, honestly, I feel like it’s all us. And so I’m sure social work feels like it’s all them, so– But we mostly are the ones that are in there all the time and social work’s not on on the weekends, and I swear, most things happen on the weekend.

Winter 17:57
Yeah, totally. Yeah, we appreciated so much our nurses, because they, I felt like they talked to us a lot, like they were are our points of contact and communication. So we appreciated it, so thanks, Hilary! I know that’s your profession. What happens during the delivery then? Like, can you walk us through how you guys handle the delivery and then how you handle like just right after the the delivery with the families?

Hilary 18:23
Oftentimes, it’s not unusual for a stillborn to be born without a doctor. Sometimes that happens faster, because we’re not really monitoring stuff as well. And because the baby doesn’t have as much muscle tone, sometimes they just come out easier. So when that happens, we just try and wrap the baby up, hand it to mom, if that’s what they want. And I’m very cautious to be like, What would you guys like? Sometimes they need a moment, we take the baby over to the warmer, you know, wipe it off. Some of them don’t want to see it at all right away. And so you mostly just ask them and kind of are guided by their wishes.

Lee 18:55
That was pretty much our situation, when Brannan was born. They cleaned him up a little bit, but then they brought them straight over to to us. And yeah, yeah, it was–

Winter 19:07
It was rough.

Lee 19:08
It was rough.

Hilary 19:10
I will say I think in the 20 years that I’ve done labor and delivery, it’s getting–In the beginning, I felt like more people didn’t want to see it at all. And they just kind of wanted to sweep it under the carpet. And most people now want to see it and they need that type of closure. So that’s nice to see, because as a nurse, you feel like, Come on, just take this time. You know, just a little bit of time, just to see the baby, so that you can kind of move on a little bit better. But it’s up to people, they get to make their own choices.

Winter 19:38
Right, right.

Lee 19:39
Now I have a question. In the hospital that you work, you work in the labor and delivery–is there a special women’s care unit that–? Because in our situation, we went from labor and delivery straight to the special women’s care–was it called special women’s care unit or something?

Winter 19:56
Yeah, it was it was not the usual post, you know, postpartum area. We were kind of put into a separate area just–I think it would be easier for us, and it would be easier for everybody else too you know.

Hilary 20:09
So my hospital is super small now, and so most parents stay in labor and delivery the whole time. Usually you don’t stay the full two days after a stillborn. So they usually stay about 24 hours. And so they just stay with us and labor and delivery. We do have a special marketing that we put on the door, just so that everybody is aware before they go in the room. When I’ve worked at others hospitals, we did try and put them very separate from other new moms as much as we could. But it really depends on how busy we are and how full the unit is, because there’s only so much you can do sometimes.

Winter 20:43
Yeah, that’s kind of nice, actually, just to stay in L&D because it’s like, Oh, you’re kicking us out–dang it! And then, I don’t know, how many times, how many stillbirth do you see, would you say that you see? Has it increased? Decreased over the years? I’m just curious.

Hilary 20:57
I feel like it’s about the same. Now the hospital that I work at now is just not as busy. So I feel like we see less there just because there’s probably less people. But I feel like it’s the same. And I–so I was trying to get pregnant for a long time at one of my hospitals and so they didn’t have me do fetal demises too much during that time. We do not get fetal demise to pregnant women. It’s not good for the nurse. And it’s not good for the patient, if we can avoid it. And so, we are cautious and stuff like that if someone’s recently had a traumatic incident, a family member died, we try not to give patients like that to them. So, so I haven’t I mean, I haven’t had a ton I definitely help a lot, because I had a photography studio, I do help a lot if, with the photography of the newborns after because we do take pictures, even if Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep doesn’t come, we still take pictures. So I’ve been helping with that.

Winter 21:48
That’s cool. I didn’t know that.

Lee 21:50
So a quick little story. My sister, she works at Primary Children’s, and she called our nurses, and she pretty much went mother bear on them just, I will come up there and I will kill you myself. That’s probably a little too harsh. She didn’t, she didn’t threaten life, but I’ll come up there and beat your face in, if you don’t treat them, you know, with the best care you can. And they’re like, Oh, don’t worry, we’ll take care of them. And we got some wonderful pictures. They did the handprints and the molds. And I don’t know if it was because of my sister’s call or if that was just normal for them. But there was some nice hand molds and foot molds and it was nice. So thank you.

Hilary 22:31
Every hospital seems to be very different. Usually were provided with stuff through volunteers, like the molds and that type of thing. And a lot of it depends on the baby and what you can do. Some babies, it’s even really hard to get footprints. So we just try and do what we can. Sometimes we can get hair. We try and make little bracelets for the baby with their name at this hospital that I’m at now.

Winter 22:53
That’s really cool that you have a few things to offer them. And then I’m curious what kind of training do you guys get? Staff like nurses, staff members, social workers, how do you guys prepare to deal with these families that have losses? I mean, that’s a–It feels so heavy, and I was like, that would be–on a floor that is generally very happy. This would be real–a bummer, like this would be so sad. I think.

Hilary 23:18
I wouldn’t say that I’ve gotten special bereavement training. I did have a loss when I was training for like the six weeks while I was training. And my nurse gave me some good advice. But you mostly go in, you listen to what other nurses are saying. I mean, I did hospice. So it isn’t a big stretch for me to talk about these kind of things. So I don’t know, I haven’t had a whole lot of training. And we’re really good to like support each other when people come out of a room. And it’s really heavy in there to be like, Hey, how are you doing? Can I go grab you some food? Have you peed yet? Because we get so caught up in a family situation, we forget about ourselves, which doesn’t help the family or ourselves. So we’re good about doing stuff like that,

Winter 23:55
–helping each other out, that’s great.

Lee 23:57
So in our situation, it was actually a really big blessing we got was, a Cuddle Cot. I don’t know, if you guys have Cuddle Cots in your, in your hospital, or if it’s sort of a newer thing? I don’t know. But–

Hilary 24:11
We don’t have Cuddle Cots, and we do have an area that we can put babies if families need them, if they want them out of the room for a time period, which I respect, because I think sometimes when we take them out of the room, they finally can breathe, and they kind of get a little piece, so I’m open to whatever a family wants. We don’t have Cuddle Cots, but families have had babies in their rooms for the whole 24 hours. So I’m not sure what a Cuddle Cot would do differently. Yeah.

Winter 24:38
I was gonna say we, I mean the Cuddle, I mean, just for listeners, a Cuddle Cot or something of that nature is, to cool the body, so that the body doesn’t deteriorate as quickly. I don’t technically know if we had a Cuddle Cot. We had just one of those cooling kind of blanket and cooling pads underneath the baby, our son, and that helps out really a lot. I think ’cause we had him for 22 hours, I think, in our room.

Lee 25:03
Yeah, so we don’t even know if it was the, what is Cuddle Cot is the brand name, yeah. We don’t know if we had a Cuddle Cot or if it was just an ice pack underneath. So…

Winter 25:16
Yeah, it was just a cooling pad. Your hospital allows for 24-hours it sounds like and–

Hilary 25:22
I think we allow them as long as they want. But most moms leave by 24 hours. So that’s why I just picked that number.

Advice to loss families

Winter 25:30
And is there anything that as you’ve seen some of these happen over the years? Are there any things that you wish more families would try and do in preparation? Or do you feel like these families are well prepared for a stillbirth? Or–

Hilary 25:44
I don’t think anyone’s prepared!

Winter 25:45
I know, right? That’s such a dumb question. But it’s just like, is there anything that you’ve seen that you’re like, oh, gosh, they maybe they should before they come in, they should do this thing? Or is there anything that you saw that you’ve seen a pattern?

Hilary 25:57
Well, the thing I wish people would do is just be really open to telling me whatever the heck you want. Because like I said, I think a lot of people are worried that they shouldn’t say that, they’d like the baby to leave the room for a little bit, even though that would give them a great sense of relief, if they kind of didn’t have to look at it and think about it. We are open to pretty much anything you want at that point in time. All of the policies and procedures that we normally have in labor and delivery are pretty much out the window. You can get an epidural when you want. You can, we would give you morphine. We’d give you a sleeping pill. You know, there’s all these sorts of things that we could do that might make you more comfortable, that maybe people aren’t asking us. And we suggest things, but sometimes we don’t know what you’re feeling inside. And so I just wish people weren’t hoping that I would read their mind. If they could just tell me what I could do to make their life easier, I would love to do it.

Lee 26:44
Morphine and cheeseburgers.

Hilary 26:47
We will not give you a cheeseburger if you’ve had an epidural though. So that doesn’t change.

Lee 26:51
Oh c’mon. What’s, what’s the worst that’s going to happen after an epidural and a cheeseburger?

Hilary 26:56
Also, you have to remember it’s a hospital cheeseburgers. It’s not the same as In-and-Out.

What they do for infant loss

Winter 27:00
That’s a good point. She has a good point. So we kind of talked a little bit more stillbirth. When a baby is born and they know that the he’s not–he or she’s not going to live for very long, do you guys treat them any differently in that case? Do you just basically kind of hands-off? Give, give them as much time as possible with their baby? How does that look?

Hilary 27:22
We have to establish a plan of care with the parents. And so we want to be really clear that we are or aren’t going to resuscitate the baby. We usually, unless it’s–we usually bring in a neonatologist just because I think they need to clear themselves, just so that they know that the patient knows that they aren’t going to do anything. We’re not going to do anything and these are the reasons why. Hopefully by this point, the doctors talk with them, the neonat–the perinatologist talk to them and all those kind of things. So and then after that, it’s 100% up to the parents. I’ve had some people want to hold the baby. I’ve had some people not want to hold the baby. It’s just up to each individual situation.

Winter 28:00
Wow, that, the fact that you’ve seen everything like,s Yep, it can go either way. That’s interesting.

Hilary 28:06
Yeah. And the, some of the hardest thing is to have respect for whatever the family wants to do. Because when they’re like, No, I do not want to see the baby or hold it, even if it’s still alive, that is rough. And usually we just assign a nurse to it.

Winter 28:17
Oh, really. And then they the nurse takes care of the baby until passes?

Hilary 28:22

Winter 28:22
Oh, yeah, you’re right, that would be difficult.

Lee 28:25
So as a nurse, you you’ve talked about watching other nurses and learning from them and their experiences. What are some things that you personally would say, don’t say to families who are experiencing either loss or will experience loss? What is something that you’re just like, Hey, you know, you’re brand new, you’re training a brand new nurse and say, Hey, you know, definitely don’t ask them about this or don’t say, mention anything about that. Are there some things that you’re just like, we don’t need want to broach that topic.

Hilary 29:03
I mean, most of it is not talking about blame or… The mom already blames herself, and everybody already feels that in the room. And so we try not to talk about the blame. And we try and and reassure the mom, that we know that they did everything that they could in the situation and just crappy things happen. And we are so sorry for that. We don’t talk a whole lot, because a lot of times they’re like, Do you know why this usually happens? We get that question a lot. And I would say that most of the time, we don’t know why it happens, especially in labor and delivery, because we only know what happens in labor and delivery. Once they, you know, go home, usually the doctor never shares with us anything that they found later on. And so I mostly just encourage people to be as supportive as possible. Tell them we know that they did everything that they could and we’re just going to deal with how things are occurring today.

Lee 29:56
And then a follow-up question, is there something that you personally do for the family? I know, you said that you hug the mother and–or you just try to show love to the family, but is there something that you personally do for the family? Like you said that you you take photos, but do you ever like here, here’s a chocolate candy bar, or whatever? Like, is there something that you try to do for them? Like make sure to always smile or, you know–

Hilary 30:24
Well, I don’t know that smiling is always the best tactic. I mean, it’s important to really try not to get overly emotional with the mom. Sometimes if they’re crying, you might shed a tear or two, but I think our job is to try and remain kind of their rock and, and even if the situation is making us very emotional, to try and solve those things outside of the room. We have a lot of stuff that we give the parents like a layette set, that we don’t put the baby in that they can take home, a blanket, there’s a lot of things that are provided by volunteers in the local area that are very sweet, and so that’s always super helpful. I do take photos, and I like to point out, like things that I think are sweet on the baby, like look at that sweet little nose and, and help them to love the baby. Because, I think, a lot of times they see that baby and it does look very foreign. It doesn’t look like a normal baby. And, but there are still so many sweet things and talk about maybe how it looks like their other kids or if they can see either of them in the baby–just like you would with a normal baby. Just, you know, talking that way with a family.

Winter 31:28
That’s very helpful, actually. Okay, so I’m going to ask Lee’s questions again, but not from your point of view as not a nurse. So is there anything that you think that you shouldn’t say to a loss family?

Hilary 31:43
Things I shouldn’t say to a loss family?

Lee 31:45
Like if you had a friend who was going through this, and as a friend, not as a nurse–

Winter 31:50
But as a friend, but also with your experiences a nurse. Like, is there anything that you’ve seen somebody do in, like, during the delivery or anything that’s in your experience, where you’re like, Oh, that person probably shouldn’t have said that?

Hilary 32:03
Well, I just think family sometimes gets overly involved and a time that really should be the couple and possibly siblings. Moms like to get overly involved in and– Sure, come in and see the baby, experience it, but then leave and let the family have their time. And then–yeah. So most of the time, that’s what I see is families that are overly involved in the hospital. I don’t really know what happens so much when people go home, but…

Winter 32:30
And then anything that you would recommend if somebody is going through a loss, or the family member is going through a loss like this, is there anything that you saw that people did that was super helpful, super meaningful, that the parents appreciated? While they were, while they were there or afterward?

Hilary 32:49
I think parents are just touched by small things of support–texts being like, Hey, I heard. I hope things are going okay, you’re in my thoughts and my prayers, things like that. I mostly see things that the nurses do. And so I’ve seen so many nurses go far and above, beyond what was like our job duty. I’ve had nurses who called every mortuary in the area to get pricing for a family because they were really concerned about the cost. I’ve had nurses go and get photos printed at CVS because with, out of their own pocket, because our printer just didn’t look very good. I just think, we–it’s hard for us to watch it, and so anything that we can do we really just try and do it. And honestly, all of the nurses on the unit, we all started calling mortuaries in the area too to help her out, because we want to try and make things as easy as possible as well.

Winter 33:41
Yeah, that’s great and cool. You isn’t you nurses are awesome. Seriously, all of the L&D nurses that we’ve ever had, have been amazing and so so good. So one thing we didn’t cover that I want to kind of clarify. So we found out that Brannan had passed away when we went to L&D, just to check and see if he, if he was moving around and stuff like that. So we had a doctor on-call and they got the doctor and the doctor told us. Can you kind of tell us if there’s a difference, if we found out when I went in for a just a regular checkup versus what happened to us? Do you guys have any policies about that?

Hilary 34:20
So in the hospital, I mean, we get a lot of people who come in for decrease fetal movement, we try and see them as soon as possible and get them on the monitor quickly. If we aren’t able to get a heartbeat on our monitor, then we call an ultrasound. Usually at that point in time, I’m just like, it depends on how many weeks they are. But I’ll say, You know, I’m not able to find it with mine. We just need some better equipment. So we’ll call in the ultrasound from across the street. If they aren’t seeing any heart movement, then we are allowed to say that we don’t–it looks like there’s no heart movement on the ultrasound, ut we need to wait for a doctor to clarify. And that’s where we kind of have to leave it, although we’re pretty sly about letting patients know that, that’s what we’re seeing. So it’s hard, because that’s medical jargon that a lot of people don’t know, and so we do kind of clarify, It doesn’t really look like there’s a heartbeat. Because nothing is worse than leaving that mom in the complete dark for half an hour while their doctor comes in. That’s just not fair as a human.

Winter 35:16
Yeah, that sucks. Yeah, that is, that would just be so rough. I didn’t realize that you couldn’t say anything unless the doctor was there officially, right? Yeah. I think we covered everything. How do you feel about that? Do you want to go through anything else?

Lee 35:31
Yeah, I was gonna say, is there anything that you would like to bring up?

Advice to ask questions

Hilary 35:34
I mean, I just wish people could feel open to ask nurses, whatever they want, because I’ve learned a lot about birth trauma lately. And if there’s any questions that people have, they should be feel free to ask their doctor or the nurse while they’re in the hospital. It’s kind of hard, because you don’t come up with the questions till you go home. But sometimes doctors don’t want to talk very much about this. I don’t know if they’re afraid of litigation or whatever. But in the office, you should feel for you to say, you know, Was this normal? Or to ask for an autopsy. All of those things, whatever you want, whatever questions you want to answered, and you should try and get them answered, instead of just letting them linger in your mind. Because that’s what we’re there for, we’re there to answer questions and be of service to you.

Winter 36:16
I think that’s great piece of advice there. Because, like, I had questions about Brannan, up until like, what, just a couple of months ago, I was like, wait, I need to ask this question. And so I think that’s great advice to just keep asking. And if you don’t know–obviously, there’s not going to be answers to everything, because a lot of it’s just unknown. You can just keep asking, Hilary, thanks. This was great–a little peek into what you guys do, and we appreciate it. I just want to say Lee’s sister is a nurse. And we are we think nurses are awesome. So thank you for doing what you do and showing the compassion that you do on a daily basis.

Lee 36:52
Yeah, thank you.

Winter 36:54
Please go check Hilary’s website out Pulling Curls. She actually started a new podcast, actually on parenting and pregnancy and some travel and some other things. It’s a lot of fun, quick tips and wonderful guests and such. So please check her out there. I’ll have links in the show notes. And we will see you guys next time.

Lee 37:11
I personally like to say thank you to Hilary. It was wonderful to talk with her and get a another perspective on such a horrible thing that occurs in people’s lives. It’s good to know that the nurses are there to help us and help people.

Winter 37:29
Yeah, that was excellent. Thank you so much, Hilary. And you guys, take her advice. Ask questions. Make sure you ask questions if you feel like you need to.


Lee 37:38
Head over to our website, StillAPartofUs.com. And there you can find the show notes including the full transcription of the interview, and any resources that are mentioned. There, you can sign up for our short and helpful email newsletter. You can also learn how you can become a patron and support the work it takes to produce this show for just a couple dollars a month. And lastly, you could find out how to get in touch with us if you’d like to share your child’s story on the show.

Winter 38:07
The show was produced and edited by Winter and Lee Redd. Thanks to Josh Woodward for letting us use his song “Vanishing Note”. You can find him at JoshWoodward.com. Lastly, subscribe to this podcast and share it with a friend that might need it and tell them to subscribe. Why? Because people need to know that even though our babies are no longer with us, they’re still a part of us.

Lee 38:41
To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit, the target. Ashley Brilliant

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