At the Catholic Sistas website, Stacy Trasancos has a beautiful post on her friend Tammy Ruiz, a nurse in what is, sadly, a little-known field: perinatal hospice. Tammy’s job is to assist parents of babies who die before, during, or shortly after birth—“Her job is to create a safe place for parents to be parents to their child.”
Tammy helps parents as they grieve these deaths, both emotionally and logistically. She goes to Labor and Delivery to help prepare for the birth, and facilitates every detail from time management during the brief life, to selecting the tiny clothing, to arranging for the burial. Sometimes, the baby has already died and she helps the parents prepare for stillbirth.
She is usually the one to take the baby from the room after he or she dies, and later in preparation for burials, she is the one who checks consent forms, retrieves the babies from the histology lab, and lovingly dresses them for burial. The babies are bundled individually, she says, often with mementos given to them by their families.
Daniel Allott wrote an article for CWR last year on fatal prenatal diagnoses and the growing presence of prenatal hospice services in the US. Offering such services frequently makes a difference for parents who have received a fatal diagnosis for their unborn child and who are under pressure—often from their own doctors—to abort:
A growing perinatal hospice network provides parents with a life-affirming alternative to abortion. It offers advice to parents—on how to cope with and grieve for their baby, how to tell family members and others about their baby’s diagnosis and their decision to bring him or her to term—as well as instructions on how to care for their baby at home before death.
A small 2007 British study found about 40 percent of pregnant women with fatal prenatal diagnoses continued when perinatal hospice was offered. In 2006, Minnesota enacted the first law in the nation to offer prenatal hospice as an alternative to abortion when the unborn child is diagnosed with a fatal condition.
Allott’s article can be read here.
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