The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting everything and everyone. In the thick of it all, people are still having babies. I work as a social worker in the Maternal and Fetal Specialty Center at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, WA, where many pregnant patients in the region come for care after they learn that their fetus has a lethal diagnosis. COVID-19 has greatly impacted how I help them navigate the delivery process and the grief that follows.
It is already unimaginably terrible for our patients to hear that they have to plan a delivery when their baby will be stillborn, or might only live for a few minutes to hours. But with COVID-19, it has become even harder. The family members who were planning to travel to support parents and meet the baby have had to cancel their plans. The visitors to the hospital who were hoping to share in the brief moments when memories can be created have been turned away*. And, after the families leave the hospital, funeral homes and cemeteries have also begun restrictions on gatherings and visitors. As time goes on, the social outlets that families would usually use to process their grief are not accessible during social distancing. These restrictions are necessary for public safety, but are also cosmically unfair to grieving families.
Our social workers, spiritual care providers, nurses, and doctors are doing everything we can to help families cope with the rapidly changing visitation policies. Volunteers from Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep have still been available to come take photos of the babies and families during and after delivery (or edit photos taken by the family), and families are getting creative with video chatting loved ones. We are trying to help families adapt not only to a terrible diagnosis, but also to an unprecedented pandemic that is changing our usual ways of coping. As always, I have been so impressed with the creative and beautiful ways our families have found to show their love for their children. I hope that my care for them is just as apparent.
*(As of this writing, there are some exceptions to the strict visitor policy so that a few close family members can visit in the hospital for a short time, but larger groups or multiple separate visitors are not currently allowed, and the policies are always subject to change.)
How can you help?
SPREAD THE WORD:
Take action today and help future bereaved families in your area by calling your local medical providers and sharing information on our NILMDTS Medical Program. When speaking with your local medical community, share the following link to get them connected with our program.
Due to the circumstances, and for a limited time, this course is being offered at no cost to medical participants. Please join with us in our commitment to reach bereaved families with the priceless gift of photography, even in these times of unprecedented uncertainty. By donating just $50 you can help offset the waived fee and help bereaved families during this uncertain time receive priceless images of their precious baby(ies).