More than 50 years later, Nance Travis still tears up when she thinks about the moments she missed out with her second child.
Travis lost her 55-hour-old son Oct. 2, 1961 due to a birth anomaly and knows the importance of having support from doctors, families and friends.
“There was an unfinished agenda of not being able to say goodbye to the baby, to hold the baby, to get pictures of the baby,” said Travis, volunteer service coordinator at Metroplex Health System. “You don’t have any memories. You only have the dreams that you wanted for that child.”
Travis attended a perinatal death bereavement training program for health care professionals Tuesday through Thursday at Metroplex Hospital. Care for perinatal death includes women who experience miscarriages, stillbirths, newborn deaths and perinatal palliative care.
Carla Chila, director of maternal child services at the hospital, said her department hosted the event that garnered 23 Metroplex employees and 30 participants from Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.
“I saw there was a need for my staff to have more education and learn more skills and have resources available where they could really better care for our patients,” Chila said. “Our future goal is to always have a support group.”
She said it’s important for patients who lose a baby to know there are resources available through the hospital, even after her loss.
“If she’s six months out from having her baby and she’s at home some night and she’s just feeling overwhelmed, she can call us and we’ll talk to her,” Chila said. “Older people are accustomed to death ... but the young woman is so unaccustomed. This may be (her) first death experience ... and it’s the loss of a baby. It can be a devastating thing.”
Travis waited 15 years before she finally allowed herself to cry over the loss of her son. She didn’t fully grieve until she took her two surviving children to their sibling’s grave site and explained to them they had a little brother.
“It’s a psychological pain. The anniversary of the birth and the death are always there,” Travis said. “If it’s a married couple, they can’t lean on each other. They’re both in such shock, and that creates a lot of problems.”
Teresa White, a nurse and staffing coordinator at Baylor Medical Center in McKinney, attended the conference to share what she learned with the entire hospital so providers can take care of patients the moment they walk through the front door.
“What I’m wanting to take back is education so I can go to the emergency department and say ‘If this happens, these are the things you can do with the patient,’” she said, adding she learned coping techniques to use with families. “Our heart should sink just as much when someone learns a six-week pregnancy or 36-week pregnancy (as when an older patient dies). Those people deserve the same care, attention, education, comfort as a woman that lost her 30-year-old husband.”
Travis said the care mother and her family members receive after they lose a child is important, especially from others going through similar situations.
“What made me angry was when people said ‘You can have another (child)’ as if it’s nothing. Just like going to the store and getting a package of gum,” Travis said. “That was the painful part. People who don’t understand.”