There are about 225 deaths of infants under the age of one in Ireland every year and about 160 still births.
Christina Kilpatrick, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) staff nurse at The Rotunda Hospital said “lots and lots” of photographs can play a significant role in helping parents grieve and heal following a baby’s death.
· As time passes the images allow parents to hold onto precious memories even as they move forward in their lives
· They are an affirmation of their beloved baby’s life and give parents something they can show others.
· It helps them to remember their baby, how small they were and their different features.
· They can help friends and family understand that their baby was real and loved.
· They remind parents of some of the precious moments that they had they had with their baby.
· If they have other children now or in the future it can help them to remember their brother of sister.
Ms Kilpatrick spoke on “The Importance of Memory Making” at the Perinatal Care Palliative Care study day at The Rotunda Hospital. About 120 people attended in Dublin including midwives, nurses, social workers bereavement team members, consultants, pharmacists, physiotherapist and lecturers.
Ms Kilpatrick said: “It is our role as healthcare professionals to support and encourage our parents to be parents and to help them to make lots of positive and everlasting memories that will last them a lifetime.”
One of the resources she recommended to healthcare staff for photography was the www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org website.
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep is a non profit organisation. It offers bereaved or soon to be bereaved, parents a gift of the services of a professional photographer to create images of their baby.
Ms Kilpatrick said most pregnancies are a time of joy and anticipation, however there are families who experience “one of life’s most difficult events”: a perinatal loss.
The resulting grief experienced by parents and families is “severe and profound”.
Infant death rates during the first 28 days of life are higher than any other period of childhood.
A third of all infant deaths occurred within the first day of birth and half within the first week of life in 2014, according to official figures. There were 164 still births over the same twelve months.
“There is a very short time frame for parents to be parents and to create memories that will last a life time,” Ms Kilpatrick said.
Ms Kilpatrick added: “Memory Making is not only the tangible items such as photographs, videos and hand and foot prints which all play a paramount role in the healing and grieving process for a bereaved parent but it also consist of the communication skills used to deliver bad news and the environment.
“These factors can have a huge impact on parents’ ability to create positive memories.”
Ms Kilpatrick and Marie Lynch who is a CNM1 in the Rotunda’s NICU organised the study day which was held on Wednesday, 15 February.
Ceramic hand and footprints of babies were introduced for all still births and neonatal deaths at the Rotunda’s NICU last year to enhance memory making.
“This timeless and beautiful gift acts as a tangible memory of their beloved baby which is believed to aid parental family grieving,” Ms Kipatrick said.
Other photography resources recommended by Ms Kilpatrick were www.giftsofremembrance.co.uk and www.toddhochberg.com
The Irish Hospice Foundation was one of the supporters of the workshop. Dr Mary Devin’s Paediatric palliative Care Consultants at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Professor Eugene Dempsey, Neonatal Consultant at Cork University Maternity Hospital were a among the speakers at the work shop.