New Butterfly Suite Provides a Space for Parents to Grieve Pregnancy Loss
Butterfly Suite provides grieving parents with a quiet place to grieve a pregnancy loss or stillborn child.
Pregnancy and childbirth are joyous for most expectant parents, but these emotionally charged experiences can be heartbreaking for those facing the loss of their baby. Each year, approximately 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States. In May 2022, Cleveland Clinic Akron General created a quiet place for families to grieve a stillborn baby or pregnancy loss.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services Policy
The hospital’s new Butterfly Suite “takes the patient and family off the labor and delivery floor, where they might pass excited family members in the hall or encounter another patient who just had a baby,” explains Heather Keiser, BSN, RN, C-EFM, a clinical nurse in labor and delivery. “We’ve provided an environment that enables them to grieve freely.”
The new Butterfly Suite was the vision of a couple whose baby was stillborn in 2019. Although they appreciated the support they received from their Akron General caregivers, they wanted to create a healing space dedicated to the bereavement process. The mother reached out to Keiser through a mutual friend to explore the idea.
“She talked about how she wished there had been a private room where they could’ve spent more time with their baby — a place that felt less like a hospital and more like a home,” says Keiser.
Keiser shared the request with Loretta Creager, DNP, RN, nurse manager of labor and delivery, perinatal and the OB emergency department, who asked the family what the team could do to make their vision a reality. The family, Keiser and Creager collaborated with a multidisciplinary team, including Jennifer Savitski, MD, chair of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at Akron General, and staff from philanthropy, maintenance, infection prevention and hospital administration.
While the family raised money to furnish the suite, the hospital team began considering the best location for it. They selected a large, secluded room at the end of the hall that features both perinatal and postpartum sides.
“It had been a double room, so it is much larger than a traditional postpartum space,” says Creager. “We are able to accommodate not only the patient and her additional needs, but also the families’ needs.”
The Butterfly Suite includes:
Labor and delivery nurses on the unit’s Bereavement Committee were consulted throughout the planning stages. For instance, there are small plaques posted in the Butterfly Suite that encourage parents to read to their baby, offer instructions on how to bathe the baby and provide other guidance. The plaques also remind families that nurses are available to help.
“When parents are going through something like this, they are hit with so much that is unexpected,” says Keiser. “The plaques remind the patient of the resources available to them.”
Prior to opening the Butterfly Suite, clinical nurses toured the room to learn about its features. The unit maintains an inventory checklist to ensure the suite is stocked with necessary items, such as toiletries, washcloths and towels, baby clothes, a bed quilt (which goes home with parents), snacks and drinks.
Clinical nurses also rely on a resource book created by the Bereavement Committee that offers advice on taking care of and talking to a patient who has lost a baby. The book also includes required documentation for state agencies and funeral homes.
All the labor and delivery nurses are trained to work in the Butterfly Suite, which was used by six families in 2022.
“We want to create the same experience for someone who is losing a baby that we do for the parents of a healthy child,” explains Keiser. Nurses measure the baby’s weight and length, take photos, cast a mold of the baby’s hands and feet, cut a lock of their hair and more.
“Anything you can do for the families means the world to them,” she says. “When they leave the Butterfly Suite, it’s final. They only have their memories, so we provide them with small mementos to take home and time to bond with – and say goodbye to – their babies.”