The Heartbreaking Reason This Nurse Makes Sets of Bows for New Parents

set of bows
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Besides being a bow-maker extraordinaire and selling her adorable creations for kids on Etsy, Whitney Martinez has another career: She's a labor and delivery nurse with six years of experience. Although helping moms bring new babies into the world can be an incredibly joyful job, this mother of two knows that despite what people realize, working in the labor ward can also be absolutely devastating.

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There's a dark side to Whitney's "happy" work that others tend to brush over, but that she and her coworkers are very familiar with. "Babies die. They die in labor, they die shortly after, they die in utero. Sometimes we know they will die, sometimes we don't. They are all gestational ages. Fourteen weeks, 41 weeks. Teeny and huge. It's always sad," Whitney wrote on Instagram. "It's sad if the parents were aware beforehand. It's sad if they already have other children. It's sad if the pregnancy was unplanned or if they were even unaware of it."

mom looking at toddler
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After years of witnessing the worst moments in grieving families' lives and striving to help comfort them through the heartbreak, Whitney came up with a way to help these brave parents honor their babies: Angel Bows. These are sets of two handmade identical bows that include one for the baby to wear and one for the parents to take with them when they leave the hospital.

"When it's time to send the family home, it is one of the most heart-wrenching moments to wheel that mother away from her baby. We want the family to go home with plenty of little reminders and things but it's emotionally difficult to take things off the baby and leave that little naked body alone," she tells CafeMom. "I have always felt better about leaving the baby dressed and giving the families a copy of what the baby was wearing so that they know when they leave the hospital, their baby will still be treated with love and dignity." 

angel bows
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Whitney explains that when nurses help families dress the stillborn baby and wrap him or her in a blanket, they are together acknowledging this little one as an official member of the family. "While bows might seem petty, it is a simple thing that can help create tangible memory," Whitney wrote. "Most of these babies are too fragile for a headband so these bows can be 'glued' on with a little KY (not in short supply on L&D)." 

Whitney created these sweet bows in a range of sizes for hospitals in her area and hopes to be able to send them to any parents dealing with this loss. "I can tell you from a nurse's standpoint that if you delivered a healthy baby, chances are we won't remember you, but if you went home with empty arms, your face and your baby's face are forever burned into hearts that pray for you and think of you and ache for you," she wrote. 

nurse creates bows for babies
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Whitney's mentors taught her early in her career that it's therapeutic for families to name their babies, hold them, touch them, and dress them. Although it is her and her husband's dream to eventually start a foundation to help pay for funeral costs and hospital bills for grieving families, she hopes that her personal gift is a healing start as they save toward their ultimate goal.

"As a new nurse working with families as they deliver babies that are stillborn or who die after birth, there is so much anxiety about saying the right thing and handling the situation with care," Whitney tells CafeMom. "After experiencing several sad deliveries, you learn how to empathize and focus on caring for the physical needs of the patient so they can focus on their emotional needs."

Whitney has never experienced a loss before, but she still knows the connection a mother forms from the moment that she finds out she's pregnant, and she is with these women during the soul-shattering pain of learning they will never get to see them grow. "I hope that through my bow project, others who haven't experienced loss can learn how to support and care for those who have. Whether it's a miscarriage, a stillbirth, an unexpected perinatal death, a termination based on the health of mother or child, or a baby that dies from SIDS or extreme prematurity, I hope that others can learn that it's appropriate and good to acknowledge the loss, to be comfortable talking about it and to be a listening ear for those who need one," she shares with CafeMom. "I hope my bows can be a tangible reminder of little ones that were loved, even for a short time."

nurse makes bow ties for stillborn babies
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Although Whitney's Angel Bow project is new, there are two questions that she's commonly asked. "Why sets of two? One for baby to wear -- always. And one for the family to keep," she wrote. "[And] don't baby boys die too? Yes, and I wish I could do something big for everyone that loses a child, but this is something that I'm good at right now that I can do to help a terrible memory have a beautiful spot."

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