In 2011, the Wellsteins learned they were going to have a baby. Throughout the expectant months, they furnished a nursery and equipped it with everything needed for their new arrival. But 32 and a half weeks into the pregnancy, their baby stopped moving. The couple went to Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago for an ultrasound at which time no heartbeat could be found. Their baby had died in utero.
While other families in the waiting room were experiencing new life and joy, the Wellsteins’ family members, sharing the same space, had to cope with loss and grief as they waited through 19 hours of labor that resulted in a stillborn baby girl named Jane, born January 25, 2012.
It was what prompted the Wellsteins to start Jane’s Room, a quiet, private space specifically designed for families who suffer stillbirth, miscarriage or newborn death in the hospital. Northwest Community Healthcare is the seventh hospital in the nation to receive a dedicated Jane’s Room.
Located on the fourth floor in the south pavilion of the Labor and Delivery unit, the space is unlike a patient room or waiting area. Furnished with a sectional, two swivel chairs, a flat screen TV, bistro set and carpet inset with wood plank flooring, the tranquil space provides a home-like atmosphere.
“It doesn’t look like a hospital room, down to the faucets and handles on the doors,” says Jill Kottmeier, BSN, R.N., CPLC, Perinatal Palliative Care Coordinator at NCH. “It is a nice-size room and is equipped with a private bathroom.”
Jill, who has worked with grieving families since 1998 at the hospital, met the Wellsteins at a conference a few years ago. Her specific role handling perinatal palliative care stood out to the couple, who also learned that there was a Walk to Remember event as well as a Butterfly Release and a Memorial Garden at the hospital to honor lost babies at NCH.
“I told them that I was interested in having a Jane’s Room here,” Jill says. “They were very impressed with our longstanding perinatal bereavement program and chose us for their next room.”
Jill worked with NCH Women and Children’s Services Director Don Houchins and NCH Foundation Executive Director Dave Ungurean to plan the room.
“We got the plans together over the last year and we worked with nurses to see what they wanted the room to look like. We picked the carpet and the colors with the help of a designer. It doesn’t look like a hospital room. It’s more like a home.”
The only stipulation for any designed Jane’s Room is that it should contain butterflies, a special remembrance of Jane. To honor the Wellsteins’ wishes, NCH created a magnetic wall with greenery and butterflies.
In the past, families of loved ones who delivered a stillborn, had a miscarriage or lost their baby shortly after birth at NCH were escorted to the same waiting area as other families receiving wonderful news.
“These families are experiencing one of the worst times of their lives,” Jill says. “The best we could do to avoid sharing the same waiting room was to usher them into a vacant room or conference room because typically there are too many visitors to allow them into the patient’s room. A lot of times there are more than 10 people supporting the couple.”
Jane’s Room enables grieving couples to spend as much time as they wish with their baby, taking pictures and saying final farewells with the support of their family around them.
“I cannot wait for these families to have their own sacred, calming place to be when their lives are filled with so much uncertainty,” Jill says.
Recognizing the closeness that develops between patients and the nursing staff, the Wellsteins also welcome staff and others who are experiencing difficult times to use the room for respite and recovery.
Read more about the Wellsteins and their projects in this Chicago Tribune article.
See the Daily Herald coverage of the unveiling of Jane’s Room.
Watch this video and hear Berkley Wellstein discuss the significance of butterflies in each Jane’s Room.