Many mothers are surprised to learn that they will be enduring labor, even if their baby has died in the womb. They may wonder how they will gather the strength to labor and deliver, knowing that silence awaits. Every baby is born, even those whose lives are brief. This realization is fitting as a mother questions how she will approach the challenge of labor and delivery, knowing she will be saying goodbye to her precious baby.
A mother and father begin to make plans and form dreams for their baby as soon as they find out they are expecting. When a parent hears the painful words, “I’m sorry. There is no heartbeat,” those dreams are shattered and hearts are broken. While each family is unique, and every experience is different, every life has value, and a parent’s grief for the loss of a child at any stage of pregnancy or life outside the womb is valid.
Whether you are facing a life-limiting diagnosis for your baby or learning that your child will be born still this is still a precious time to look forward to, meeting your son or daughter. You are still going to birth this child into the world from your womb. You can still hold your baby, make memories, fill this time with gentleness and love. You can still honor and treasure this precious life, this little one you have longed to meet and hold.
Creating memories when a baby dies is not something we contemplate until we are faced with the painful reality. At first, you may feel strange taking pictures or spend time creating tangible memories with your baby. But most parents are grateful, in the days and years to come, that they spent the time holding their baby and celebrating the life of their precious little one. You may be scared that you will become too attached to your baby if you spend time creating memories and spending time with your baby. But as a mom, you cannot be more attached than you already are. Even if you feel uncomfortable, it is important for your healing to take the time to get pictures and make memories if you wish to do so.
While you are working through this challenging time, it is helpful to prepare your heart for what lies ahead. No matter the age of your baby at the time of loss or hospital policy, you will have forms to fill out. You will likely face decisions you never thought you’d be considering. If applicable, it would be good to discuss some of the possibilities with your partner. This will alleviate leaving one person responsible for making these difficult decisions. It’s important to understand and communicate your feelings to one another, even in the midst of this very painful time.
- How would you like to spend the time? Considering seeing and holding your baby.
- What kind of mementos are available to honor your baby’s life?
- Will there be time to make tangible memories or to take pictures?
- If a comfort companion or remembrance photographer is available, would you like their support?
- What options are available as a final resting place for your baby?
No one is more equipped to parent a baby, whether alive or not, than his or her parents.
~ Kelly Gerken
Even if a baby’s life has been brief, there are ways to honor your child. Below is a list of ideas for creating tangible memories during the time you have to spend with your baby. You are still a mother…still a father. Your baby lived. Your baby matters. Your baby is worth celebrating…worth remembering.
This is your opportunity to fill a lifetime of memories into moments. Spend this precious time the way you wish. Don’t rush or allow others to rush you.
- Have a teddy bear to hold for comfort.
- Keep an ultrasound picture – Ask for one if it is not offered.
- Name your baby.
- Wrap your baby in a special blanket. Wraps and gowns are available, even for very tiny babies.
- Play a special song.
- Journal your thoughts, dreams, and feelings.
- Write letters to your baby.
- Take photos.
- Pray together.
- Bring special jewelry or other items that you would like with you and/or your baby in a photograph.
- Read a book to your baby.
- Complete a special memory book. (Dreams of You Memory packages available from SGM.)
- If baby is not too fragile, take time to bathe and dress your baby.
- Spend time saying hello and goodbye.
- Get a family photo.
- Arrange for friends and family to meet and celebrate your baby if you wish.
- Find a remembrance photographer.
- Keep your baby with you as long as you like.
- Perform a Baptism, Dedication, Naming Ceremony or other ceremonies that are important to you and your family.
Mothers are sometimes surprised by the amount of time it takes for their bodies to fully heal after a stillbirth. If you choose to deliver your baby vaginally, you will still experience labor and if you give birth through a surgical procedure, your body has still endured surgery. You will need time to heal – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. It’s important to take care of you.
- Rest. You will need plenty of rest physically and emotionally.
- Stay hydrated.
- Eat healthy. Your body needs nutrients to replenish and heal.
- Reach out for support.
- Attend support group online or in-person if you need to feel less alone or just want to talk to someone who understands.
- Stay connected to your partner.
- Give yourself grace and time.
- Follow your provider’s instructions regarding your return to normal physical activity.
- Pay attention to signs of infection.
- Drink Raspberry Leaf Tea with honey as it is recommended during and after giving birth.