Even if a baby has never been seen or held, its death is an extremely traumatic experience. Parents build up mental images of who their child will be and what side of the family he will resemble. They have hopes and plans for his future and these are all shattered when the baby is stillborn.
The term “stillbirth” generally refers to a baby that is born dead after 20 weeks of gestation. Loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks is referred to as a miscarriage. Approximately 25,000
What to do after a Stillbirth
There are a number of steps that are recognized as being helpful after delivering a stillborn child:
- Hold the baby – Some parents also like to bathe and dress their newborn and cradle him or keep him in a bassinet next to them for a few hours. Not all hospitals will allow this but ask for permission.
- Name the baby – Give the child the name that was planned for him and use it to refer to him
- Photograph the child – Many people find it helpful to have pictures to look back on. In some areas, professional photographers volunteer their services to a do a series of shots for the bereaved parents.
How to Remember a Stillborn Baby
After the birth, the grieving process may continue for months and even years. There are certain things parents can do to ease their passage through this painful time:
- Hold a memorial service – This can be an official ceremony in a church or a private moment where parents pray and remember.
- Plant a tree or a bush as a reminder of life and hope.
- Give a donation in the child’s name – This can be to a church, medical research or any worthy cause.
- Place a memorial in the home – Think of things like a framed picture of the baby’s footprints, a snippet of hair or a photo.
- Create a webpage – Computer literate people may be comfortable recording memories and thoughts about their baby on a blog or website.
Dealing with Friends and Family after a Stillbirth
Many people are unsure of how to behave around parents who have lost a baby before birth. To them, the baby was an unknown, cradled in the mother’s womb. They have no memories or point of reference and may choose to avoid the situation. The best help and understanding is often found from those who have experienced a similar loss. Look for local or internet support groups and accept help when it is offered. If family and friends do rally around, share memories and thoughts with them and speak about the baby so they can understand a little of the pain of bereavement.
Losing a baby is an intensely emotional experience and healing is often a gradual process. Try to ignore hurtful comments and people who simply don’t understand. Do what feels right and create lasting memorials to look back on.