First, we are so, very sorry for your loss. We know your pain. We’ve been there twice. Please know that if there’s anything we can do for you, please do not hesitate to contact us. You are about to embark on a journey that not many have traveled, and we’re just so sorry that you have to travel through this. Please don’t fault yourself. Don’t think this is something you have caused. Please don’t worry about what others think, say or feel. This is your time to spend with your baby and this is your time to grieve. This is your time. Quiet your mind, listen to your heart and do whatever you need to do, to spend quality time with your baby, make memories to hold onto for your lifetime and to grieve. There are no right or wrong choices. Follow your heart.
The following ideas have come from our own personal experience, our friends personal experiences and websites we’ve found along our journey. Remember that you’re not alone. You may not know anyone personally who has walked this road, but know, many have. These ideas come with big open hugs from all of us who have been, were you are now.
- Take your last pregnancy photo’s in a beautiful place, for instance, outside in a garden.
- Burn a special candle.
- Take photos with your family. Include your parents, siblings and friends.
- Write a letter to your baby.
- Contact “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.”
- Choose a name for your baby.
- Look into arranging moldings for their hands and feet. Make sure to bring the materials to the hospital with you.
- Start a blog for support
- Tell your baby that you love them.
- Hold your baby’s hand.
- Kiss your baby’s cheek.
- Unwrap your baby to see his, or her whole body.
- Lay skin to skin with your baby.
- Give your baby a bath with salty water, which acts as a natural preservative. Soap may not be helpful as it removes the natural oils from the baby’s skin. Baby oil can help add moisture to the skin.
- Think about allowing family members to come meet and hold your baby.
- Take your baby outside to let the sun kiss and warm their skin.
- Take hand and foot prints, not just one set but two or three.
- Take many photos. Include your friends and family members. If you use NILMDTS, they will take beautiful photos, but we encourage you to take more. Take photos of every inch of your child. Even if you can’t look at them right away, you’ll have them in the future, if you choose to look at them.
- Have your photo taken holding your baby.
- Take video footage.
- If possible take a lock of hair.
- Keep anything that touches your baby. Keep the blanket they wrap your baby in.
- Write a description of your baby’s features. Do this soon, as the image becomes fuzzy all too quickly.
- Please note that it is a parent’s right to take their baby home and/or arrange for the funeral director to bring the baby to their home. Many hospitals and health professionals will provide this option and assist families to arrange this. Parents can still take their baby home even if an autopsy/post-mortem has been conducted.
- Write down their story.
- Hold a service.
- Release some helium balloons with a letter attached.
- Contact Carly and Sam at “To Write Their Names In The Sand“.
- Look through the Helpful Links tab for memorial pages, jewelry and support.
- Keep a journal or start an online blog (Make sure you back up your blog!)
- Create a memorial garden.
- Write a letter, song, or poem to or about the baby.
- Prepare a family tree including the baby.
- Keep a journal to record thoughts and feelings about the baby.
- Hold a memorial service or blessing – a year, or even 20 or 30 years later.
- Release balloons in celebration of their life.
- Plant a tree of remembrance – perhaps one that flowers around the anniversary of the baby’s birth.
- Design a memorial to place on the baby’s grave or in their honor.
- Enter the baby’s name in a hospital book of remembrance.
- Make a cross-stitch birth sampler, a photo frame, a memory box, a ceramic tile.
- Adopt a star.
- Give gifts to other children during the year in honor of the baby.
Include your child in your life. For example, talk to your living children about their sibling, hold birthday celebrations, hang an ornament or stocking in their honor, or remember them as well as other family members whom have passed during holidays such as Day of the Dead (November 1st is actually Día de los Inocentes or Day of the Innocents, November 2nd is Day of the Dead or Día de los Muertos.).
(These things are hard to think about right now, but it’s important to take time to research your options and make the best decision for your family.).
Medically speaking, an autopsy is a surgical examination of a body after death, which is conducted by a qualified pathologist to determine the cause of death or to find out more about factors that might have contributed to the death. The information from an autopsy can sometimes be helpful in understanding what may have happened to cause the baby to die, answering an important question for many families. Finding a cause of death through autopsy is also important for parents who will one day want another pregnancy. However at this point in time, many autopsies results are inconclusive.
Only you, as parents, can make the decision to have an autopsy done on your child. We thought our first child had gone through enough and I couldn’t bare to think of someone slicing into her. We were also being told at the time, that her death was a ‘fluke’ and wouldn’t happen again. When we lost our second daughter, we chose to have an autopsy done. Though her results were inconclusive, I knew we had made the right decision to do everything in our power to search for an answer to her passing. But that was our choice. And as hard as it is, only you can make the choice about your child. Talk to your doctors, your family and your friends, but make the decision for you and you alone.
Things you can do:
- Take photos:
Take photos of your child. If there’s an obvious cause of death or disfigurements, take photo’s. In our journey, we have been constantly asked by doctors what our daughters looked like after delivery. Where there disfigurements, what did their cord looked like, their placenta, what was their coloring. Somethings we never looked at. Some we’ve unfortunately forgotten. Always remember, you are your child’s best advocate. If you are reading this prior to delivery, bring a camera and not only take remembrance photos, but also document your child so you will have photo’s to show future doctors and genetic counselors. Anything you can bring to the table, will help you.
- Genetics counseling/testing:
Parents who have had a stillbirth are often worried about it happening again. The risk is low for most couples, however, the risk for having another stillbirth may be higher if a maternal health condition or a genetic disorder caused the previous stillbirth. In such cases, the couple may benefit from genetic counseling. A genetic counselor can advise the couple about the risk of stillbirth or other pregnancy complications in another pregnancy. After losing our second daughter we chose to see a genetic counselor. Again, this was inconclusive, which was a hard blow to us, but we still knew we made the right choice to arm ourselves with information.
- Request copies of your, and your child’s, medical records.
Arm yourself with information. The more information you can come to the table with, the better.
It can be so very hard for mothers to find that following the death of their baby, their body will still produce breast milk. This is one of the most difficult issues for bereaved mothers to cope with, both physically and emotionally. This can seem so unfair when their baby has died, yet their body continues to function as it would if their baby were alive.
The amount of physical discomfort once breast milk ‘comes in’ will vary with each person. Fresh cold cabbage leaves inside a firm bra or binder are the most common ways used to suppress lactation, combined with a painkiller to reduce the discomfort. Health professionals caring for the family can provide information about medication and natural alternatives.
Another alternative is milk donation. Some mothers seem to feel a sense of purpose when they choose to donate, some feel as it’s just another hurtful reminder. Either way, choosing the best decision for you is the what matters. There are many websites about breastmilk donation. If you’re interested, contact your local birth center or hospital initially, they should have resources for you.