Nobody wants to talk about it. I can’t blame them. Nobody wants to think about it happening to them, their family, or their baby. But the fact is that, just like in other things in life, sometimes bad things happen in pregnancy and birth.
There has been a lot more discussion surrounding stillbirth in the birthing community in the last few years or so as doulas find themselves in the unfortunate situation of attending a surprise stillbirth. Birth professionals are slowly becoming more aware of the varying birth process for stillbirth, how to support it when it happens, and resources available to help grieving families. While there is really nothing you can do to be emotionally prepared for this event, there are some ideas and resources that families can utilize as they walk this difficult path.
First there are a few vital things to remember.
There are many things to consider in case of a passing of your baby. Among the first is the logistics of how the baby will be born. Many times providers will opt for induction, but some mothers want to wait until their body starts to labor on its own, which it usually does when there is a demise. There are few times that a provider will recommend cesarean as a first option, since it is not usually necessary.
Some doulas are specially trained in bereavement. These doulas have training and experience with helping families handle both the physical and emotional needs of a grieving family. It is important to note though that they are not psychologists.
Many women who have experienced loss have come around after it was all over and regretted that they didn’t do certain things. There is no right or wrong way to handle this situation, but it’s important to note some family’s previous experiences in case you may feel the need to do some of them.
Your baby was still born and is still loved. Participating in that recognition can begin the healing.
Photography An organization called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep is a group of photographers that provide free professional photography for families that experience a loss. They take pictures of the baby, the family holding the baby, rings on the toes, etc. They will help staff or parents dress the baby if the parents wish to have a photo with the baby dressed. These professionals have many ideas for how to make the photos especially memorable.
Name the Baby Naming the baby helps families find closure as they lay their little ones to rest.
Hold the Baby It sounds strange to say, but some families are afraid to hold the baby once they have passed. There is but a short window of time where a family can snuggle this little one that they lost. In those precious few moments, some extra snuggles can provide the family with some beautiful memories to take with them.
Make Keepsakes Many hospitals provide families with the opportunity to make footprint boards or other keepsakes when they have lost a baby. These may be some of the only special things you have to remember your baby by. Even if you don’t think you’ll want them right away, it can’t hurt to have them made in case you change your mind months or years later.
Grieve Allow yourself to go through the stages of grief. Just being conscious of their existence doesn’t negate their effects, nor does it free you from the need to emotionally and mentally walk through each stage. In short, the stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. To learn more about the stages of grief, check out this page.
In these situations, it’s not necessary to “look for a silver lining” because sometimes, frankly, there isn’t one. It’s okay to hurt through this. Grieving is very personal, and it’s not helpful when someone tries to pull you out of it. In fact, allowing the grieving process to unfold on its own is the healthiest thing for those who have experienced a loss.
There is no right or wrong way to walk this path. Know that you are not alone in your grief. Life may never be quite the same, but you will find a new normal. And there is a beauty that will surface from that.