This brochure has been written to help you cope with your painful loss. Other parents who have also lost a baby have shared with us their feelings and some of the issues they had to deal with in the first few days. Reading this brochure will not take away the grief and sorrow you are feeling. It will provide you with information on decisions you will be asked to make, and suggest possible ways to ease your pain.
Can I Ask To Have A Picture or Other Keepsake?
Yes, the hospital will help you arrange for a picture to be taken. You might also want to take home with you a lock of the baby's hair, a footprint, the ID bracelet, or some other remembrance. If you do not want to have these keepsakes now, ask a friend or family member to keep them for you in case you want to have them later.
If you have not yet had a chance to see or hold your baby there may still be time to do this. Ask the nurse or social worker to make arrangements for you to see your baby. You can decide then if you want to hold the baby, and if so, for how long. Many parents want to be alone with their baby. It's OK to ask for this private time. In most cases the baby can be brought to your room. Even if your baby has already been taken to the hospital morgue, a visit can still be arranged.
Other parents have felt that doing some or all of these things has helped them.
Should My Baby Have A Name?
It is probably a good idea to give your baby a name, preferably the one you have been planning on all along. Do not save the name for the next child. Names are important. You will use it when you talk to your other children, family and friends about this special child in your life.
You may wish to have a baptism or other religious ceremony for your baby. Hospital chaplain services are available or you may contact your own clergyman.
Can I Have A Funeral or Memorial Service For My Baby?
Yes, you have a right to have either or both services. If you need help in making the arrangements, contact the Hospital Social Services Department, or your clergy. The service does not have to be elaborate or expensive. You may want to have a memorial service in the hospital chapel.
Some parents decide to have neither a funeral nor a memorial service but choose instead to have a private burial or cremation. The Maryland Funeral Directors Association can provide information or assistance at 301-877-4003 or 1-888-459-9693 (toll free). The hospital can also handle this matter. Procedures vary from one hospital to another. You may want to ask about the specific arrangements used by your hospital before deciding.
What Is An Autopsy?
An autopsy is the examination of the body to better understand the cause of death. Maryland law requires that you be asked to give permission for an autopsy to be performed unless you have requested state disposal. An autopsy may provide you with information on why your baby died. It may be several weeks before the final autopsy results are available.
When these results are available, discuss with your doctor the chances of this happening again. He can help you decide whether or not genetic counseling is indicated. If so, he or the local or state health department can help you find sources of genetic counseling.
How Can I Cope With My Sorrow?
Sorrow affects people differently. You will probably feel many different emotions over the next few weeks. Feelings of loss, emptiness, sadness, disbelief, anger and guilt are normal reactions to a loss such as yours. These feelings may not come all at once. Some may be missing altogether. It is important to talk about the feelings that you do have. Do not be afraid to recognize these feelings in yourself. It's natural to express them by crying or doing whatever makes you feel better.
No one can tell you what you should feel, how to express it, or how long these feelings will last. Each person has his or her own timetable for dealing with grief and mourning. However, most of these feelings are a part of the grief process and will become less painful with time. It is usually better not to hide your feelings but to face them now while your family and friends are supportive.
Physical symptoms which are normal to women following childbirth may interfere with your efforts to get back to your usual routine. You may still look pregnant. Your breasts may produce milk. This will seem cruel to you. In addition, you may experience sleeplessness or loss of appetite for a while.
There is no time limit on your emotions. You may think you are fine only to have the sadness return with a chance remembrance of your lost baby. Parents never forget their loss, but time generally makes it more bearable.
After you have left the hospital, you may find it helpful to talk with someone who has experienced a similar loss. The Compassionate Friends group (1-877-969-0010), which has special subgroups for parents who have lost infants, can put you in touch with someone. If these feelings persist or interfere with your family life or work, you might consider pastoral or other professional counseling.
All of the information we have touched on in this brochure is dealt with in greater detail in a 32 page booklet entitled, "When Hello Means Goodbye". This booklet is available from the Centering Corporation (402-553-1200).
You may also want to do more reading about the experiences of other parents who have lost a baby. The books listed in the bibliography are available at most public libraries.
What If My Baby Had a Birth Defect?
If your baby had a birth defect you may want to call the Birth Defects Reporting and Information System in the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (410-767-6730). Health professionals there will be able to provide you with information about the defect and sources of genetic counseling. They are eager to help you find the services you need.
- After a Pregnancy Fails, Help for Families Affected by a Miscarriage, a Stillbirth, or the Loss of a Newborn, by Nancy Berezin, Simon and Schuster, NY., NY.
- Motherhood and Mourning, by Larry Peppers and Ronald Knapp, Praeger, N.Y., N.Y., 1980.
- Newborn Death: A Book for Parents Experiencing the Death of a Very Small Infant, by Joy and Mary Johnson, with Chaplains James Cunningham and Sarah Ewing and RN's Dale Hatcher and Carol Dannen, Centering Corporation, Omaha, Nebraska, 1982.
- Surviving Pregnancy Loss, by Rochelle Friedman, M.D., and Bonnie Grandstein, M.D., Little, Brown and Co., Boston, Mass., 1982.
- Understanding Death of the Wished For Child, by Glen W. Davidson, Order of the Golden Rule Service Corporation, Springfield, I1l. 1979.
- When Pregnancy Fails: Families Coping with Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Death, by Susan Borg and Judith Lasker, Beacon Press, Boston, Mass., 1981.