Experiencing the death of a baby is very difficult. During these years I have spoken with many bereaved parents, at different stages of their grief journey. There are some moments which many families have found very difficult. Leaving the hospital without their baby is one which is often mentioned.
Going home can be difficult for many reasons. Here are some of the ones which have been mentioned to me in the past - and some ideas for managing them.
When you become pregnant your body/partner’s body goes through so many physical changes. These happen gradually, over time. Some are subtle, and you don’t always realise the impact the changes have made. When your baby dies, towards the end of the pregnancy, it may feel slightly different. The movement, and way the baby takes up space may shift. However, little can prepare you for the empty feeling in your tummy when you have given birth.
This feeling is present for ladies who have a live birth also, but they may be less acutely aware of it, because they have some distraction, and are busy and do not have the heightened state of grief/shock to contend with.
One feeling expressed by many baby loss mothers is a feeling of their arms being empty. This is a combination of a loss of an expectation, a memory of the physical feeling of their baby in their arms and a symbolic expression of grief.
This feeling can be helped by holding something, cuddling something. I left hospital cuddling a feather pillow (I did this without consciously choosing to do so). For many nights I would find myself cuddling a pillow in the middle of the night. You might like to hold your baby’s outfits, memory box, or a teddy bear. There are charities, such as Aching[ms1] Arms, and organisations around the world such as Bear for an Angel and Molly Bears who provide teddy bears and weighted teddy bears (made to the birth weight of your baby) to ease this feeling.
If you had reached the third trimester of your pregnancy you may well have purchased and installed a car seat in your car. As I went into labour as planned, while my baby was healthy and well, we travelled to hospital with our car seat in the car. When I left hospital days later, the car seat was no longer in the car. I hadn’t thought about this – and the shock of the empty back seat brought me to tears again.
You might wish to discuss the removal/non installation and storing of your car seat before travelling to hospital, to avoid any sudden shocks and additional grief stricken moments.
Taking Your Baby Home
It is possible to take your baby home if you wish to. Some parents find it comforting to have their baby at home, with them, for some of the time before the funeral. This can allow additional non pressured time to say goodbye. It can provide a more natural way for siblings, or other visitors to see the baby in the comfort and privacy of the home. Some religions prefer to have the body close by, and prepared by family members.
Using a Cuddle Cot can assist this process, providing a way to maintain a cool temperature – something which has been a concern in the past.
It is possible for your baby to return home prior to the funeral, in a closed casket. This enables you to spend time with your baby, without seeing them if you have been advised against it.
It is important to discuss these wishes with your midwife, chaplain or funeral director as soon as possible, to enable plans to be made – for example around the timing and duration of this, who will provide ongoing support, who will collect and transport the baby for burial or cremation.
If your baby was born prior to 24 weeks, it may be possible for you to take your baby home, to bury them at home. If this is your wish, you will need to discuss this with your chaplain, vicar or funeral director and they will help you with the arrangements.
You may have begun to prepare for your life with an additional family member, buying clothing, necessary items and decorating the nursery/ preparing your bedroom for your new baby. There is no right or wrong way to deal with this situation. What is helpful is that you anticipate the difficulties, and have discussed how you might manage them. People around you may have differing ideas about how this should be resolved.
You might like to clear as many baby items from around your house as possible, moving them to the nursery and shutting the door. This means that you are less likely to see them unexpectedly, and you can choose to visit and spend time in the loving, nursery space you created when you are ready to do so.
You, or family members may feel that it is better to remove everything from the house. This is an understandable reaction, one which comes from a desire to protect – or a need to run. If you choose to do this, it might be a good idea to photograph things as they were, so that if you wish to, you can remember them clearly in the future. You might also like to package the items up carefully and place them in storage, rather than sell, give away or destroy them at this time.
In the future, when you are further into your grief journey, you may have further ideas about what to do with items from this special time in your pregnancy.
Here are some ideas I have seen…
Cot turned into a bench, or child’s desk
Memory bear from baby’s clothes
Shadow frame of baby items
Receiving E Mail And Post From Baby Companies/Websites
One of the exciting things about pregnancy is registering with bump to baby type magazines, websites and companies. Unfortunately, they continue to send you e mails and post after your baby has died. It is important to be aware of this so that if it happens you can prepare for it. You may wish to ask a friend or family member to contact the companies you have registered with, and cancel your membership.