Remembering Your Stillborn Baby
Losing a baby prior to or during delivery is one of most heartbreaking and devastating situations that some parents will need to face. Particularly if you were expecting to bring home a healthy baby, you might be dealing with shock in addition to profound grief. The staff at your hospital, as well as the director of your funeral home, will do what they can to support you through this difficult situation. Many parents of stillborn babies choose to plan a funeral or memorial service for their little ones. Here are some tips for dealing with the time immediately after your stillborn baby's birth.
Spend Time With Your Baby
Before making any plans for a memorial service, take some time to rock, talk to, snuggle with and photograph your baby. The hospital staff will likely tell you how long you have to spend with him or her, but don't be afraid to ask for additional time if you need it. During this time, you might choose to have your parents, your other children, your siblings and other close relatives or friends visit to say hello and goodbye to your child. This is often an important part of the healing process, and the hospital staff will probably offer to take hand- and footprints or cut a lock of the baby's hair for you to take home.
Ask the Hospital Staff to Contact the Funeral Home
That first phone call can be the most difficult, and the social worker or chaplain at your hospital is often willing to make that contact. He or she will also offer condolences and, when you're ready, information about support groups, counselors and other people who can help you through your grief.
Many funeral homes offer free or deeply discounted coffins and services for stillborn babies. This information will be offered when you or the hospital staff speaks to the funeral director. The act of choosing a coffin, music and flowers for your baby's funeral might be too much for you to handle on your own, so do not hesitate to lean on your friends and family for help with these tasks.
Decide Where the Baby's Body Should Go First
In many cases, the hospital will transfer the baby's body directly to the funeral home. Sometimes, however, parents wish to bring their babies home for a short time to introduce him or her to waiting siblings or to take photographs in the nursery or the rocking chair. State law permitting this varies, but the practice is becoming more accepted. If you are interested in bringing your baby's body home, you can find more information on this at When Your Baby Dies.
Consider a Tangible Memorial Object
Once the funeral home memorial is over, your arms and your home will probably feel very empty. Your friends and relatives will have gone home, and you will be left to deal with your grief with your immediate family. Something that many families choose to do is create a living or permanent memorial of their baby's life and death. Some examples include purchasing a memorial stone for the cemetery, planting a tree in honor of the baby, or even having your baby's ashes placed in an urn that you keep in your home.
A memory box filled with items that remind you of your baby is something else that you might want to put together. Include the outfit that you put on your baby for photos, the hospital ID bracelet, the hand- and footprint images, photographs, cards, and other memorabilia. While it will be painful to put these items in a box now, they will contribute to treasured memories as the weeks, months and years pass.
Losing a child is just about every parent's worst nightmare, but there are steps you can take after a stillbirth to get through the experience and create good memories for later in your life. Talk to the staff at your hospital or at a funeral home like Hitzeman Funeral Home, Ltd about more resources that can help.