When a Baby is Stillborn
Birthing a Stillborn
The crushing blow of a stillbirth leaves parents stunned, numb, and overwhelmed. Suddenly all of their dreams and hopes are crushed, void of the one person who was to make them real. It is never expected and never easy to experience, for anyone involved, including family and friends.
When it does happen, the baby's death can be confirmed by ultrasound. Once that happens, whether labor has already started or whether it will be induced, the plan for the birth still has to be put into motion. Pain relief, support people and other conditions will be discussed and the doctor may be able to tell the mother what to expect in terms of size and appearance of the baby. It is helpful for a woman to know what to expect so there is at least a bit of cushion in the pain.
Making the Baby Part of the Family
If the baby dies before, during, or very soon after the birth it is possible for the mother to keep the baby with her to hold, love and dress if she wishes. Sometimes the thought of such a thing is repelling to the woman experiencing the stillbirth. However, given a bit of time those feelings often go away and the decision to keep the baby with her for a time gives some connection and closure to the mother.
Naming the baby is an important facet of the closure because it gives an anchor when talking about the baby. When the baby can be remembered by name he or she becomes officially a part of the family. Some parents bless or baptize their baby. The hospital can take pictures and help arrange a funeral if the parents so desire. Social workers who are affiliated with the hospital are often able to help and guide grieving parents in this way.