When you suffer the loss of a loved one, you may turn to memories and mementoes to help you recall his or her life. But when a baby dies, those memories are taken from you before they can ever be formed. So much anticipation and planning goes into the preparation for a child, and miscarriage leaves parents with so much disappointment and many unfulfilled expectations.
One of the ways to cope with the loss of an infant is by taking the time to create some memories and mementoes in the time you have. There are many ways to parent a child, even one born still or prematurely, and taking on the traditional parenting roles for a short time can help you look back fondly, instead of focusing solely on what might have been. Knowing your child, even after death, can help with the grief process and give you a positive experience to look back on during one of the most difficult times of your life.
Many doctors, nurses and hospitals are more than willing to help families create memories of their child at the time of a miscarriage, stillbirth or medical termination. While you should never be forced into anything you aren't comfortable with, you should be aware of all your opportunities while still in the hospital or birth center.
Hold the Baby in Your Arms.
Spend time together as a family. This is a chance you'll never have again.
Naming your baby may help you feel connected with the humanity of your loss, and may help you and your family talk about the baby more comfortably in the future.
Dress Your Baby
Bring a special outfit or blanket to dress the baby in. Depending on how far along you are when you miscarry, you may be able to use preemie size clothes. Clothes are best suited for babies late in the second trimester or later, such as 24 weeks or more. Early losses, however, may be better suited for wrapping in a small blanket or other cloth. Perhaps you have a special handkerchief or scarf you’d like to use. Some hospitals may provide a small blanket especially made for this purpose.
Footprints and More
If the hospital or birth center does not offer these, ask for footprints and identification bands. Even the tiniest feet can make prints that last forever.
Take pictures of the baby, and of you and your family members with the baby.
Invite those close to you to visit. Your instinct may be to pull away from friends and family, but sharing the experience with loved ones will help bring the memory of your baby to life. This is also a great opportunity for your family members to work through their own grief as well as being there to support you.
Bathe Your Baby
Depending on the age and size of the baby, you may be able to give the baby a bath or assist the nurse in giving the baby a bath. Bathing is usually easier for later losses, like those after 24 weeks, but can be done earlier. Just ask your nurse if you’re interested.
Many funeral homes offer low- or no-cost funerals for children. Planning a funeral can be helpful to you, especially to help spread the word to your family and friends when it can be difficult to talk about your loss. A hospital social worker can help you find one of these funeral homes.
The volunteer organization Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep is a network of professional photographers who come to the hospital or birth center to do a photo session with you and your baby at no cost to you.
The hospital or birth center may be able to provide you with some mementoes as well, including any clothing or blankets used while caring for your child, or other small tokens, such as pins, stuffed animals or baby rings. Some hospitals will take pictures of your baby with a digital camera and provide you with prints or a CD-ROM of pictures. If you have something you'd like included in the pictures, such as flowers, a special stuffed animal or even your wedding rings, don't be afraid to ask.
This time with your baby is short, but you can make it precious. Know your comfort levels and don't be afraid to ask if your caregivers will help you create a special experience while you can.