Soundwaves Perinatal Bereavement Support

Bereavement Support For Parents Grieving the Loss of a Baby During or Just After Pregnancy

Heartbreaking Decisions July 28, 2009

I write the following with all respect to the grieving parents who have had to make these heartbreaking decisions…

From the moment we are told that our babies are gone, a myriad of unimaginable, heart wrenching decisions are thrust upon us that must be made within a very short period of time. If you experience a miscarriage, you may be asked if you want a D&C or D&E, if you want to miscarry naturally, or if you want to wait or do the procedure right away. I learned from my training that you can be given a miscarriage “kit” by your doctor or hospital to take home in order to catch the remains of a baby and bring them to your doctor or local hospital. Some people save the remains to  have a memorial service (sometimes the remains are intact, tiny and look very much like a baby).

Still others may have to make the agonizing decision to terminate a pregnancy if a baby has severe abnormalities and wouldn’t live outside the womb. A baby’s life might be severely compromised by it’s abnormalities. A woman’s life might be compromised by her pregnancy. A parent may choose to have an elective reduction, if through IVF there are too many babies. Women may be asked if they want to continue their pregnancy or choose to end their pregnancy under any of these circumstances.

If your pregnancy goes to 20 weeks or beyond and your baby dies, still other decisions are to be made. You may be given the option of delivering your baby on the OB floor of the hospital with all the other expectant mothers. Or you may deliver on a GYN floor. I opted for the OB floor because I very much felt like I deserved to be there. Other mothers in the same situation I know opted for the GYN floor because they didn’t want to risk hearing any crying newborns.

If you deliver naturally, you are given the option for medication- to induce labor, to reduce pain, for nausea and/or diarrhea. I was given sleeping pills the night before I delivered because we were given the option of giving birth to our twin sons the night we learned they died, or wait until the next day to deliver (the decision we ultimately made).

A baby may be born alive, but terminally ill, and the parents may have to make the heartbreaking decision to take their baby off of life support. A parent may have the option to hold their baby while he or she is dying.

Once you deliver a stillborn baby or your baby dies shortly after birth, the decisions can be overwhelming. You may be asked if you want to hold your baby and if you want to have pictures taken (there is now a wonderful organization called “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep”, a group of volunteer photographers who will come into the hospital and professionally photograph your child). You may be asked if you want to bathe your baby, if you want your baby in your room with you for a period of time (I’ve been told you can keep your baby with you for quite a long time now, although I would imagine the longer you keep your baby with you the harder it is to say goodbye).

Phone calls need to be made to immediate family to tell them about what happened. Family may want to know who they should contact. Clergy may be contacted. You may need to get in touch with someone where you work to let them know your circumstances.

You may be given the option to have last rites given to your baby,  and you may choose to have your baby baptized if you are Christian. Funeral and memorial decisions need to be made: whether to cremate your baby, and what you want to do with the ashes. You need to choose a cemetery and perhaps a headstone if you plan to bury your child. A memorial service may need to be planned. Friends may need to be told if they don’t know about your baby’s death already.  The list can go on and on. I’m sure I am not listing all of the possibilities here.

Virtually all of these decisions are difficult, and must be made while you are in shock, can’t think straight, and just want it all to go away. Hopefully, there are good people on the staff in your doctor’s office and/or in the hospital that can help you through the process thoughtfully and with great care.

Sometimes, the decisions we make under such incredibly stressful circumstances can bring tremendous guilt and stall our healing. Often, nothing can change the way things happened and nothing can bring our babies back. We can’t turn back the clock. Above all, no one deserves to be judged for the decisions that needed to be made under these unimaginable circumstances.  The only thing we can do is try to move forward knowing that we did the best we could under the horrendous circumstances we were in at the time. No one can ask more of us than that.

Remembering your babies with heartache and love…

God Bless until next time.

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3 Responses to “Heartbreaking Decisions”

  1. Kim Carolan Says:

    Thank you for writing this. I am sure that it would encourage many mothers and fathers who have lost a baby by any of the means you have outlined. It’s wonderful for you to put this online for others to benefit from.

    Kim Carolan
    Author of Walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death

  2. Andreta Minter Says:

    Thank you so much for writing this Claudia. It is definately encouraging


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