If you or your partner gave birth to a stillborn, did you see/hold it after the delivery?
May 30, 2011 7:54 PM   Subscribe

If you or your partner gave birth to a stillborn, did you choose to see/hold it after the delivery? How did you make that decision, and if you did decide to see/hold the child, what did you take away from the experience?

Sadly, Mrs. Anonymous is 21 weeks into a non-viable pregnancy. We're inducing labour on Tuesday night, and she will likely deliver on Wednesday. In this situation, we get to choose whether to see or hold the baby, have a footprint or pictures taken, and so on.

Obviously, we're devastated. We're also pretty unsure about what we want to do. So, please, if you're one of the people who have suffered through this unfortunate experience, and are willing to write about what you chose and what your choice meant to you, we'd like to hear it.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I cannot begin to express how sorry I am to hear of your situation. I have not experienced a still birth but know several women who have and the overwhelming answer I have heard is that they were very glad that they had pictures taken and to hold the baby.

This website might be of some comfort to you both at this terribly hard time.

My heart goes out to you both.
posted by Leezie at 8:05 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

How awful. I am so sorry.

Apropos of a miscarriage, I found Unspeakable Losses a valuable read. For what it's worth I also found it useful to not be too quiet about it -- pregnancy loss is sadly common and you will likely quickly start feeling less alone.

Two mothers I am friends with via internet mothers' groups suffered stillbirths and were later on very, very grateful to have photographs. I think we all cried when we saw them, but found our own comfort in the pictures too, while grieving for our friends. I think you will want to hold the baby, and say yes to footprints and photos and so on. I think both wanted little to do with the mementos for a few months and were only after that able to look at them and able to be grateful to have them.

Be prepared for some relationship strife -- make sure you are communicating well, and don't make assumptions about what the other one is feeling.
posted by kmennie at 8:17 PM on May 30, 2011

I am so, so sorry that you are going through this. My sister lost a baby at 30 weeks, and I think it made a tremendous difference to her to be able to hold her baby and spend time with it following the delivery.

Another website that might offer you some comfort is http://stringofpearlsonline.org/.

My thoughts are with you.
posted by I_love_the_rain at 8:19 PM on May 30, 2011

I'm so sorry for your loss. Seconding the glow in the woods website. I'm not sure what to tell you about holding the baby. it's an intensely personal experience. One thing you might consider either way you decide is to have someone photograph the baby for you. Some hospitals offer this as a service, perhaps contacting the Social Work department may point you to some resources.

My thoughts are with you and your partner.
posted by goggie at 8:33 PM on May 30, 2011

There's also a website by a photographer called "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" who offers services for couples in your situation, and they have remarks from people who went through the experience you may find helpful.
posted by effluvia at 8:39 PM on May 30, 2011

Oh, so sorry for your loss!

I guess, pragmatically, you'll never get to hold him/her again except for this one chance. My friends were in a little bit of a different situation, having a prem baby, who died in their arms when they got the chance to hold him- they cherish it.
On one hand you might wish forever that you would have taken up the chance to hold him/her- but you will also feel the desire to hold him/her again.

It's a tough one, and whatever you decide, decide now to not take any crap from anyone (including your future self) about your decision.
posted by titanium_geek at 8:41 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am so, so, so sorry. This is devastating. Please be gentle with yourselves.

I don't know anyone personally who had labor induced with a non-viable child, but I have a friend who gave birth to twins at 23w3d, which was too early for them to be able to overcome the complications of their prematurity; they never left the hospital. I have another friend who gave birth to twins at 27 weeks, and one of them did not survive. In both cases, they took many pictures and held their babies as much as possible, and while they had a hard time looking at those photos for a long time, they treasure them now. It's a very personal decision, and nobody can make it but you, but of the parents I know of in this circumstance who have elected to hold and commemorate their baby, none has regretted it.
posted by KathrynT at 8:42 PM on May 30, 2011

I can only say that my heart goes out to you both.

Here is the link to Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep; they can help you find a photographer in your area who volunteers to do these portraits. They are trained in handling the photography in a way that is sensitive and tasteful.
posted by emjaybee at 8:50 PM on May 30, 2011

So very sorry you two are going through this.

If you decide you are not ready for photos or footprints at this time, please ask your nurse if the hospital has a program for your situation. I don't know anyone personally who has been through this experience, but when I did my nursing student rotation in OB I learned that many hospitals will take photos and footprints/handprints for parents in your situation and hold on to them indefinitely, in case the parents later decide that they would like these mementos. If the hospital doesn't have this long-term service available, I'm sure your nurse would be happy to package any such items in an envelope for you to take home and open later if you so choose.
posted by vytae at 8:57 PM on May 30, 2011

From the asker:
Those who want to respond privately can mail 9901234@gmail.com.  We won't respond, but we will read it.
posted by cortex at 9:02 PM on May 30, 2011

If you do decide to get photographs, there are services who will retouch the photos for you as well, if that is something you might be interested in. Here is one found from a quick google of retouch photos stillborn.

I wish you and your wife the best in this difficult time.
posted by marble at 9:33 PM on May 30, 2011

I am so very sorry for your loss.

My sister-in-law delivered a stillborn baby at 36 weeks. She and her husband decided to hold the baby and have photographs. It seems to have been a great comfort to them.
posted by jasperella at 1:10 AM on May 31, 2011

I am so, so sorry for your loss.

When my cousins lost their baby still fairly recently, they held him and had photographs done by Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. For them, it helped make a surreal experience real, which in their case helped them move through their grief. In their case, too, I think, it helped them to give them "permission" to talk about their son to people.
posted by zizzle at 3:03 AM on May 31, 2011

I saw my stillborn son breach. It was one of the traumatic moments of my life, and though I wanted to be strong and be there for my wife, I had to leave the room at that time for a few minutes at that point. I just wanted it to be over and had absolutely no desire to see him or hold him. I think of him often, but have never regretted not being closer to his body. I'm pretty my wife feels/felt the same way.

But, yeah, it's really a personal decision. I would just encourage you not to add to the stress by making this decision now and feeling like you have to stick with it. Go with what feels right at the time. There is so much hurt involved no matter what you do that really this decision is sort of inconsequential IMO.

I'm sorry.
posted by Dano St at 3:23 AM on May 31, 2011

I am so sorry. I did hold and take photos of my second, deceased, daughter. I do not look at the photos now (the digital ones are in a protected folder) but I am glad I have box on my bookshelf with her clothing and photos. If you do not have one already, may I suggest acquiring a doula or midwife to be your advocate in the hospital. I had a very insensitive on-duty OB assigned to me and my midwives ran interference wonderfully. My wonderful mother and sister arranged for clothing from high-end doll shops as premie clothing was too big.

My thoughts are with you. Be kind to one another.
posted by saucysault at 5:23 AM on May 31, 2011

I am so sorry for your loss.

My brother and sister-in-law held their son, and the hospital took a picture of him. Many people in the family gave them grief about this decision. They held fast though, and even keep the picture on their mantle (still, 17 years later).

Be prepared for some people to not understand whatever decision you make. People will judge. Ignore the judgers and do what feels right to you. You don't have to display the picture if you don't want to. It's not like you're ever going to forget this child anyway, whether you have a picture or not, or keep the picture out or not.

Check into grief counseling for parents in your situation. If the hospital doesn't offer something in-house, ask around at your OB's office, or at a church, or search online. You might think it's a waste of time. My brother did. But sis-in-law insisted that they go together to a few sessions, and now, he thinks it was helpful to meet other people who had the same experience.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:35 AM on May 31, 2011

I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you.

We miscarried at 11 weeks, so it wasn't quite the same. However during the grieving process, my cousin shared with us her experiences. She has had two very late-term miscarriages. She held the baby both times and felt strongly that is helped her.

No matter what you decide, there is no wrong decision.
posted by Silvertree at 7:14 AM on May 31, 2011

I terminated a non-viable pregnancy at 20 weeks--I had a D&E rather than having labor induced, so I was not able to see or take pictures of the baby. I don't regret my decision exactly, but I do wish that I had been able to hold her. We did get footprints, which I treasure. I think most people end up wanting mementos of the baby, although of course it is impossible to know until you are right there.
posted by feathermeat at 8:44 AM on May 31, 2011

Hi OP, I'm so sorry you and Mrs. Anonymous are going through this. You may be interested in this post: Link It was originally posted at Open Salon.
posted by foxjacket at 9:28 AM on May 31, 2011

My third pregnancy ended in a late, missed miscarriage (fetus died but my body didn't miscarry). I was 18 weeks along when they couldn't find a heartbeat, and I had to go in the hospital a week later to terminate the pregnancy by pill. I chose not to see the baby, and asked that they not tell me its gender neither in the ultrasound nor in the process. I was also dosed on Demerol during the miscarriage, which for me was a blessing, since I don't remember much of it and it wasn't as painful (physically, mentally, emotionally) as it could have been. I think seeing the fetus would have made it more painful, and since that small they're still more fetal looking than like a baby (to me, anyway) as well, I don't know, I thought then and I think now I would have been more freaked out than feeling closure.

This was best for me, since I was and am able to view that pregnancy as a potentiality that didn't sadly didn't work out, rather than a baby I lost. I grieved, but I already had two children and I got pregnant again within a few months, so I think I got past the whole experience faster from these factors and from remaining relatively detached (I stress the "relatively", it was still a hard, sad thing to go through). I will say if the baby had been further along, past the preemie potentially-surviving age but stillborn/non-viable, I'm pretty sure I would have wanted to see it, because it would've been more like a baby, to me, at that point. Unfortunately I found people otherwise close to us were not as supportive or sympathetic as I would have liked at the time, probably because they didn't know how to handle it either - like I said, it seems not quite far enough along to be totally "real" I suppose, not like it is to you who are actually experiencing it, having the physical, emotional, mental investment in the pregnancy, but having it end in this way.

I am so sorry you are going through this. Please take it slow and give yourselves time for anything and everything you feel.
posted by flex at 11:02 AM on May 31, 2011

I'm so sorry for what you're going through right now.

My aunt had a stillborn birth when she was five months pregnant. It was her second child. She did see and hold the baby and so did her husband and sister (my mom). For them I know it was helpful. They even gave the baby a Hebrew name and had a small funeral ceremony, which helped them grieve.
posted by tacoma1 at 1:19 PM on May 31, 2011

How awful for you both. I'm grieved for you and your family.

I haven't been through it personally, but several close family members have. Most have chosen to take pictures and do handprints/footprints. It was a good choice for them.

However, I would say this: don't make a firm decision until you are in the moment. Go with what feels right to both of you in that moment. Don't be hard on yourself if that choice is different than the one you thought you'd make.

Either way, take care of each other. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
posted by guster4lovers at 4:03 PM on May 31, 2011

I am so sorry for your loss and the grief you're going through now.

My very good friend found out in her second trimester (I believe it was then) that her daughter had anencephaly and would not survive much longer than a few hours after her birth. She was able to choose between continuing the pregnancy until she delivered "naturally," induction, or termination. She and her husband chose induction and she delivered her daughter at 20 weeks (again, I believe; it's been years ago now). They chose to have her bathed and dressed, they held her, and the hospital took photos. When she died (about an hour after birth), they chose cremation and my friend was able to find a company that incorporated her daughter's ashes into a lovely pendant that she wears every day. The hospital gave them a lovely wooden box that holds her receiving blanket, the clothes she wore after birth, her footprint, and a lock of her hair. They named their daughter and baptized her before her death.

She doesn't regret the time she had with her daughter at all. She feels like it enabled them to have closure and prevented her from "going crazy with guilt."

Whatever you decide, please know that you made the decision with the best possible information you had at the time. You may at some point wish you had done things differently, but that's only with the benefit of time and perspective. What you do now is what you do now, not what you would have or should have done.

I hope the two of you can find peace.
posted by cooker girl at 6:22 PM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

God bless both of you, and your little one. I am so sorry.

I haven't been there, but I can't imagine passing up my one chance to hold my baby.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:10 AM on June 1, 2011

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