Losing a child is, without question, one of the hardest things anyone can go through. What we do know is that everybody copes (or tries to cope) in different ways.
We shared a story recently of a woman who felt incredibly grateful that she’d been able to use a cuddle cot (a refrigerated bassinet) so she could spend a few more days with her baby after he’d died.
And we know of many mums who put together memory boxes for babies who died, so they can have them forever as a keepsake.
So we were interested to read a very different take from a mum, on a website called Kveller, who shared what she did when her baby was delivered stillborn.
The mum, who is Jewish, says: “I have always known that Jews don’t ritually mourn a miscarriage, a stillbirth or even an infant who dies in the first thirty days of life.”
Speaking of how she handled the birth of her stillborn child, the mum says:
“I decided not to look at the body I delivered. I did not feel the need to hold the baby, or to dress her to say goodbye. For me, the visceral experience of labouring and birthing her provided me with a tangible way to honour her and say goodbye.
“For this, I felt incredibly privileged. Birth was my ritual. I helped her pass out of my womb – her home for 27 weeks – to be returned to the earth. It is at this point that I felt incredibly grateful for the innovations in public health, modern medicine and psychology that enabled this.
“Thanks to medical innovations, I could be induced to deliver the day after I learned that the baby died, rather than walking around with a dead baby in my womb for weeks until my body naturally delivered (if at all).
“My doctor gave me hormones that diminished my breast milk before labour started. By the time I delivered, I had no breast milk left, so I did not have to face the horrific task of disposing of litres of my milk, something many women who delivered stillborn babies before me had to do.
“I did not take up the offer to see, hold and dress the baby, or even to keep the memory box created by the hospital. But I am grateful for the innovations in modern psychology and public health, which have led to the recognition of the need to encourage women and men with stillborn babies to find a way to grieve and say goodbye that is most therapeutic to them.
“I felt no judgment and only kindness from the hospital staff. Historically women have been forced to move on quickly after losing a pregnancy, stillbirth or infant, and the loss of a child carried stigma or attracted blame.
“Modern approaches and perinatal death organisations like SANDS encourage people to talk about their loss and recognise that grief can unfold over a long period of time. I never felt that I didn’t have a right to be sad.”
But the mum questions why, in modern times, we’ve come to simply expect a healthy, live baby at the end of a pregnancy. “Why has modern culture departed from the acknowledgment that pregnancy, if achieved at all, does not always result in happy endings?”
The family did have a burial for the baby – but the mum chose not to go. She says:
“My partner attended. Instead, I decided to collect my son, my living miracle, from kindergarten. It was his first full week and it had been unsettling.
“My son and I slowly walked home from kindergarten, admiring the trucks on the nearby building site. Then we had lunch, read a story, and I put him to bed for his nap.
“As I closed the bedroom door, it became clear that this was precisely where I needed to be: With my precious, living child.”
Getting through such a heartbreaking situation must be so hard for anyone – and, of course there’s no one way to do it.
Here at MFM we have to say this story stood out to us as it shows a different way of coping with the loss of a child than the way we often hear about a the moment. A number of our team felt they could relate to this.
Our heart goes out to this family – and what a brave lady for sharing her story ?