a. Say a special goodbye
The time you spend with your baby will be moments cherished for the rest of your life. It is however a very personal choice as to whether you want to see your baby or not. Many parents and families have found great comfort in the treasured opportunity to see, hold, and cuddle their baby and deeply value this precious time of togetherness.
Holding a funeral or a special memorial service for your baby is a beautiful, personal way of saying goodbye. It allows you the opportunity to honour your baby’s life in a way that is unique and significant to you. It’s important to say goodbye to assist in facilitating your grieving and to provide an opportunity for your healing journey to begin.
b. Know a different you
Physical changes: As a Mum your body will experience some degree of change depending on how long your pregnancy was. Everybody is different but you may notice some of the following; passing blood clots for a couple of weeks afterwards, hair falling out, breast engorgement, hair & skin changes, hormonal changes, change in taste buds, lack of sleep, lack of appetite and lethargy.
Mental changes: you have experienced shock and trauma and this will affect your mental capacity in the short term. You may experience a lack of concentration and focus, some memory loss and find it difficult to make decisions. Try to avoid stressful decisions such as moving house or changing jobs. Be gentle on yourself and don’t feel pressured to think ‘normally’.
Emotional changes: There may be days, weeks and probably months, where you are likely to feel as though you are trapped in a deep black hole and there is no escaping the relentless pain. A day may eventually come where you have managed okay, and then the next you’re thrown back into heavy grieving again. Allow yourself to weather this rollercoaster of emotions as it is to be expected and may happen often as part of the healing process.
In your own time, you will start to have better days and realise you are learning ways to cope with this new normal. You will find a sense of life again, but we know this is not something that happens quickly or easily.
Acknowledge that you don’t need to rush yourself because of your expectations or those of others. The truth is that it’s right to put you first, take your own time, seek the support you need, and know that you have every right to grieve for your baby.
c. Telling others
Family & Friends: finding the words to speak about your heartbreak may be very difficult in person. You may wish to email or ask someone else to call on your behalf if you are not able to have these conversations. Some will be unaware of your loss and will ask questions about how your pregnancy is going. You might need to mentally prepare yourself for these queries and how you will respond. Consider printing our ‘Information For Family and Friends’ article or email this link to them. There is also an option of giving them our Family and Friends brochure.
Colleagues: going back to work may feel overwhelming and it may be worth speaking with your manager or HR team initially so they can advise your colleagues on your behalf. That way you can have input into how the message is shared which may alleviate some anxiety for you. We can support the process by giving advice about what colleagues can and should ask you to show concern and empathy.
Insensitive Remarks: some people may not understand the impact that the loss of your baby has on you, and may make off the cuff comments that weren’t meant to hurt, but do. You may decide to plan some responses to possible remarks so that you are mentally ready to handle them. Alternatively you may choose not to surround yourself with those less empathetic individuals.
d. Cope day to day
Triggers: certain situations may arise where something triggers you back to the heartbreak of losing your baby or amplifying the pain you feel. This can be very distressing, depending on where you are at emotionally. You may see a baby or hear one cry, see another friend pregnant or be invited to a baby shower. It may be a song playing in a store, a certain scent, a place you perhaps visited whilst pregnant, or a passing comment. These triggers may expose your pain again when you least expect it, and test your strength over and over. The important thing to remember is that it is totally acceptable to remove yourself from the situation if it’s too much to cope with. You need to prioritise yourself and protect your fragile space.
Self care: it may feel beyond your abilities but the reality is that you need to look after yourself or ask for others to help you with this. It is critical that you eat, exercise and sleep adequately to allow your body to manage the emotional strain. Although it may be very difficult in the very early stages of your grief, exercising releases endorphins which make you feel good and place you in a better position to cope with your grief.
Daily routine: on the days that you can manage it, try to keep up a routine of healing activities. This might be writing your thoughts in a journal, taking time to walk or relax outside, looking at treasured mementos, listening to music or speaking with a close friend.
e. Handle the formalities
Birth and Death Paperwork: If your baby was born after 20 weeks gestation, you will be given paperwork to register the birth and death of your baby for a fee. You will be issued with a standard birth certificate and you may also purchase a commemorative birth certificate.
There may be government allowances you can apply for if your baby was born after 20 weeks.
If your baby was born at 20 weeks gestation or over or was born alive at any gestation, you are responsible for arranging for a cremation or burial and for ensuring your baby’s birth and death are recorded with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. You may choose to hold a funeral ceremony but you are not obligated to do so. If you have a miscarriage (less than 20 weeks and born still) at the hospital, you may also ask to take your baby home so that you can hold a private service if you wish. If your baby is less than 20 weeks gestation, you can bury your baby at home or arrange for a cremation.
You can make the arrangements yourself, although this can be challenging process and may choose to find a Funeral Director who will assist you with holding a funeral service.