At some point, you will need to say goodbye to your baby. Of course, a final goodbye will occur more formally at the funeral, we’ll cover that in another section. This section is written to help you consider the goodbyes you may make prior to the funeral service.
There may be several goodbyes. Whilst you stay in hospital, staff may need to remove your baby to carry out tests, clean them, or to cool them if there is no facility in your room. These times may feel quite strange to you. You might feel concerned about where your baby, is who is with them etc. Later you will need to leave the hospital to go home. Whilst we cannot possibly make this any easier for you, we hope that the information here might help you to prepare.
What they could wear – You may wish to consider what your baby will wear when you are away from them. You can leave a note requesting that for as much time as possible you prefer your baby to remain dressed (if a post mortem has been arranged, they will be undressed, but the note will help to ensure that they are dressed afterwards). You might like to dress them in a special, smart outfit, or in cosy pyjamas. Think about what will bring you comfort. We mentioned earlier about organisations that can help you with teeny, tiny outfits if you have not been able to find any in the shops.
Singing them a song – We have spoken with many parents who have told us that they sang a song to their baby. Whilst this might sound strange, it might be something you find yourself doing naturally. Or something you would like to do to make a memory. Music can be a helpful way to express thoughts, feelings and emotions. The lyrics of a song, or the melody of a childhood lullaby may be poignant and beautiful in the moment – even if you don’t have the voice of a West End Star. You might find some inspiration on our You Tube Channel. You might wish to download or purchase Angel Baby Lullaby. You may have a favourite song, with beautiful lyrics, or a nursery rhyme which just seems right. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star has never sounded the same to me, since I heard a family singing it at their baby’s funeral.
Reading a goodnight story – There is nothing more natural than reading a bedtime story to a small child. This can become a beautiful memory, for some parents. I chose to read Finley a story. It was a book chosen at random by my husband, but turned out to be so poignant. I still remember reading the story about a baby tiger being lost in the jungle, and the parents saying “we miss you baby tiger”. There are many books with stories which can express powerful emotions, through their simple storylines and words. Here are our suggestions (click the images)
Taking them outside – Sometimes the simple things can become really important. Many parents express a wish to take their baby out to feel the sunshine on their face, or to look at the stars. Hospital staff will be happy to facilitate this, perhaps using a pram with the shade up, or a baby sling and suggesting a quiet area you can sit together. It may take a little organising, but most wishes are usually possible.
Where to leave them – It may seem a little strange to ask the midwives about this, but it can be helpful to think about where you would like to say goodbye to your baby. Although limited, there are choices, some of which may feel more comfortable to you. You might choose for your baby to remain in the room you spent time in, until after you have gone. This is what we chose for Finley, because it was the only place he had known, and we wanted him to feel safe.
Equally you might choose to walk with the midwife to take your baby to the mortuary. You might wish to meet the staff who will take care of them. You might have instructions for them, or wish to see the place your baby will remain. The mortuary can be quite a sobering place, so it is important that you ask your midwife to go with you, that you arrange support for yourself for after you leave them. You might wish to ask questions about where your baby will be taken and when, so that you know where they will be at all times. Sometimes if you have chosen to have a post mortem, your baby might be taken to another hospital which can be a shock if you are unaware of this.
Who to leave them with
While you have been cared for in hospital, you may have developed trusting bonds with some of the staff. You may have a preference for the person with which you would like to leave your baby. It may be the midwife who has cared for you, the chaplain, the bereavement midwife. You might wish to meet a member of staff from the mortuary. You’ll need to ask for these things, and explain what you wish to do.
Leaving things with them
Many parents find it comforting to leave particular items with their baby. This may be gifts they have given, the outfit that they would like the baby to wear, a special blanket, photographs of family members, drawings from siblings. You might wish to write a note for the people in the mortuary, explaining your wishes. If you wish to receive these items back, it is better to let people know as sometimes items can become separated from the baby.
We recorded our last goodbye with Finley. You can watch the video below. Please note that it may be upsetting to watch.
Experiencing the death of a baby is very difficult. During these years we have spoken with many bereaved parents, at different stages of their grief journey. There are some moments which many families have found very difficult. Leaving the hospital without their baby is one which is often mentioned.
Going home can be difficult for many reasons. Here are some of the ones which have been mentioned to us in the past – and some ideas for managing them.
When you become pregnant your body/partner’s body goes through so many physical changes. These happen gradually, over time. Some are subtle, and you don’t always realise the impact the changes have made. When your baby dies, towards the end of the pregnancy, it may feel slightly different. The movement, and way the baby takes up space may shift. However, little can prepare you for the empty feeling in your tummy when you have given birth.
This feeling is present for ladies who have a live birth also, but they may be less acutely aware of it, because they have some distraction, and are busy and do not have the heightened state of grief/shock to contend with.
One feeling expressed by many baby loss mothers is a feeling of their arms being empty. This is a combination of a loss of an expectation, a memory of the physical feeling of their baby in their arms and a symbolic expression of grief.
This feeling can be helped by holding something, cuddling something. I left hospital cuddling a feather pillow (I did this without consciously choosing to do so). For many nights I would find myself cuddling a pillow in the middle of the night. You might like to hold your baby’s outfits, memory box, or a teddy bear. There are charities, such as Aching Arms, and organisations around the world such as Bear for an Angel and Molly Bears who provide teddy bears and weighted teddy bears (made to the birth weight of your baby) to ease this feeling.
If you had reached the third trimester of your pregnancy you may well have purchased and installed a car seat in your car. As I went into labour as planned, while my baby was healthy and well, we travelled to hospital with our car seat in the car. When I left hospital days later, the car seat was no longer in the car. I hadn’t thought about this – and the shock of the empty back seat brought me to tears again.
You might wish to discuss the removal/non installation and storing of your car seat before travelling to hospital, to avoid any sudden shocks and additional grief stricken moments.
Taking Your Baby Home
It is possible to take your baby home if you wish to. Some parents find it comforting to have their baby at home, with them, for some of the time before the funeral. This can allow additional non pressured time to say goodbye. It can provide a more natural way for siblings, or other visitors to see the baby in the comfort and privacy of the home. Some religions prefer to have the body close by, and prepared by family members.
Using a Cuddle Cot can assist this process, providing a way to maintain a cool temperature – something which has been a concern in the past.
It is possible for your baby to return home prior to the funeral, in a closed casket. This enables you to spend time with your baby, without seeing them if you have been advised against it.
It is important to discuss these wishes with your midwife, chaplain or funeral director as soon as possible, to enable plans to be made – for example around the timing and duration of this, who will provide ongoing support, who will collect and transport the baby for burial or cremation.
Early PregnancyIf your baby was born prior to 24 weeks, it may be possible for you to take your baby home, to bury them at home. If this is your wish, you will need to discuss this with your chaplain, vicar or funeral director and they will help you with the arrangements.
You may have begun to prepare for your life with an additional family member, buying clothing, necessary items and decorating the nursery/ preparing your bedroom for your new baby. There is no right or wrong way to deal with this situation. What is helpful is that you anticipate the difficulties, and have discussed how you might manage them. People around you may have differing ideas about how this should be resolved.
You might like to clear as many baby items from around your house as possible, moving them to the nursery and shutting the door. This means that you are less likely to see them unexpectedly, and you can choose to visit and spend time in the loving, nursery space you created when you are ready to do so.
You, or family members may feel that it is better to remove everything from the house. This is an understandable reaction, one which comes from a desire to protect – or a need to run. If you choose to do this, it might be a good idea to photograph things as they were, so that if you wish to, you can remember them clearly in the future. You might also like to package the items up carefully and place them in storage, rather than sell, give away or destroy them at this time.
In the future, when you are further into your grief journey, you may have further ideas about what to do with items from this special time in your pregnancy.
Here are some ideas I have seen…
Cot turned into a bench, or child’s desk
Memory bear from baby’s clothes
Shadow frame of baby items
Receiving E Mail And Post From Baby Companies/Websites
One of the exciting things about pregnancy is registering with bump to baby type magazines, websites and companies. Unfortunately, they continue to send you e mails and post after your baby has died. It is important to be aware of this so that if it happens you can prepare for it. You may wish to ask a friend or family member to contact the companies you have registered with, and cancel your membership.