I’ve noticed over the last few months that most, if not all, bereaved parents have at least one regret regarding the time they spent with their baby/child. Most of the families who I have been in contact with have been stillbirth parents – some contacting before their baby is delivered, asking what they’re allowed to do with their baby; some contacting shortly after delivery, asking what they’re allowed to do with their baby in the funeral home; some contacting asking for advice regarding baby’s funeral; and others contacting years down the line seeking comfort for the regrets they carry with them.
I have a few regrets about the time I spent with Otis, and looking back all I can think is … I just wish someone wrote me a list.
I wish I had a list in front of me, telling me what I could do with my little boy. I knew I could take pictures, and I knew I could hold him and love him, I knew I could read to him, but I missed so many little things through the fogginess and confusion after just delivering my sleeping son.
So, for those who have found yourselves reading my blog as a way to find information about what you can do with your baby, here is a list:
Before baby is born, you may want to:
– Take some bump pictures
– Choose a few outfits incase you want to change baby more than once.
– Contact a funeral home of your choosing to prepare them for a baby arriving in a few days.
Once baby arrives you may want to:
– Take pictures of your baby on their own.
– Take pictures of your baby with yourself and baby’s daddy separately, then some of you together.
– Take pictures of your baby with family members (grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings) etc.
– Take videos of you changing baby, getting baby dressed etc.
– Read baby a story.
– Bathe baby (speak with the bereavement midwife about this).
– Move the cold cot next to your bed.
– Put the cold mat from the cot on to your hospital bed so you can sleep in bed with baby and still keep him/her cool.
– Have the hospital chaplain in to bless him/her.
– Take multiple handprints and footprints
– Take measurements of his/her arms and legs etc.
– Cut off a lock of babys hair to keep.
– Take pictures of baby freshly newborn (one of the things I regret is only having one picture of his naked body – as stupid as that may sound, I want to remember every tiny piece of him).
– Have someone from Remember My Baby (UK) / Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (US) in to take professional pictures of your little girl/boy, free of charge.
– Write a list of the people you would like to meet him/her (I found I didn’t want many people coming in to the hospital as I didn’t want to sacrifice my own time with Otis, so we had just grandparents, his sisters and his aunties up)
– Daddy is allowed to cut the cord if he wants to.
– If you feel up to it, you can have plenty of skin to skin, baby doesn’t always have to be dressed.
– Ask a midwife to take off baby’s cord clamp so you can take it home with you and keep it in your memory box.
Leaving hospital with baby
Many parents aren’t aware that you have multiple choices when it comes to leaving the hospital:
1.) You can leave before baby, in which case he will be cooled until funeral directors pick him up.
2.) You can leave after baby, so the funeral directors will collect him/her then you can stay in the hospital for a bit before going home.
3.) You can leave at the same time as baby.
I went with option 3. I stayed in hospital with Otis from Friday till Sunday (they recommend 72 hours if you decide to stay in hospital). My dad carried him to the funeral car and we followed him back to the funeral home.
My older girls are 4, and I know that children at this age tend to take things quite literally, so when Otis died I didn’t tell them that he was sleeping because I didn’t want them to be scared of going to sleep. I told them simply that he had died and that he wouldn’t be coming home. They accepted it because children are really good at that!
When they met Otis, they came in to the room as excited as they would be if he was living. All they saw was their baby brother. They weren’t concerned that he wasn’t opening his eyes, or that he was cold, they just wanted to love him and cuddle him. I didn’t force anything. I asked them gently if they wanted to come near, if they wanted to hold him, if they wanted a picture etc. As they were with him, I explained to them again that his heart had stopped beating and he would be going to Heaven instead of coming home. I did tell them that he has a special job now in the sky which means he cannot come down to visit until they’re sleeping – that he will visit them in their dreams and give them kisses goodnight once they’re asleep.
They like the idea that Otis comes to visit, and I’ve found it to comfort them quite a lot. With regards to whether your older children meet your baby – there is no right or wrong answer. It’s completely your choice. I decided the girls should meet Otis because I didn’t want them getting confused. They had felt him kick and move and they knew mummy had a baby in her tummy. I didn’t want to go home with no bump and no baby. Them meeting Otis helped them acknowledge that he was a real little person and that they still are big sisters.
A note from me to you
If you’re reading this for advice, I am SO sorry you find yourself in this position, please do not hesitate to get in touch via my contact page. If you don’t manage to do everything you want to do with your baby, please find comfort in knowing that everything you have done/will do/are doing is right … You’re making the decisions you need to make for you, for your baby, and that is all you can do.
There is nothing anyone can do to prepare you for what is about to happen, but I’m going to tell you a few things that might just help a little with understanding what’s to come. In the hours leading up to Otis’ delivery, I was terrified he would come out cold. Otis came out luke warm. My body acted as an incubator after he had passed away and kept him warm. He was quite floppy which I expected but he was ‘easy’ enough to hold, especially once wrapped in a blanket (having a nappy on him also made him that little bit more stable and cushioned). Otis was born with a few blisters and skin marks which is completely normal and usually expected, so you may find your little one is also born with a couple of blisters, or loose skin. It isn’t anything you have done if so, it’s just because they’re more sensitive. You may also find that baby could leak fluid from his nose, eyes, ears and mouth this is all completely moral. Otis actually soiled in his nappy after birth as well, the build up of gas in his tummy forced a little bit of poo out, again this is completely normal.
All I can do now is send love, send virtual hugs, send hope that you make the memories you need and want to make … and to tell you that your baby will be beautiful, and you will do everything right … you have done everything right.