No parent likes to think about losing a baby through miscarriage or stillbirth.
When you first become pregnant, your mind is focused on what your baby will look like, what their future will hold, and all the ‘firsts’ that you will experience as a parent.
Losing a baby, whether it’s in the first few weeks of pregnancy or at birth, has a very significant and deep impact on parents and their families.
The grief and loss may be at times very overwhelming, and hard for others to understand or appreciate the impact your loss has on you.
Most parents have very real fears that they, or others, will forget their baby over time.
Finding your own way to commemorate a pregnancy loss or stillbirth can help the grieving process and may eventually bring some comfort. Some of the suggestions below may be more appropriate for miscarriages and others may feel right for stillbirths. Each option is a starting point to help you find what is best for your personal situation.
#1: Keeping A Journal
Keeping a journal in the days, weeks and months after your loss allows you to put words to your intense feelings. It gives you the chance to let out the full range of your grief, anger and pain. Those intense feelings are less likely to resurface later on if you have been able to release them in a private space without judgment attached.
A journal can be used to capture memories of your pregnancy and dreams of the future. It also records the way your grief ebbs and flows over time.
#2: Make A Statement About Your Baby
You might find a toy or a piece of artwork that reminds you of your baby or the way you pictured your baby. Some parents have tattoos created to commemorate an image they have held of their child.
A birthstone related to your baby’s birth or conception month may have special significance for you. Having a star named after your baby is a special way to remember your baby and one that you can share with other family members and friends.
#3: Photographs Of Your Baby
Having photographs taken of your baby can be very powerful memories. For parents who have experienced late pregnancy loss or stillbirth, you may feel that photographs are the only ‘real’ memories of your baby that you will have.
There are volunteer organisations of professional photographers who provide you with cherished memories of your baby. Jen Shipston, a birth photographer from Queensland, is a volunteer for such an organisation in Australia and says “For parents, these photographs represent the most bittersweet moment of their lives. They are not only saying hello, they are also saying goodbye. They may not look at the images for weeks, months or years, but find comfort in knowing the photographs are there, serving as a reminder their baby existed, no matter how briefly.”
You can have photos taken of your baby with you and your partner, and other family members such as siblings and grandparents. These photos can be put away for when you are ready or framed for your family to treasure. The choice is yours.
#4: Keep A Memory Box
Whether you have experienced early pregnancy loss or stillbirth, a memory box can be a treasured way of collecting keepsakes. You might have been given cards or poems from friends and family, honouring your child and sharing their own grief with you. Perhaps photos of yourself when you were pregnant or a special gift your partner gave you when you found out you were having a baby.
You might include a special blanket that was going to hold your baby after birth, a lock of your baby’s hair, the first test that announced you were pregnant, copies of your ultrasounds. All these things might have special significance to you.
#5: Name Your Baby
Choosing a name for your baby is one of the things parents-to-be look forward to. If you experience early pregnancy loss giving your baby a name can make their existence feel more real. Having a special name for your baby and being able to use their name when talking about your loss and the emotions you feel can bring a lot of comfort to you.
There are organisations that will print naming certificates and send them to you, if your baby was unable to have a birth certificate.
#6: Create Or Give To Charities And Causes
Some parents feel they want to do something in the name of their baby. Often friends and family wish to help and this can be a way they feel involved in supporting you in your time of grief.
Setting up a fund for a special charity such as supporting special care nurseries in hospitals or perinatal support organisations are things you may wish to consider. Perhaps there is a special garden or reserve you enjoy visiting and can donate funds to in your baby’s name. Or you might organise donations such as blankets for premature or stillborn babies at a local hospital.
#7: Create A Memorial
Parents who lose a baby speak of their loss in terms of how it becomes a part of their life, rather than ever leaving or being forgotten. Over time it can feel as though you have moved a long way in time from when your baby died and that can feel sad and even callous. Creating a memorial can be a way your baby’s memory is never far away.
There may be a special corner in your garden that you can plant a tree or flower in honour of your baby. You might like to create a memory book that visitors and family can look through if they wish.
Grief after the loss of a baby is a very personal experience and for many parents it comes and goes in waves, at times very challenging and hard to bear. Other times it can feel as though life is back to normal. However you choose to remember your baby is a decision only you can make and will be what feels right for you. If a long time has passed since your loss it’s not too late to create memories that remind you of your baby and honour their existence in your life and heart.