Sarah is a homemaker and stay-at-home mom who enjoys writing about motherhood, healthy living, finances, and all things home and garden.
If you are reading this article having just found out that your precious baby (or that of a loved one) has died, please accept my deepest condolences. Losing a child, even one who you never got the chance to meet, is one of the most difficult trials a parent can go through. Knowing what to expect helped to relieve some of my fears and made my experience a little more bearable.
If you have never suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth, reading this article will give you insight as to what your friend or loved one is going through and help you know how to help.
For me, one of the scariest things about my miscarriage was not knowing what to expect. I had a friend who had walked this terrible journey a few years prior who was able to walk me through what was about to happen. Perhaps you don't know anyone who has faced this tragedy before. I hope I can be that friend who can come along beside you and prepare you for the journey you or your loved one are about to face.
Losing Baby Jenni
We were thrilled to find out we were pregnant with our third child. After a fairly normal pregnancy, I went in for a routine visit at 23 weeks and found out our precious baby, whom we had been planning for and dreaming about for the last 5 months had passed away 4 weeks prior. My world crumbled as I learned that I would have to deliver my dead baby. I was horrified to think that for the last month, while I was purchasing things for her room and planning her arrival, she had been dead inside me and I didn't even know it.
At the moment, it felt like I wouldn't survive. I felt faint and sick to my stomach. The room was spinning. I didn't want to walk through this. I was terrified and in shock, and the only thing holding me together was the thought of my two sweet girls in the doctor's office playroom, patiently waiting for mommy to finish her appointment. I had to hold myself together. I had to breathe. I prayed for strength and called my husband. "I need you to come to the doctor's office. I lost the baby."
I called my mom and my best friend and then I called the priest and emailed my MOM's group asking for prayers. I didn't know it at the time, but I had many people praying for me that night. One friend said a rosary for me. Looking back I know that their prayers were answered and God gave me the strength and grace I needed to have Jenni Grace and let her go.
I am not saying it has been an easy journey to take. I am still adjusting to my new reality. I have to keep reminding myself that no, I will not be holding my new daughter come May, my belly will not grow big and round, Jenni will not be coming back.
Instead, I have a beautiful soul in heaven I imagine her playing in beautiful gardens, splashing in a quiet brook, chasing the most beautiful butterflies you could ever imagine. She stands before the throne of God and intercedes for us. While I tell my living children stories about Noah, Moses, and Jesus and the Saints, she sits at their feet as they tell her their stories. She knows who I am. She loves me and knows that I love her. Imagine that the Angels tell her stories about us and she waits joyously for us to join her in bliss.
What Is It like to Deliver the Baby?
As hard and unfair as it feels, you will need to deliver the baby, most likely in the maternity ward of the hospital. My doctor gave me the option to go in right away or to take a few days to prepare. We chose to go in that night, but whatever you choose is the right choice for you.
Typically, they use special tabs called Cytotec that they insert into your cervix every three hours. These tabs ripen and open the cervix, bringing about the delivery of the baby. I was advised to expect it to take about 12 hours or more for these tabs to work, but the amount of time actually varies from woman to woman. I needed only two doses; my "labor" lasted only 5 hours. This could have been because my daughter had been dead for about a month and my body may have been gearing up to deliver already.
I found my "labor" to be very different from typical labor. I did not have actual contractions, but rather constant menstrual like cramps. They started after the first dose of Cytotec but were light enough that I was able to get some sleep until the next dose three hours later. After the second dose, they immediately became strong enough that I felt like I needed some pain relief.
I had not used an epidural with my other deliveries, so I really wanted to avoid one; however, that is, of course, an option that you could choose. They gave me Fentanyl instead, which is a narcotic. I wanted to be drugged—anything to numb the emotional pain. You may prefer to be completely sober so you can be completely in the moment and remember every detail. There is no wrong choice. The fentanyl helped me to feel very calm and dulled the pain some at first, but the pain quickly became too much to bear and I asked for something else. They stopped the Fentanyl, but before we could do anything else, I felt the baby slipping out. I had only dilated to a 1.5 cm
Delivering Jenni felt completely different from my other deliveries. The pressure was much lighter and more in the front and as soon as she dropped into the birth canal, the cramping pain I felt completely disappeared. I felt no overwhelming urge to push and absolutely no pain as my doctor sat down at the foot of my bed to deliver her tiny body. Jenni peacefully slipped out with a gentle push from me. I was really blessed. She came out in her bag of waters, placenta, and everything. One tiny push and I was done.
It may be different for you. Many times the baby comes out and the placenta takes a while to detach because the body wasn't ready for birth. My doctor warned me that it could take an hour or even two for the placenta to come out. On rare occasions, a D&C must be performed in the OR, which happened to a friend of mine. As scary as this sounds, know that the hospital is prepared for this and you are in good hands.
I found the physical recovery of delivering Jenni to be much easier than my previous deliveries. There was very little cramping and very little physical pain at all.
Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Anxiety Medication
Don't be afraid to ask for anxiety medication. I asked for something to help take the edge off my nerves as soon as I got hooked up to the IV. The meds helped to calm me down (I was feeling panicked) and I was able to sleep a while. Before leaving the hospital, I asked for a prescription to get me over the hump. They gave me Zoloft and Zanax. Don't be afraid to ask if you think you need it.
How Long Will I Need to Stay in the Hospital?
Depending on when you deliver and your condition, you can go home much sooner than after a live birth. I had Jenni at 12:40 am and left around noon the next day to get home to my other children. My friend stayed two nights to get a little more rest.
Will I Lactate Afterwards?
That really depends. My miscarriage took place at 23 weeks, but my Jenni had passed at 19. Not all women will lactate after this early of a miscarriage. I was told that it could take up to three days for my milk to come in if was going to. I started taking Benadryl in the hospital and then two every night. (Supposedly, Benadryl helps to dry you up). I was also advised to wrap my breasts with an ace bandage and wear a tight-fitting sports bra to quicken the process. I was spared that extra hardship.
How Will I Feel After Having the Baby?
There is no one "right" to feel after giving birth to your baby. For me, as much as I was dreading the experience, when it was over I was so glad to have gotten the experience of birthing my baby, even though she had already passed. I found it to be a peaceful and beautiful experience.
After having the baby I felt very sad and empty but mostly relieved that the experience was over. You may feel numb, or angry, or indifferent and disconnected from the whole experience. I find these feeling come in waves and I have felt all of them in the past three days. There is no wrong way to feel and there is no wrong way to grieve.
You may want to hold your baby right away or not at all. Personally, I wanted to see her and touch her, but I wasn't ready to hold her right away. I did hold her before I left the hospital and I am so glad I did. It was a very beautiful experience to hold my baby and examine her perfect features, to tell her I loved her and say goodbye.
This is a very personal experience and if you feel like you can't hold your baby that is okay! My only advice would be to consider doing so. I found it very to be very therapeutic.
What Will Happen to the Baby?
After birth, my hospital dressed Jenni in a tiny sleep sack and wrapped her in a blanket, both of which they gave us to keep. They can bring your baby in for you to see and hold as often as you want, or don't want. They took lovely pictures of Jenni and made hand and feet prints for us to keep.
The Hospital will let you know what your options are for the remains. In Indiana, if the baby was over 20 weeks gestation the parents are required to contact a funeral home to take care of the remains. Many hospitals have special funds to help parents pay for this cost.
If the baby is under 20 weeks gestation, as ours was, the hospital offers free biannual group cremation and memorial services at a local cemetery. We felt like this was too impersonal for us and found that many funeral homes offer deep discounts for cremation services for babies and young children. We were able to cremate our daughter for $200.00, well worth the cost to have our babies remains returned to us for a Catholic funeral service.
If you choose or must use a funeral home, you must decide and give the hospital the name of the funeral home you will be using before you leave the hospital. Your nurse will be able to help you with this.
The hospital service, however, is very respectful and beautiful and is a great option if that is what you want! Many hospitals also offer support groups and yearly events to help celebrate the life of our precious babies.
Of course, you could also have a regular burial with a graveside service. No matter which option you choose, the hospital memorial events and bereavement group should be available to you.
Healing From A Miscarriage
Healing from a miscarriage is very different for everyone. You may want to try again for another baby right away, or you may not feel ready for quite some time. You may grieve very privately, or you may need to grieve publicly. For me, I wanted everyone to know that Jenni Grace existed. She was my child and she was loved and I am a mother who has lost her child.
You may feel sad for a long time, or you may feel like you have moved on rather quickly. There is no wrong way to feel about this loss. You may want to participate in bereavement groups. The hospital will let you know when their group meets. You could also join your churches group if they have one. You could make a memorial garden in your yard, or have a brick laid in his or her honor.
Talk to your spouse and to friends or family who are supportive of your feelings. You may feel the need to avoid other pregnant women. You may feel jealous and that's okay. It helped me to remember many women have experienced this loss. Yes, they may still have their baby while yours is gone, but they may have faced years of infertility or had multiple prior miscarriages. That thought has helped me to remain positive and feel happy for others as I hold out hope that God will bless me with another healthy baby.
Helping a Friend or Loved One
If you have a friend or loved one who is going through the pain of a miscarriage or stillbirth, it can be hard to know what to say or how to help them.
- Offer your prayers and support. Even if the couple is not especially religious, it can still be comforting.
- Remind them that God will get them through and that he will bring good things out of this.
- Treat the loss as the loss of a child, because that is what it is. I found it comments of sympathy: "I am so sorry for your loss." "I cant' imagine the pain you are feeling." comforting, as were comments about Jenni being in Heaven: "You will meet her one day in heaven." "Jenni is with Granddaddy in heaven." "Heaven has a new angel."
- Offer specific help. It is hard for a grieving couple to reach out for help because we don't want to be a burden. Instead of asking, "Is there anything I can do?" ask to bring them dinner and give them a choice of days, or offer to watch their other kids while they attend to funeral details.
- Consider sending a card or small bereavement gift.
- Remember that fathers grieve too. Ask him how he is feeling and give him your condolences as well.
- Be a "good listener." Let him or her talk about her feelings and validate those feelings with phrases such as, "That must have been so hard." "I am so sorry."
- Validate the tributes or acts they do for their lost baby with, "She would have loved that," "That is so beautiful."
- Minimize their loss by saying things like, "You can have another one." or "At least she passed before she was born." "It just wasn't meant to be" or tell them that must have been something genetically wrong and the baby just wasn't supposed to live
- Tell them that everything happens for a reason and we just don't know why God took the baby. A well-meaning friend told me that, "Maybe God knew that you couldn't handle three kids right now."
- Place expectations on them regarding how and how long they should grieve. Remember that the process is different for everyone.
- Avoid the topic. Many grieving mothers feel an intense need to tell the world about their precious baby. I know that I feel like I want the whole world to know that I had a baby who died and that I loved her.
- Give advice unless you are asked.
Books I Found Healing During the Aftermath
If you are looking for resources to help you or a loved one during this difficult time, there are a couple books I'd recommend.
My favorite book that I received was a beautiful picture book called, Mommy Please Don't Cry, There are No Tears in Heaven.
I found this book incredibly comforting in weeks and months following my miscarriage. The illustrations are beautiful and helped me to envision my little one enjoying heaven. My children also really enjoyed this book.
A second book that I found really helpful for talking with my children about what happened was about a little boy who lost his baby brother called, We Were Going to Have a Baby, but We Had an Angel Instead.
In loving memory of Jennifer Grace, stillborn February 1, 2014. I love you Jenni and will miss you always. Thank you for what you taught us about life and love and death.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2014 Sarah
Sarah (author) from Indiana on August 01, 2015:
DmFink, I am so sorry for your loss. Miscarriage is devastating no matter when it occurs, but late miscarriage is especially hard. Take your time to grieve and find ways to remember your baby. I heard it said once that our babies are still our babies, and we are still their mothers, even though they are no longer on this earth. I love that.
If you have not already found one, please search out a miscarriage support group. It is so helpful to be around other women who understand. My group is the one place I can go where I know that I can talk freely about my babies.
Know that going back to work and staying busy may make you feel better in the short term, but you may have a regression after a few weeks. That's normal. Allow yourself to grieve as needed. God bless!
dmfink on July 07, 2015:
I wish I had seen this 2 weeks ago when I was in the hospital waiting to deliver our little girl Charli who we had learned two days earlier at 18 weeks 6 days had passed,likely around 17 weeks. We buried her today and I don't know where we go from here. I am 43 and this was my second miscarriage, my first was the week before Christmas 2013 at 8 weeks 5 days. This time was much different in many ways, some good and some bad. I have a healthy, smart, and beautiful 20year-old daughter, my younger husband has no children of his own. I know that life will go on and it will get better but all I can feel right now is this loss. I am currently trying to figure out how to go back to work or how to let my huband and oldest daughter out of my sight.
Sarah (author) from Indiana on November 08, 2014:
I am so sorry for the loss of your precious baby. It is a devastating thing to go through, for sure and the cultures attitude that our babies are not deserving of a proper burial is another cut to an already open wound. Our children matter. The hospital where I delivered cremates fetal remains up into 20 weeks gestation and lays the remains to rest at a local cemetery. However, that felt too impersonal for us and we opted to have her cremated ourselves. Many funeral homes provide cremation services at a highly reduced cost for babies and young children. We paid just $200 to have our children cremated.
Which way did you chose to deliver? I opted to go through vaginal delivery. I found it to be a very healing process and we were able to hold our babies and say goodbye. However, there is no wrong choice!
Do, however, do everything you can to find out why your baby died. Our OB thought that our first loss was a fluke and not something likely to happen again because we had two children already so we didn't do anything different the next time around. Sadly, we lost out next little girl at 16 weeks. That time we started looking for answers and discovered blood flow/clotting issues/cord strictures, which we are treating with blood thinners and baby aspirin. I am pregnant again with a little boy and hoping that this will be our rainbow baby.
How do you help your children? Talk to them about the baby often. Include them in the funeral/memorial service. Answer all their questions and encourage them to talk about the baby and their feelings as well. As Catholics, my family prays for the dead and asks for their prayers as well. One of favorites are: "Jenni and Hannah, holy saints in heaven, be with us, rejoice with us, sing praise with us and pray with us now." Then we do our bedtime prayers. We also like, " Eternal rest, Grant unto Jenni and Hannah, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls rest in peace." Talk to them about heaven and family members your baby is with there, what they may be doing there. For my children, our babies' deaths got them thinking a lot about their own mortality and fears. We talk a lot about heaven and what it is like. If a child seems to be particularly struggling, arrange for them to talk to a pastor or therapist, who can help them.
For your husband: Remember that you will each grieve differently and it may seem like he is grieving less. Give him space to grieve in his own way, for as long as he needs to. Know that he may not always say the right thing or know how to help you. Talk to him gently about it. Give him something to remember your baby by. His/her footprints or handprints or name on a keychain or dog tag.
For yourself: Give yourself time to grieve. Name your baby, hold a funeral. I found the funeral to be very healing. I got to share my baby with friends and family, who came to celebrate her life. It was very affirming that she mattered. Find a good support group. Ask for help with the kids if you need some space. Know that your child existed, mattered and in fact, still exists. He/She will always be a part of your family and you can include him/ her in many ways. It helped me to hear how families many years out still remember their children by celebrating their birth date, purchasing an ornament for them each Christmas, making a donation in their name each year, keeping their pictures around. Know that the intense pain will not last forever. It will lessen and you will find joy again. Know that it is okay to be mad at God, or to not understand. You can even tell him that. He can handle it and will help you work through those feelings.
Good luck to you! Again, I am so sorry for what you are going through and will keep your family in my prayers.
ChristinElise on November 02, 2014:
Yesterday morning, our local hospital confirmed that our baby died. Today would have been 16 weeks, 2 days. Now we are having to see to details we never imagined. Supporting each other as a parent who has lost a very wanted child and also supporting our other children who have lost a much loved sibling. The devastation is beyond words as we now are contemplating cremation for a son/daughter who has yet to be born but is not deserving of the term "person" in the eyes of the law. Perhaps the hard part is that after so many years serving our country, my husband cannot even claim our baby for the funeral expenses that are included for all children after 20 weeks or weighing 350+ grams. But the worst part is that if we are unwilling or unable to deal with the body, our child is seen as, treated as, and disposed of medical waste genetic material. A dear friend has stepped in to prevent us from facing that agony head on, thank God. The heartbreak is far reaching as our circle of loved ones realize the 2nd trimester is not truly safe and, for some, brings up the pain of their own experiences.
Since our family insurance changed less than a week ago, I did not even get time to choose a new obstetrician near our home. Yet in the morning, a doctor I have never met will discuss our options. Do I go through labor and delivery, opt for a surgical procedure, be awake during it all, or go for full sedation?
Then.... How do I help my children heal? How do I support my husband losing his first and only child? And, finally, what about me?
Jacqui from New Zealand on October 26, 2014:
Thank you for sharing your story. Our rainbow baby daughter (child after loss - I had a mc at 6wks with prior pregnancy) scared us by seeming to try to arrive at 26 wks, so whilst she was ok and delivered 13wks later, it is very obvious to me that it could have been very different.
There is a group in my country who make gowns for 'angel babies' and even little 'pockets' for those too small an fragile to be dressed. I am waiting until they re open their donations for wedding dresses to donate mine to be used for this.
Talking about loss both helps you grieve but also helps others around you to know they aren't alone in their loss either. Thank you for sharing.
Sarah (author) from Indiana on October 25, 2014:
Thank you for sharing about your sweet granddaughter. I am so sorry for your family's loss.
Lee Hansen from Vermont on October 23, 2014:
My daughter and her husband and first child lost a precious little angel in a very similar way. Delaney Dianna developed an in utero infection the docs could not stop, (and could not explain even after autopsy in Boston). She spontaneously delivered herself a few days after a transfusion the docs gave her through the womb to try to save her. She survived for a few hours in her parents arms at the hospital, but was too tiny/early and ill to survive. Our little granddaughter was much loved and is still mourned nearly 10 years and another healthy child later. Take care and keep thinking those good thoughts about Jenni.
Sarah (author) from Indiana on February 05, 2014:
Kathy Henderson from Pa on February 05, 2014:
Mordern housewife beautiful and thank you