The sadness of stillbirths
Updated: Mar 21, 2021
An awareness week is being held from 29th April to promote perinatal mental health. Throughout pregnancy mental health is important, particularly if a baby is miscarried or stillborn.
In such cases, feelings of grief at the loss and guilt as to how this could have happened are often experienced.
Today I will focus on stillbirth and the complex nature of what this brings if a child is born between 19 and 24 weeks, not only emotionally but practically. If a child is born during these weeks, the word miscarriage will be used, as legally a stillbirth only applies after 24 weeks. It can be incredibly hard to use this term, as the mother will have gone into labour and given birth to the baby, her milk may even come-in days later whilst still in shock. Use the term that feels right, saying stillborn may give others insight into your experience without the need to explain.
There will be many decisions to make. In hospital you have the opportunity of a keepsake box for pictures and hand/footprints and you may want to consider an autopsy; take the time to do what feels right for you and your partner. Do you want to organise a ceremony to mark the baby's life, perhaps choose a name? Becoming a parent of a dead child can feel like being part of a club you would never choose to join. Making sense of it all can feel impossible, as we do not "get over" a death, there is no timeframe and no rules to follow. How do we learn to live with it? Talking through emotions, thoughts and decisions with your family, friends or GP, can provide the support needed to move forward at such a painful time.
Written for Darling Magazine Wimbledon, March - May 2020 edition