Dealing With the Emotions of a Stillbirth
Stillbirth is a devastating loss which affects over 25,000 families every year, touching families from every walk of life. Stillbirths quite often are totally unexpected, following a pregnancy which seemed trouble-free. The loss of a baby, whether from miscarriage, stillbirth, or following a live birth can affect you in many different ways; you may experience sadness, bouts of crying, loss of appetite, loneliness and isolation, guilt, despair, lack of concentration and memory and feelings of helplessness or hopelessness. While no amount of advice can take away your feelings of pain and loss, there are some things you can do which will enable you to look toward your future with happy feelings once again.
Give Yourself Time to Grieve
One of the most important things you can do for yourself during this difficult time is to allow yourself to experience the range of emotions within yourself. If you deny your pain, or hold your feelings inside, your healing process can't really begin. Don't try to tell yourself that your loss is somehow less devastating than the loss of an older child or another loved one, just let yourself fully acknowledge the pain for just what it is. It can be really helpful to verbalize what you are feeling and what you are experiencing; talk to friends, join a support group or even consider seeing a therapist because as difficult as it may feel to tell your story, it can really speed the healing process.
Realize That Your Partner May Not Grieve in the Same Way
Your husband or partner may not grieve in the same way you do, or express his feelings, however this doesn't mean that he is not hurting just the same as you are. Even while you are grieving, be there for him as well-make sure you listen to his feelings without judgment. Watch for feelings of depression in your partner so you can both deal with the situation in the healthiest manner possible.
Honor Your Baby
Whether you have a memorial service for your baby, or preserve something special you were saving for your baby, you must find a way to honor the place in your heart which your child will always occupy. The loss of a baby is a profound loss for parents, siblings and other family and friends, yet even as recently as 20 years ago some doctors refused to permit a mother to see her stillborn baby for fear it would make her go crazy. Thank goodness the medical community has changed its position on the loss of a child, and many obstetricians now encourage parents who have suffered such a devastating loss to take photographs of the infant following birth to memorialize their baby. You may find comfort in looking at, talking to and touching your baby; you can dress the baby in a special outfit, and even take a lock of your baby's hair. If you've already chosen a name, be sure to tell the hospital staff so the documents can have the baby's name listed-depending on your religious preferences you can have your baby christened or blessed while in the hospital. At some point you will need to say goodbye to your baby, and this will be one of the most challenging moments because goodbyes are so final. You can find comfort in the fact that you will have the memories of your baby forever and he or she will not be forgotten.
Brace Yourself for the Coming Advice
Although it may anger you when someone says "You're young, you'll have another," or "It just wasn't meant to be," and you may feel these are incredibly insensitive comments, try to understand that people really don't know what to say and that they are trying, no matter how clumsily, to somehow make you feel better. Both friends and family will likely utter many of these platitudes, and while you should ignore as much as possible, there's nothing wrong with being honest and telling the person that while you appreciate the advice you must learn to deal with your loss in your own way.
You will normally be allowed to leave the hospital once your doctor deems you physically ready and although you may be ready to get to the security of your own home, it will be hard to walk into a home you expected to bring a new baby into. In the end, do everything you can to deal with the pain in your life from the loss of your child. When you're ready, you will know it and you can start dreaming and planning once more.