Specific to Stillbirth

Most of this site is geared to miscarriage, but there is a very blurry line between miscarriage and stillbirth. A stillbirth is a birth of a deceased baby after 20 – 24 weeks gestation (this varies by country). The miscarriage of babies at the end of the first trimester and into the second trimester closely resembles labor and delivery and thus stillbirth. In addition, much of the information on this site about miscarriage is also applicable to stillbirth. However, I wanted to include a special section on stillbirth to take into account some of the differences. [This section may grow over time.]

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This was written by a woman who suffered the loss of her 33 week daughter early this year. She was kind enough to share some thoughts with us in the hopes that they might help someone else.

Something that was really difficult about our situation and I think is really common with babies that are born still is how rapidly everything happened. I was admitted to the hospital within a couple hours after finding out our daughter had died. I had no time to think, or research or read or ask or look up things on the internet. Thankfully there are few things I think I would have done differently had I had more time to prepare. I am grateful for all the amazing people that are loving us and supporting us as we grieve. We experience God's love through their words, hugs, tears and smiles and this reminds us that even when the pain of grief seems too much to bear it does not take long to remember that we are blessed.

What I'm so glad we did:

1. We had NILMDTS take pictures. [ed. note: Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep ]

2. We held her, talked to her, sang to her, and kissed her.

3. I'm glad I took a lot of time to look at all her parts, to touch the soft parts on her skin, to admire her fingers and toes and button nose. We talked about who she looked like (me!) and how beautiful she was. I tried to memorize every detail of her praying that God would not allow those memories to fade.

4. We had her footprints made.

5. We ignored our phone...we did not call everyone and tell them that she was born, we focused on spending our precious little time with her and filled everyone in later.

6. We made a memory book with her foot prints, pictures, ultrasound pictures, hat, etc.

7. We sent her pictures to friends and family...there are also announcements specific for miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss [ed. note: You can find these online if not in stores.]

Some things that I wish had been different:

1. I wish I had asked my midwife to stay with me. If you were planning to have a doula, I would recommend that you still ask them to come. You are still going through the entire process of labor and delivery and need the support even more so.

2. I was overwhelmed and in shock and going through the pains of labor knowing that I would never be able to take my baby home with me. I wish that I had barred everyone from asking me about funeral homes and cemetery plots, etc while in labor. Maybe this was necessary, I don't know, but it was very difficult because I felt like everyone was so focused on making arrangements that they forgot that I was in labor and needed support. [ed. note: Consider having a family member or friend be the appointed resource person for medical personnel to talk to about arrangements.]

3. Because I am her mother, I was very concerned about the condition of our daughter's skin so I was very cautious with moving her around a jostling her too much. I did not let the nurse dress her because I didn't want to damage her skin any further. I'm not sure if I would change anything about that other than maybe hold her more tightly and in other positions.

4. She was born with one eye slightly parted so I could see that she had blue eyes. I wish that I had opened her eyes to see what she looked like with her eyes open. I think I even thought about it, but was afraid it might upset my husband.

5. I think in our situation it was best that my husband and I were the only ones in our hospital room. We were able to be completely open with our emotions and we did not have to divide our scarce time with her with others. But sometimes I do wish that I had a picture of our daughter with her big brother.

6. If you happen to have items with you for your little one like a teddy bear, toy, blanket, hat, etc. put them with your baby and take pictures of your baby with the item. That will make the item seem more special later.

Important things to know:

1. Because our culture shies away from death, I think that many mothers and fathers are not well prepared for what their baby may look like. Depending on the time between the baby's death and birth the baby's body will already be showing some signs of death. Your baby may have skin peeling in several places and may have some fluid-filled blisters. It may be a bit soft and "sticky". Some bruising may be present, especially on the face. These signs will accelerate after birth.

2. Delivering in the hospital (at least in my experience) can be extremely difficult. In most cases you will be put on the labor and delivery floor with all the other pregnant and laboring mothers. [ed. note: In addition most hospitals endeavor to move these mothers to non-postpartum women's floors after delivery. If this is not offered, ask if it would be possible.]

3. Even though you did not bring your baby home, you are still postpartum. You had a beautiful baby and your body needs to recover the same as every other mother. The difficult thing for me was that I had to deal with the regular postpartum pain and hormonal issues while grieving for my daughter and without the "feel good" hormones new moms get when they hold and nurse their newborns. Be kind to yourself, rest and allow others to help with meals, housework, taking care of other children, etc. [ed. note: Postpartum depression is a bigger risk for women who have suffered a loss. Do not hesitate to address this if you think you may have it.]

4. Just know that death can be confusing for kids and they may process it in different ways. Some of these ways can include asking very blunt questions. Just do what ever you need to. If it feels good to talk about your baby and what happened to him/her then share away. If it is not the right time it's ok to say that you do not want to talk about it right now because you feel sad.

5. If your baby is born in the latter part of your pregnancy it is likely that your milk will come in. Mine did and I was not sure how to make it dry up. I thought if I pumped then I would continue to make more so I tried to just let it dry up on their own. This was extremely painful. My midwife gave me the number to a lactation consultant. She shared with me some tips on drying up naturally. She also shared another option with me, donating my breast milk. My baby was born at 33 weeks. The lactation consultant taught me about preterm milk (before 36 weeks). She said that preterm milk is even more nutrient dense than regular breast milk because of the unique needs of preterm babies. She said that preterm milk is greatly needed but supply is always limited. The preterm milk is used mostly for preterm babies in NICUs. Breast milk is considered preterm for 30 days following delivery of a preterm baby. I decided to donate my milk as a way to honor my daughter. This was not always easy. Sometimes I felt good almost happy that I had the opportunity to help nourish and strengthen sweet babies, but other times pumping was a huge emotional struggle. The first week I pumped about every 3-4 hours...yes I woke up in the middle of the night to pump :( My breasts would become engorged and the pain would wake me. Sometimes the mechanicalness of pumping really bothered me and I would yearn to be able to give my milk to my beautiful daughter. Another challenging thing about pumping is that you have to take all your supplies with you wherever you go and find places to pump and all the fun that goes along with that. Thankfully it wasn't long before I was able to extend the time between pumping. I pumped for about 30 days. The last week I pumped 1-2x's per day. My milk had began to dry up on its own (probably due in part to the lack of "feel good" nursing hormones). When I stopped pumping my milk just dried up, I did not become engorged. I am now very grateful that my lactation consultant shared this option with me. The milk bank that I worked with was very kind, considerate and helpful.

Drying up Milk: Here is one link I found but maybe you can find a better link. Most of what I found specifically about drying up after a still birth was on forums. My lactation consultant told me that if I wanted to dry up I could pump just enough to relieve the pressure but not empty my breasts, put cold cabbage leaves in my bra and drink sage tea.

Donating Milk: I worked with WakeMed Mother's Milk Bank. They had me fill out a survey (on paper and fax) to make sure I met the health qualifications. I also had to have some blood work done (WakeMed covered the cost). Once all the lab work and paperwork was processed, they sent me a cooler to ship my milk in and they paid for all the shipping. They require a minimum of 200oz to donate. After pumping, I would seal the milk bag, write the date on it and store it in my freezer until I had enough to donate. I decided to just send 1 shipment after I had finished pumping. One thing to keep in mind if you are considering donating your milk, is that you will be restricted from taking many medications (i.e. for sleep or pain, etc). So, it is important to do what is best for your health and recovery. If you are not able to donate because of sleep issues (at one time my husband asked me to consider quitting because I was having such difficulties sleeping and was unable to take medications for sleep), physical or emotional pain, etc. that is completely ok and good. Your health and wellness is most important.

What seems to help as I grieve:

1. Reading other people's stories of baby loss (books, blogs, websites).

2. Writing my daughter's birth story.

3. Talking about my daughter.

4. Praying for her and asking for her to pray for me (and her daddy and big brother).

5. Counseling

6. Remembering to thank God for her and the beautiful yet few moments we shared.

7. Looking at her pictures.

8. Reading cards and notes from people who care.

9. Talking with my husband about what her birth was like for him and how he is currently feeling.

10. Talking openly with my husband about my pain, struggles, fears and hopes.

11. I love when people tell me how beautiful she was.

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing. Thanks to your blog, I have decided to donate my milk. Our baby girl, Karina Nicole Robledo, made it to 23 weeks, 5 days.

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  2. I'm so sorry for the loss of your daughter, Jessika. May Karina's memory be eternal! Thank you for helping other babies by donating milk. ((hugs))

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  3. Bless you. I just lost my baby yesterday.

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