"There are no happy endings. Endings are the saddest part, so give me a happy middle and a very happy start." These poignant words by Shel Silverstein remind us that life is full of painful moments as well as happy ones. All of us, at some point or another, must say goodbye to someone we love who passes on. Many would argue that the grief felt by a parent who loses a child is more heart wrenching than any other kind.
Approximately 1 out of every 160 pregnancies ends in stillbirth in the United States each year. A baby is considered stillborn if he dies in utero at or after 20 weeks gestation. Babies who pass away in the womb before 20 weeks gestation are considered miscarriages. Some instances of stillbirth can be determined once an autopsy is performed, while others forever remain a mystery.
While there is no easy way to say goodbye to a baby who passes on before delivery, many mothers have found ways to ease the crippling grief they experience when going through this tragic experience. A mother's love is fierce, powerful and everlasting. Mothers who lose their babies will never forget their precious little ones. The pain will never go away, but many moms have found peace in the wake of infant loss.
To anyone currently grappling with the loss of a treasured child, the following 15 beautiful ways mothers have honored their stillborn babies may bring a measure of solace and comfort.
15 Holding Baby Close
Bree is a mother who has experienced stillbirth. She beautifully describes her feelings the first time she saw her Angel Baby. Here is her description: "Archie was tiny. He was only 2.3 kilograms, he had curly blonde hair like me. He had really long legs. He had no chin like me and his dad. He had really big feet. He was so tiny. I remember being surprised at how small he was. He was perfect."
It has become common practice for mothers, fathers and any other extended family the parents wish to be present to spend as much time as is needed holding and spending time with their stillborn babies after delivery. Although extremely emotional, this time is also peaceful and sacred.
A mother who is able to snuggle the little one she has carried with her up until his passing may feel this time is a crucial way to ease the eventual goodbye she faces. Baby is often wrapped in a special blanket or dressed in a special outfit and held close for hours before being taken away for tests and an autopsy. Many hospitals also ensure that families dealing with a stillbirth are in a private room away from the rest of the maternity ward to ensure that grieving moms don't have to hear the sounds of celebrations and crying babies.
14 Taking Photographs With Baby
During the time families spend with a precious stillborn baby after delivery, hospitals often offer proffesional photography services. These photographs are a way for a mother to have a piece of her baby with her forever. In many cases of stillbirth, parents are often in shock right after baby's arrival. It often isn't until baby is gone that their arms ache to physically hold the child they once planned to take home with them. Photographs are something tangible parents can hold and look at whenever they need to.
Many hospitals have special midwifes trained to handle stillbirths that will stay in the room with families to help them through the process of saying goodbye to their infant. The photography session is a quiet, special time where baby is photographed in her parents arms and in her bassinet. It is also common for photographers to snap photos of baby's little hands and feet.
“For in grief nothing 'stays put.' One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?" -C.S. Lewis
13 Getting Baby's Handprints and Footprints
Along with photography services, many hospitals offer to gently and respectfully make prints of a stillborn baby's handprints and footprints. These prints are used by parents in a variety of ways to help them remember their little one.
Prints may be used in a memory box for baby, in jewelry, artwork or, in some cases, be tattooed onto Mom or Dad. Anything of baby that can be seen and touched after he is no longer with his parents can be a helpful way for them to remember him. While nothing can take away the horrific ache of loss and the hole in the lives of a family where baby used to be, mementos can ease the pain just a bit. They are a way for baby to live on and help mothers and fathers to feel at peace with the fact that baby will never be forgotten.
“History has shown us time and time again that you don't have to know someone to love them with all your heart.” -Shannon L. Alder
12 Making a Memory Box
Stephanie, a mother who has experienced the ache of dealing with infant loss, explains the moment she discovered her baby had passed away:
"Everything went quiet. I asked my nurse if he was moving. She started crying and said, 'Hold on, honey, we are looking.' I freaked out. I was crushed, angry and confused all at the same time. My son was gone."
"I had my son. He was the most beautiful baby I have ever seen. He looked just like his dad. Everything I hoped for. Only I wanted him to cry or to move or open his eyes. He didn't. He was gone. There are times I wonder how to do this. How do you go on without your child?"
Memory boxes are another wonderful way to remember baby. Often, parents will place items that would have belonged to baby inside of the box along with other reminders of her short, yet beautiful, life. Baby may not have taken a breath outside of the womb, but this doesn't make her any less of a presence in the lives of those who love her.
11 Wedding Dress Baby Gowns
Many communities have charity organizations that take donations of wedding dresses and make them into exquisite gowns for stillborn babies. These delicate and lovely creations help parents feel their baby is being laid to rest in a garment that represents love and unselfish service.
These beautiful gowns are donated free of charge. If interested in donating a wedding dress to this worthy cause, search for an organization in your area. Mothers who have lost a child may find a bit of sweet solace in donating their own wedding dresses to be used in gowns for other stillborn babes who leave this world much too soon.
“Some people say it is a shame. Others even imply that it would have been better if the baby had never been created. But the short time I had with my child is precious to me. It is painful to me, but I still wouldn't wish it away. I prayed that God would bless us with a baby. Each child is a gift, and I am proud that we cooperated with God in the creation of a new soul for all eternity. Although not with me, my baby lives.”― Christine O'Keeffe Lafser, from An Empty Cradle, a Full Heart: Reflections for Mothers and Fathers after Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death
10 Memorial Jewelry
An anonymous mother shares her story of healing after experiencing the stillbirth of her precious baby:
"People have told me how strong I am, but truthfully, I think I'm just surviving. The best way for me to do that has been to face all the hard things head on, but to not be too stubborn to admit when I need my hand held. I've explained it that our world came to a screeching halt that morning, but the world around us kept moving, and eventually, we have had to find a way back into that one. We'll never have the same horse on the merry go round again, but there's still room for us to ride."
For many mothers, a special piece of jewelry is a way for her to always have a part of her lost baby with her wherever she goes. Necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings made specially to honor angel babies are available at many different online locations. Many women engrave their jewelry of choice with a quote, baby's name, the date baby passed on or tiny copies of baby's hand prints or foot prints. Baby's birthstone may also be included. These lovely mementos may be another way to give a mother the peace of mind that baby will be with her everywhere she goes.
Tattoos are another way many mothers of stillborn babies choose to remember their treasured children. Initials, baby's name, copies of hand prints or footprints or other beautiful creations designed by a tattoo artist, a friend or even Mom herself are some examples of what may be chosen.
This permanent remembrance of a baby that was lost is yet another way moms can start to heal and move forward without the child they dreamed of holding, hugging, kissing and sharing a life with. It can be very therapeutic for a mother to have a place on her body that is dedicated to the precious little one she will always long for and never forget.
"I can accept the idea of my own demise, but I am unable to accept the death of anyone else. I find it impossible to let a friend or relative go into that country of no return. I answer the heroic question, 'Death where is thy sting?' with 'it is here in my mind and heart and memories." -Maya Angelou
8 Memorial Services
Debbie, another mother who has dealt with the pain of delivering a stillborn baby, shares the reality of realizing a baby is gone:
"You don't know how to handle outliving your own child. Not many people realize how common it is, or what people go through. Because many people experience it in silence, society doesn't know how to deal with the death of a child."
It is often difficult for friends and family to find the adequate and appropriate words to express their sympathy and sadness for a family who has lost a baby to stillbirth. A memorial service is often a wonderful way for loved ones to come together and support a family dealing with this most painful loss. Gathering to sing, remember, reflect and honor the life of a lost baby helps remind a family in the throes of grief after the loss of a baby how many people care and are there to support and love them through this unimaginably difficult time.
7 Special Gravestones
Claire puts into words how she felt after losing her baby to stillbirth as a feeling of loss that will never leave her heart:
"It is a grief and a pain that doesn't go away, but you do learn to live with it, it does become part of you. It's a drive and a passion that's never going to subside."
Many mamas of stillborn babes find great comfort in having a physical place to visit when they just need to grieve. A special gravestone made for a lost baby gives moms a place to remember, a place to break down, a place to leave gifts and flowers for their precious child and a feeling that he is laid to rest in a special place where she can always find him and connect with him.
Nothing can prepare a mother for the extremely difficult experience of losing a part of herself, her own flesh and blood. Many dealing with this loss attest to the fact that visiting the site where their baby is buried is a small comfort.
6 Reaching Out to Others
Many women who have lost a child to stillbirth wonder if it is in some way their fault, or there is something that could have been done that would have kept baby alive. It's important for mothers dealing with this tragic loss to understand that they should in no way blame themselves.
Attending a support group for those who have gone through a stillbirth or miscarraige may be a way to help mom heal and remember she is not alone in her suffering. Many hospitals can offer women resources and point them in the direction of a group they can attend.
An anonymous mother who has dealt with the loss of a baby to stillbirth explains beautifully why she doesn't blame herself, and neither should any other mom who loses a baby:
"You can't question everything; everything happens the way God already planned it to. Nothing you could have done would have changed anything, and everything good and bad that has happened to you in your life has gotten you to be exactly where you are right now. This is how I look at everything in my past and I embrace even the loss and the bad, becaus those moments brought me here."
5 Planting a Butterfly Garden
Planting a butterfly garden is a wonderful way to memorialize an angel baby. Butterfly gardens are created by determining flowers and plant that butterflies indigenous to the area in which the garden is being planted like to feed and lay eggs on. With the right combination of botanical life, the garden will soon be a place where butterflies gather. It is believed by many cultures that butterflies are a symbol of endurance, hope and life. A garden full of fragrant flowers and delicate butterflies may be a place for a mother to reflect and remember her lost baby, as well as a place she can draw strength from.
Another anonymous woman shared the following beautiful words about the strength women dealing with infant loss demonstrate just by putting one foot in front of the other every day in the midst of the pain they constantly endure:
"Strong is just waking up every day feeling this way. Strong is going to work feeling this way. Strong is brushing my teeth. Strong is going to bed knowing I have to wake up tomorrow without my son."
4 Participating in Charitable Events
There are countless different events around the world every year to honor and support those who have endured the pain and grief that accompanies infant loss. Many of these events are also designed to bring awareness to this taboo subject that many aren't sure how to approach.
One such example is the Festival of Trees, an even that takes place in various communities during the holiday season. Every year, trees are decorated, donated and sold at auction to raise money for various charities. Often, mothers of stillborn babies decorate trees dedicated to their lost infants and donate them to support a good cause. This is a way for a mom to take the pain she is experiencing and turn it into something good that will benefit others.
Amy is a mother who lost a baby over six years ago. Despite the time that has passed since the loss of her infant, she still feels devastated. She shares beautiful words about what has helped her to move forward: "The bereaved heart is heavily burdened, but there is great comfort when other's assist in carrying this grief simply by listening, supporting and remembering."
3 Honoring Baby by Giving to Others
Many bereaved mothers have found a way to make the unimaginably difficult situation of losing their babies a little easier to bear. It is becoming more and more common for women who have lost their babies to express milk and donate it to babies who are in need of this precious resource.
Some women pump for a short time to relieve pressure and donate the milk they produce while slowly ending their supply, while others continue expressing milk and keep their supply up in order to donate large amounts of milk to other babies, especially those who are premature. Turning the darkest moments of one's life into a bright spot for others is a beautiful way for moms of stillborn babies to pay homage to their lost little ones.
One anonymous mother shares her thoughts on the various ways mothers grieve and heal after losing a baby to still birth:
"Everyone copes in different ways. Some people sleep off their sadness and others channel their anger and sadness into productivity. Some people feel better alone and others have to surround themselves with people to forget their worries. There is no wrong or right way to deal with this kind of tragedy."
2 Trying Again
While losing a baby can cause many to fear getting pregnant again, after time has passed, many women get to a place where they are ready to try for another child. The fear of going though another stillbirth may cause some women to shy away from conceiving, but many have found that, when they are ready, having another child helps them move forward and celebrate the life they still have ahead of them.
Yes, babies lost will never be forgotten, and can never be replaced, but there is still joy to be found in life, even though the pain of loss will never disappear. It takes courage and faith to move forward with the decision to try for another child. Women who decide to do so often find this helps them embrace the future while still revering the past.
"All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on." -Havelock Ellis
1 Thankful Hearts
An anonymous mother shared the beautiful way she honors her lost baby. Every day when she returns from work, she lights a candle for her precious little one. It is a way for her to stop for a moment every day and just be for her baby. Doing a small act every day in memory of a lost child may be a helpful way for some to feel their baby is with them.
Babies lost before they were able to experience the world will never be forgotten by the mothers who carried them, felt their kicks and shared their blood. While a mother who has lost an infant to stillbirth will never be the same, she may find this experience has helped her see the world in a new way.
She may never again take for granted the frailty of life, the miracle of birth or the love she feels for those in her life she still has the ability to kiss and embrace. There is a future for those dealing with infant loss. A thankful heart may be the best thing a mother who loses a baby takes away from this harrowing ordeal.
"Motherhood: all love begins and ends there." -Robert Browning