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Dealing with Details
 
Memorializing the baby
 
Whether you were 4 weeks or 40 weeks along, this was your baby. From the moment the nurse called you to say the test was positive (or you saw the purple line!), you began to think about that baby, dressing him/her up in cute clothes, walking down the street pushing a stroller, handing the baby over to proud grandparents, and countless other dreams. You DO NOT need to pretend the baby did not exist or that your child wasn't a "real" baby. Even if others think you are being excessively emotional, do what you need to do to get through this. One thing that is very helpful is making a memory box for your baby.

You may have many things to go inside: pictures from the birth, a hospital ID bracelet, the outfit your baby wore, the blanket he/she was wrapped in, and the many mementos from your pregnancy. You may have only a few: a positive pregnancy test, a journal tracing your attempts to get pregnant and hearing the good news, sympathy cards, dried flowers from sympathy bouquets, or a sonogram printout or videotape. You may have nothing yet.

Things to add to your memory box, even if it was years ago:

  • A letter to your baby describing your love
  • A dried leaf or branch from a tree you planted in your baby's honor
  • An outfit or stuffed animal you bought especially to remind you of him/her
  • A small journal detailing your feelings
  • Printouts of messages from women you talk to on the Internet about your baby (I did this!)
  • A birth or name certificate that you make with scrapbooking supplies or on a computer
  • A poem you read that reminded you of the baby

It may seem odd to other people, and even to yourself, to make elaborate plans AFTER the baby died, but it will help. I have no greater comfort than the heart pendant I had engraved with our baby's name. I can wear it everywhere and look at it whenever I want. It is sort of like carrying Casey around with us; I would never leave it behind. And spending time arranging and rearranging the items in his memory box gives me an outlet for all the mothering feelings I still have.

I am in the process now of turning my small flower garden into a memorial garden. I will have a small angel statue with a little plaque and a place to sit among the flowers. Since I have no grave to visit, I can go there. And even years from now, when I (hopefully) have many children, I can go there and feel happy and remember Casey. 

If you were able to take pictures, but they don't seem appropriate to display or show others as they are, the picture can be digitally altered to look like any sleeping baby or an angel in the sky. If you would like to learn more about this, follow this link: stillborn picture restoration.

One unique source of memorial items is the Bereaved Mothers Web Site. They sell a beautiful print of a mother by an empty cradle who is watched over by Jesus holding her infant. They also have inexpensive pins and jewelry of baby feet and hands, with or without angels, stickers of baby's feet the exact size of a 10-week-old fetus, and little formed statues of 12-week-old babies with the details and weight the baby would have had. A link to see these items, or to join their email group, is the pink graphic below.

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Deciding to name the baby
 
Naming the baby is a strong personal choice laden with emotions either way. You will go through many phases after a miscarriage. At times you will want to cling to the memory, therefore wanting to name it. At other times you will want to put it behind you. My initial advice to you is to go ahead and name your baby, especially if your pregnancy was widely known. It will help you refer to your baby to others and in your own mind. To think this decision through, consider the following thoughts that will likely pop into your head:

Naming the baby seems like a waste of the name.

Believe me, when you get pregnant again, you will not want to name the new baby a name you had already picked out. Although we named our baby something non-gender specific (Casey), we still ruled out the names we had originally chosen, Savannah and Benjamin, for our second pregnancy. We had a sort of irrational fear that we would jinx the new baby. So don't save the name for later; call the baby what you intended to call it all along, whether you know the sex or not. The only reason we chose a different name is because we wanted to name it right away and we thought we would find out the sex later when the chromosome test was done. As it turned out, we never knew. But this Christmas, we adopted a little girl named Savannah to buy gifts for, and we are on the lookout for a Benjamin. It helps us to know we are assisting some little ones with those names, since we do not have our own baby to purchase gifts for. We couldn't do this if we didn't have a name.

I was only a few weeks along. Why bother?

It's hard to judge how you will feel later. By naming the baby, you make him or her more real, making the grief harder to deal with. While this may not seem like something you want to do, the grief is out there and you have to work through it. Naming or not naming the baby does not change the situation, but later on, when you are less grief-stricken and more nostalgic, particularly if you get pregnant again, you will like to think of the baby by its name. It will help you separate the babies in your mind, which is far healthier than thinking of the new one as a replacement.

I don't know the sex of the baby.

There are dozens of great names that aren't associated with a gender. Ours was Casey Shay. And there are many others: Adrian, Aiden, Alex, Blair, Bret, Chase, Christian, Chris, Dakota, Danny, Denver, Drew, Gabriel, Hayden, Jersey, Jesse, Jody, Julian, Kelly, Kennedy, Lane, Lee, Lesley, Logan, Madison, Micky, Morgan, Nicky, Quinlan, Robin, Sloan, Taylor. I hope this gets you started. You can, of course, simply go with the sex of your choice as well. I find it unlikely you'll go to heaven to discover a very angry little boy named Martha. He'll already be going by Marty.

I didn't name my first miscarriage. I feel bad naming this one.

It's okay to name your baby after the fact, even if it has been years. You will want to remember your pregnancies separately, and the names will help. Think back to that pregnancy, and you will probably remember a name or two that you favored from the moment the test was positive. Use it. Also, if you look at my angel dedication pages, you will see several mothers who have one named baby and several "unnamed." This is okay too.

My first son was going to be a "junior" with his father's name. What should I do?

I think it's okay to save a name like that, especially if it's a long standing family tradition. Give this baby another name, but name it all the same.

I just don't feel comfortable calling a dead child by a name. It's over. Why make it more sad?

I urge you to examine WHY you feel that way. A lost baby is terribly sad, no matter what. Are you afraid that the grief will not end? It will take a while, but you will feel better. You will always be wistful; you will always wish the baby was with you. But you will get better. Naming the baby simply makes it clearer who you are wistful about.

My husband and family don't want me to name the baby.

Are you sure? Could it be that they don't want you to suffer any more, so they say these things to try and help you forget about the baby? Or perhaps they are afraid THEY will be more sad. Remind them that naming the baby will help you feel better. And simply start referring to the baby by name. If you find you can't talk to them, find friends or support groups for mothers who will listen. They will be glad to hear your baby's name.

If, in the end, you still don't want to name you baby, then don't. You can always do it later if you want to.

 

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Services for the baby
 
Many parents want to have some sort of memorial service for their baby.  You do not have to have a burial plot or other tangible remains in order to hold a service. If you actually have the baby to place in a little coffin, or if you were given the ashes from a cremation, then you can go the traditional route and hold a memorial at the funeral home or by the grave. Whether or not you want the memorial in the paper to alert your community to the service is up to you. I think you will find many people will come to support you. Don't think people will avoid this service simply because they did not meet your baby.
 
If you did not get to keep any remains of your baby, you may still hold a service at your church or in another lovely location, such as a park or garden. You can plant a tree in your yard and have others gather for the dedication of the tree or a plaque. You can do the same with a memorial garden, making the focus be the baby or have the dedication be a part of a party to show your garden in full bloom. Your service can include a member of the clergy, or you may simply have people say a few words. You can scatter rose petals or bird seed off a cliff or into water. Many people have released balloons with messages inside.
 

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Telling your other children
 
Whether you have lost a baby the children didn't know about and they are wondering why you are so sad, or if you have come home from the hospital without the promised brother or sister, explaining the loss of your baby to your other children is bound to be difficult. 
 
In many ways, it is best to be as straightforward as possible. Children understand far more at very young ages than most people realize, and overheard conversations can make them feel even more afraid and alienated from their parents. 
 
One concern of children is that whatever happened to make the baby go to heaven will also happen to them. Explain to them that they are safe with you. Another concern is the attention they may be losing to your mourning process. Sitting with them to write a letter to the lost sibling or to plant flowers as a memorial can help give them something concrete to do and feel. Try to keep these concerns in mind as you deal with both your own grief and the sad confusion you see in your children. 
 
A number of children's books have been written to help parents explain the loss of an unborn sibling or early infant death. Among them are: 
 
Molly's Rosebush for the loss of an unborn sibling. 
 
Stacy Had a Little Sister for a loss from SIDS. 
 
Waiting for Baby Joe for a sibling in neonatal intensive care. 
 
You can click on the title to jump to the description of these books from amazon.com.

 

 

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Telling friends and family
 

I remember the moment I called my parents as if it were this morning. We were supposed to have found out the sex of the baby, but instead we learned he had died. It was the hardest moment of all, I think, because when you tell someone else what has happened, it becomes real.

In these conversations, I think you have to be as straightforward as possible. They will have lots of questions that you may or may not be able to deal with right now. I would keep the conversation brief if possible and let the details work themselves out over the next few days. Once the grandparents know, then you can move on to others. You may find it easier to tell a close friend or sibling first and let them tell the grandparents. This depends on your family make up. 

If no one knew you were pregnant, you may be tempted to remain silent. I don't recommend you keep this all to yourself. Most of your friends and family would want to be there for you during this difficult time. You are denying them an opportunity to help you. You don't have to pretend this was no big deal, or that the baby wasn't real. You were pregnant, you were expecting great joy, and you lost it. They will understand.

We sent out an email to all our friends once our parents and closest friends had been called. The text of it is included below.

4-29-98

To our friends,

This is a difficult e-mail to write.

On Tuesday, April 28, we learned that the baby whose September arrival we had so anxiously anticipated, had died. The cause is as yet unknown; we will probably never know why.

We have named the baby Casey Shay. Casey will be delivered on Thursday and cremated.

We know that you feel for us. We ask that you send your sympathy and condolences to us by writing instead of calling, if you donít mind. It is difficult to find words to say anyway, and it is hard for us to relive the entire experience over and over again. We would cherish any cards or notes you would care to send.

We also know that you will have a hard time knowing how to act around us for a while, especially those of you who are expecting a child. While this will be hard for us to handle for a little while, we will eventually be all right. In a couple of weeks, you may certainly give us a call to go out for dinner or drinks, or a movie. We are strong people and have a very strong relationship with each other. We will be fine and will, sometime later this year, be ready to try again.

Our lives are going to be a little different now. Deanna, of course, had already resigned her teaching position and has no intention of going back. She will be looking for a new job in June, in a new career. Once the delivery and recovery are behind us, we will be traveling for a week or so and visiting some of our favorite places, so donít be surprised if you donít hear from us for a while. When we were first married, one of our favorite places to visit was the seawall at Galveston. We will most likely stay there a few days.

Keep the three of us in your thoughts and prayers.

John and Deanna

 

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Managing the holidays
 
There's no doubt, any holiday can be a nightmare after a miscarriage. First there's the family, who look at you sympathetically and say stupid things while they cluck over your sister-in-law's new baby. Then there's the hype--you should be happy and joyful when you are really miserable. Then there's your sorrow. You wish, so desperately, that it could have been different.
 
Holidays are one of the first things you dream about. Bundled up babies presented to grandparents. Easter egg hunts. Little crayoned cards. And now you've lost it all. These occasions may hit you like a brick and drag out all the sorrow you thought you had put behind you. Being pregnant again may not even help.
 
Sometimes you can change things up. Go skiing this year instead of spending Christmas with family. Plan a quiet day on the beach while all the other mothers (although remember you are one too) get their Mother's Day dinners out. Volunteer at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving and feel better about your life. 
 
Other times you have to bear it the best you can. If you must spend a holiday around other pregnant people or new babies, busy yourself with preparations or sequester yourself with a non-threatening and understanding relative. Don't pretend this is easy or put on faces for other people. Just get through it. Minimize the time with a difficult part of the family by overbooking yourself with other friends or more distant family. 
 
Best of all, make your baby a part of your holidays. At Christmas, I always search the "Angel Trees" at our church and choose children with our baby's name to buy gifts for. Many shopping malls have these trees through the Salvation Army. I have a special ornament that we hang on the tree with Casey's name. And, in Casey's memory box, there is a "Baby's First Christmas" ornament that I bought especially for him. I wanted him to have it.
 
Our most difficult time is actually Easter. Casey died a few days after Easter, and Emily was born two days after the following Easter. We have many rituals to commemorate these events, including planting flowers and taking pictures in my memorial garden. I think the most important thing about the holidays is to be ready for them. It will be hard.

 

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