If you are not in the Rockford, Illinois area or in an area that offers resources to families grieving the death of their baby, there are things you can do in the hospital and beyond to preserve the memory of your baby and to find the support you deserve once you leave the hospital. There are a lot of things to consider during this time. The following information is an outline to get you started:
While In The Hospital
Making Memories With Your Baby
Above all else, we encourage you to spend time with your baby. It may feel awkward or uncomfortable to hold your baby, but this is your only chance to do so. By not doing so, you may feel a heightened sense of loss in the months and years following. Take time to hold them, look at all of their little details, their hands, their feet, their little nose. This could be the perfect time to name your baby. Giving Your Baby A Name can be healing. Click the link for information on why naming your baby is important.
- Take pictures of your baby. Most of us have great cameras on our cell phones. Here are a couple tips to make your pictures better.
- Bathe your baby if you are able. Bathing your baby will clean off excess fluids. Involve your nurse in this process if you are uncomfortable bathing your baby.
- Lay your baby on a clean blanket and if you have size appropriate clothing, dress them. Bathing and dressing your baby will completely transform your baby. If you do not have size appropriate clothing, please ask you nurse as the likely do.
- Turn your flash off. During daylight hours, turn your flash off and place baby as close to the window as possible. Use the window light as much as you can.
- Ask the nurse to take a family picture of you with your baby. If you don’t want to be pictured, a picture of your hands holding your baby is a beautiful shot and will also show the size of your little one.
- Some potential shots would be: Baby undressed, baby dressed, holding baby’s hand, holding baby’s foot, a picture of baby on the scale, a picture of baby being measured, family pictures. If you have other children and they won’t be coming to the hospital to see baby, open a picture of your child(ren) on your cell phone and place it next to baby or in baby’s hands. Now you have a picture of your children all together.
- If you would like your baby to be baptized/blessed the hospital chaplain would be able to perform this ceremony for you. This would also be another good moment to capture.
- Make hand and foot prints. If you don’t have ink, ask the nurse to provide some and some paper if you don’t have it. If your baby is tiny and footprints aren’t working, ask the nurse for a surgical marker. Sometimes that works when ink pads don’t. It will however permanently stain your baby’s foot so consider doing photographs first. Alcohol wipes will help remove some of the ink.
- Have a loved one go to a local craft store and pick up some Crayola Model Magic clay. This product is what we use to capture foot and hand prints. If you have other children, they can help with this process and even cast their hands or feet.
- Make an ornament. You can make an additional clay impression of baby’s hand or foot and put a hole in the top for stringing a ribbon once the clay impression has dried. Another ornament idea would be to purchase a plastic globe ornament from a local craft store and put a copy of baby’s prints and any other keepsakes such as your baby’s hospital bracelet or hat in it. You can also use a matte finish ornament and put inked prints directly on there.
- Make a Memory Box. Memory boxes are the perfect way to store all of your baby’s items that you bring home. Photo storage boxes are a great size and also allows you to be able to customize with embellishments such as scrapbook paper and stickers. Storage or hat boxes will work also.
- Castings. We have found that this works best for babies over 25 weeks gestation with good skin integrity. Your nurse can help you determine if this would work for your baby. We use Perfect Mold and Perfect Cast from Hobby Lobby.
- Ask your nurse if they have a cuddle cot available.
Before You Go Home
- Spiritual Support: Hospitals have an on call chaplain available if you would like a baptism or blessing for your baby. You can also contact your church to have your pastor perform these rites for you.
- Funeral/Hospital disposition: You have the right to contact a funeral home to care for your baby. Prices vary among funeral homes. We recommend you contact more than one and choose one that you are most comfortable with. They will be able to answer your questions about what happens next. Some hospitals may offer a hospital disposition for babies 20 weeks and under. Please understand in most cases this means you will not receive your babies cremains. If this is something you are considering, please ask your nurse for more information.
- Autopsy: If this is something you wish your baby no matter what age gestation, please ask your physician what is involved in performing an autopsy on your baby. In some cases, this may be required by the physician or coroner.
Things to take home from the hospital
- Measuring tape
- Clothes or blankets your baby has worn
- Hospital bracelet
- Certificate of Life
- Baptism shell and/or blessing certificate
- Soaps or lotions used to wash your baby
- Any NICU related items: ie. pacifier, basinet name card, special blankets or toys
After I go home
- Consider joining an online community: There are many online communities fitting a wide variety of support needs from miscarriage to SIDS to other lethal conditions. These groups can be a comfort as you seek more information and grieve the death of your baby. Consider joining our facebook group: The Haven Network and our online parent group Gatherings
- It is perfectly normal to seek professional counseling services with a licensed therapist. Contact your insurance provider and ask to get a list of preferred providers in your area. If you do not have insurance, ask if the therapist you would like to see if they have a sliding fee scale. When researching therapists, ask if they specialize in grief counseling or are comfortable talking about grief, specifically baby/child loss.
- Many communities have annual memorial events such as Walk To Remember or The Angel of Hope Ceremony held at various times throughout the year. Check with your local community about memorial events that they may have.