Mama in the City

A blog about raising my family in downtown Vancouver

Mama in the City on Grief and Loss in Pregnancy

I am re posting an old post of mine from Spring 2010. Right now grief and loss in pregnancy are fresh on my mind and this blog post seems so relevant.


During the years that I've worked as a perinatal RN, I have been at the birth of exactly 5 stillbirths. I can't tell you how many live births I have been at, but I can tell you in great detail all the facts surrounding each stillbirth that I was present for. Each of the 5 deliveries have forever been marked on my heart. I will alwayss remember each mothers grief as she held her baby for the first time or the moment where we confirmed that there was no longer a heart beat and she would no longer be a mother to a live newborn baby. I will remember one mothers plea to me that maybe we've made a mistake and the baby was actually okay. That one tugs on me to no end.

I am writing this post because recently I went and visited a very old friend in the hospital. It was a reunion of sorts and it had been many years since we last saw each other in person. In fact, when we did meet up we couldn't remember how long it really had been. It was a sad reunion of friendship because it came on the heels of her pregnancy loss. During her 40th week of pregnancy her baby stopped moving and was confirmed to no longer have a heart beat. Her story is her own story and I haven't asked her if I can share it here, so I'm not going into further details in this post.

What I really wanted to blog about is how to give support when a baby is stillborn. It is very easy to pick the 'ostrich response' and hide your head in the sand. Nothings wrong here people! No baby! Keep on moving! I truly know that it is hard to naturally know what to do or what to say when a baby dies. I know that there is no single correct response, I also know that doing absolutely nothing is the worst response. The worst.

You don't need to have professional or personal experience with baby loss in order to be compassionate, sensitive and show that you care. It seems that often people become all hushed up when a baby dies because they are lost with what to say and are so worried about saying the wrong thing. This overrides saying anything at all and this leaves the grieving parents with lack of support and the basic recognition that their baby is gone with no milestones to be met or celebrated.

Even if the idea of talking about baby loss gives you your own heart palpitating anxiety, you still must say or do something. Sending a card with a handwritten note is wonderful. Remembering special dates, like the anniversary of the babies birth/loss is so very kind. You don't need to be the very best BFF or a direct family member to show your compassion and support over the loss of a baby. You can be a random neighbour, a coworker, or an old friend like me.

Support can come in many different forms and the key is to stepping up and trying. A year will pass and the loss of a baby will still be palpable to the mother. She will remember, reflect and grieve over the loss of her baby forever. Giving support is all about trying and it can make the biggest difference in someone dealing with this huge heart ache. I love the acknowledgement that this baby was special on many different levels.

What is your experience with the loss of a baby? Share with me please.


Kristen said...

I've lost at 3 confirmed (but probably 4) babies to miscarriage. And people are very awkward about it. It's amazing though how talking about it with the older ladies at church helped them. They went through miscarriages at a time when nobody talked about it, it was like the pregnancies never happened and these women never had the opportunity to grieve - very sad.

April 12, 2010 at 4:53 AM  
Anonymous said...

Thank you! Your right it is so awkward being on the other end and wanting to show that you care and not knowing how to show that you care. My friends baby died at 1 day old. She had the whole nursery ready and every single item of clothing for the first year. She was lost in grief with no baby to take home. She lost a lot of friends and found out who her real friends are at the same time.


April 12, 2010 at 8:22 AM  
Melanie said...

It is so sad when a mama doesn't have a live baby to take home. All the planning and hoping you do in pregnancy and there is no continuation but just an end. It is sad and heart breaking and more people need to recognize the pain and constant sorrow around this subject.

April 12, 2010 at 2:20 PM  
Auntie Glyn said...

This really is such a sad situation and I totally agree that a little note sent in the mail is a much needed and thoughtful response. When people are grieving it helps to know that others are thinking of them.
When I was writing a sympathy card recently I actually had to google "what to write in a sympathy card" because I really didn't know where to start. Someone had posted the advice that the friend won't remember the exact words you wrote, but they'll remember that you did write.

April 12, 2010 at 3:44 PM  
Sheila said...

I agree with Auntie Glyn, a little note can mean a lot. Maybe even sending a few notes. I am sure that if people are going to get support that it will be a big clump at the start and taper off. How awesome would you be if you send a note at some random time.

April 12, 2010 at 4:35 PM  
Angella said...

I miscarried at 11 weeks and had to have a D&C. A good friend of mine went into labor at 22 weeks...they baby was too little to save so they held her as she passed away...

April 13, 2010 at 1:06 PM  
Anonymous said...

I haven't personally experienced pregnancy lost or stillbirth. I have witnessed a very close friend experience miscarriage, and I was there as best I could be. I watched her daughter when she went to the hospital, for instance.

It is awkward, and hard to know what to say. But reading things like this helped me through that. So thank you for posting this, and helping the rest of us learn how to deal with a very overwhelming situation.

I'm thinking of your friend, and her loss. :(

April 13, 2010 at 8:59 PM  
Cheri Anne said...

OH MY GOD. I don't even know what to say. I haven't given much thought to babies dying before birth. I just assumed that you got past 12 weeks and were healthy that it would be fine. Shows how much I know. I am so sad for your friend. How horrible. I can't even begin to imagine.

April 14, 2010 at 3:12 PM  
Anonymous said...

It's terrible, happened to my sister last year - late term loss. Just checking in regularly is important... offering to bring food, go for a walk, sit and listen without having to say anything in return, remembering dates, and asking questions about how they're doing (not just "how are you" as they'll always say "good"). And remember the dad, though his grieving process will likely be very different. Here's a good support website:

April 15, 2010 at 9:32 AM  
Anonymous said...

I myself have just recently lost my daughter at 41 weeks pregnant. Both my husband and I can't even put into words what it has done to our lives. I relive the time we spent in the hospital over and over again, from the time they told us she was no longer alive to the moment the doors opened as we left the hospital empty handed! We have also lost 2 babies in the first trimester before we had our daughter. I have now changed the way I think about doing things for others and sometimes when it feels awkward for myself I just think what it must have been like for some people to show up at my door with cards, food, etc! We were surrounded by so much love and support and really could not have made it without our friends and family!
I thank you so much for writting this post as I know from reading your blog you are a maternity nurse and it is nice to hear it from your perspective as well. When reflecting on our time in the hospital it was the nurses like yourself that walked through the process with us. Comforting not only myself but my entire family. They cried with us, and comforted me through the unknown.
So I thank you for doing your job with compassion and sharing it from the persective of a nurse and a friend!

April 15, 2010 at 11:58 PM  
Andrea said...

Thank you everyone for your comments on this post. Pregnancy loss is something that I feel compassion towards and I really appreciate all of the comments and personal accounts in the comments section around losing a baby. I feel for all the mum's (and dad's) who lose their babies during pregnancy.

April 21, 2010 at 10:12 PM  
Lulumum said...

I lost my first pregnancy at 12 weeks and had a horrible experience trying to get the loss confirmed by ultrasound, and treated appropriately as it was a missed miscarriage. I ended up having a D&C 3 weeks after the initial loss and after many failed attempts with 'natures course' and misoprostal. I'm so glad you wrote about this because at the time I felt like the subject was very taboo, even amongst medical professionals. I became pregnant a month after my D&C and now have my daughter but he pregnancy was so stressful and full of worry. I wish there was more information out there for moms and dads going through the same grief and confusion.

December 9, 2010 at 1:58 PM  
Anonymous said...

I too lost a pregnancy at around 14 weeks. I was totally devestated and felt so alone. I had just told a bunch of people about the baby I was expecting and was walking around in total bliss and patting my belly and day dreaming. What an utter shock when the cramps started and the pain. I ended up passing my tiny baby on the toilet. What was I suppose to do? Reach in and catch the 'baby', flush it? I totally froze and didn't know what to do. I got my husband and he thought I should take it out in case they wanted to test the products or something. It turned out that my baby had a chromosomal abnormality and was not compatable with life. I haven't been able to get pregnant since that time and I am in so much heart break because of it. I often feel alone so it is nice to read about other people having similar experiences. Thanks xxoo

December 10, 2010 at 3:24 PM  

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