How parents would like to remember their baby is a personal choice based on what’s important to them and their family.
After your baby is born you may prefer for them to be cared for in the hospital mortuary until funeral arrangements have been made. Some families will want to see their baby a number of times before the funeral. Others do not wish to see their baby again. The hospital your baby was born in needs to respect your wishes. While it may be hard to think beyond the moment, it is a good idea to consider what kind of memories you want to make to remember your baby into the future.
Ways to create memories
The memories that parents and families create with their baby can play an important part in helping them with their grief. While in hospital there are a number of ways that parents can spend time with their baby and create memories if they wish, including:
- seeing, holding or dressing the baby
- bathing the baby
- naming or other personal rituals
- creating a memory folder and keeping special mementoes such as teddies
- religious rituals such as baptism.
Spending time with baby
The decision to spend time with the deceased baby after the birth is very individual. It may be useful for some parents to explore the decision with staff and social workers. Sometimes staff can help parents to move through some of their fears and prepare them for what they will see and experience. Some parents who choose not to spend time with their baby or are ambivalent or undecided can regret their decision later on so it is important to try to talk through fears and concerns.
It is also possible for parents to have the baby’s cot in their room but for the baby to be covered so that the baby can’t be seen.
Some parents simply need more time to consider their decision.
What will the baby look like?
The way the baby looks will depend on the gestational age at the time of death and how long it has been since the baby died. It may also depend on the extent of physical problems or abnormalities. Sometimes it is hard to know if the baby is a girl or a boy (a post mortem examination may provide this information).
The baby may look different to how the parents imagined, in size, skin condition or features. There may be bruising or skin discolouration, the lips may be dark red in colour while the rest of the body is bluish, the skin may have started to break down, and the body will be cool to touch soon after death.
Some parents have said that the fear of seeing their baby’s physical problems or abnormalities was much worse than the reality.
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