On Wednesday, Bachelor alum Sarah Herron and her fiancé Dylan Brown shared that their infant son Oliver had died when he was born prematurely at 24 weeks. “Oliver, our IVF miracle, defied so many odds and fought through so many hard milestones to be here, but the higher powers still had other plans for the three of us,” Herron wrote in an Instagram post, along with a carousel of photos commemorating her pregnancy and Oliver’s birth. Fortunately for the couple, they haven’t received backlash (so far) over sharing baby Oliver’s photo, but that’s not always the case. When Chrissy Teigen lost her baby Jack in October 2020, some disapproved of the fact that both she and her mother shared images of themselves holding him.
Those people may be surprised to learn that some parents go even further when grieving a stillborn baby, choosing to visit and hold them for days or weeks. This method of grieving may make some uncomfortable, but it is one of many valid and legitimate ways to grieve and memorialize a miscarriage or stillborn child.
“She was a fully grown baby and I kept thinking that she would wake up at any minute,” British mother Jess Mayall told the Sun of her stillborn daughter Ava. Her hospital in the U.K. allowed her to keep Ava in a refrigerated device call a CuddleCot for two weeks. That meant that she and her partner could hold her, take pictures with her, and even take her on walks in a stroller to say goodbye.
“The hospice was a life saver for us,” Mayall said. “The support they offered us really changed our experience and we are so glad that we were able to make two weeks’ worth of memories with her before laying her to rest.”
This is a practice some hospitals and pregnancy-loss organizations have recommended for bereaved parents, even sometimes suggesting they bring the baby home for a short time. While in the U.K., most hospitals have CuddleCots, there are parents and others hoping to bring more of them to the U.S., where often parents don’t even get to see or hold their infants after losing them.
The prospect of holding and caring for a deceased infant is not for everyone, though. We hope to help normalize the many ways to cope with this tragedy. Here are some other ways to grieve and memorialize pregnancy and infant loss:
Seek the help of a doula. A bereavement doula provides help for parents during delivery of a stillborn child as well as with all the difficult things that come after they return home, from lactation support to funeral arrangement. You can find a list of doulas in all 50 states at Still Birthday.
Hire a photographer who is comfortable with bereavement photos, or take pictures yourself.
Frame an ultrasound picture or create art with their footprint.
Buy a customized Molly Bear that is the weight of your baby.
Fill out a special memorial baby book.
Create a customized book for you and your other children to read together.
Make a memory box.
Reach out to a local or online support group.
Share your feelings with friends and family. No one needs to go through this alone. You may also be surprised to learn that someone close to you suffered from miscarriage or stillbirth without telling anyone until you did.
Read about other beautiful ideas from Still Standing magazine.
This article was originally published in 2020.
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