A few years ago, while scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I came across photos of a mother holding her newborn baby. With tears in her eyes, she gazed lovingly at the tiny babe that had just been brought into the world. Bundled gently in a white hospital blanket, he was small and beautiful. And although he appeared to be asleep, this little fellow would never wake up.
He was stillborn.
To be completely honest, this picture confused me. I was genuinely grieved over the loss of this mother’s baby but more than anything else, I was weirded out. I found it strange that they’d posted a photo of their deceased infant and odder still that the mother’s arms were wrapped so tightly around him. I couldn’t imagine wanting to hold someone who was dead, even if they were your child.
“Would I hold my stillborn baby?”
You never anticipate having to actually answer this question. As the picture disappeared into my ever updating newsfeed, so did my train of thought. I never asked it again.
Even years later, during pregnancy, the word “stillbirth” never crossed my mind. No one ever mentioned it. These are not the questions that we like to think about.
Because as your womb tingles with the growth of new life, your attention is naturally focused elsewhere. Nine months are spent busily researching and weighing every possible option regarding genetic testing, home births, circumcision, and vaccinations. Pregnancy books are purchased, apps are downloaded and birthing plans completed.
But when your child is stillborn, you suddenly realize that you don’t have answers to the questions being asked.
Yes, you’ve spent the past three trimesters listening to a never ending parade of gory labour stories. Women in the mall spot your ballooning belly and stop to tell you about three day labours, engorged breasts, and colicky babies. You’ve begun to mentally prepare yourself for the forewarned pain and discomfort, third degree tears, husbands who need laughing gas, and epidurals that don’t work.
But suddenly you’re facing an entirely different sort of pain. Your child is stillborn and you’re walking blindly. You’re confronted with a multitude of questions and details that no one told you about.
No one tells you that your first night will be spent lying on an uncomfortable hospital bed, silently screaming for your baby. No one warns you that every detail of the birth will loop endlessly around your brain – you cannot shut it off long enough to fall asleep.
No one mentions the little teardrop that hangs on your hospital door – the first sign that something is amiss.
There was no warning about thin, hospital walls that echo the midnight cries of newborn babies in the ward around you. There is a hungry baby who will wake you up every hour but that baby is not yours.
No one tells you that despite emotional, mental and physical exhaustion, you will still require sleeping pills.
There is no preparation for the wave of jealousy that erupts as you watch a father pace the maternity ward with a small infant snuggled against his shoulder.
You’ve been warned about recovery time from c-sections, but no one said that you would barely feel the stitches in your abdomen because the pain in your heart cuts a thousand times deeper.
No one warns you that you will have to make choices about autopsies and funeral homes, cremation, burials, or memorials. That the money you were saving for extra baby onesies and diapers will be spent on purchasing a plot of earth and a grave marker.
Everyone prepares you for the post-pregnancy weight loss struggle, but no one tells you what to do when you’re so numb you forget to eat.
No one mentions that the saleswoman will cry alongside you as you’re forced to return a double stroller and matching carseats. No one whispers that you’ll have to find somewhere to store the crib that your husband so faithfully set up just a week prior.
No one ever tells you that you may leave the hospital empty handed.
But truthfully, even if someone had warned you about this side of childbirth – it wouldn’t have mattered. There will never be adequate preparation for moments like this. And so you take each day one step at a time, decision by decision.
And I think back to the picture of a mother holding her stillborn son. I am now that woman. Lying in a hospital bed, I am desperate to see my son. I wish for nothing more than to hold him and never let go; it is not strange, it’s love.
Because no one tells you that your baby will be beautiful. No one says that despite his stillness, despite the trauma he’s been through – he will be beyond precious. No one tells you just how deeply you will love him; that although his body is but a shell, you will hold his hand and whisper a lullaby in his ear. No one says that a mother’s heart can be both broken and bursting with pride at the same time.
And as I struggle to shake off the heavy fog of anesthesia, a nurse quietly asks if I’d like to hold my son. Walking an unmarked road, this is my first decision. Eagerly, without hesitation, I whisper a simple word, “Yes.”
Let’s start talking about the difficult topics too: sharing our hearts and our loves gone-too-soon. What do you wish you’d known about stillbirth?
What a brave woman you are and so eloquently written. My deepest sympathies to you and your family.
Thank you! I really appreciate such encouragement and sympathy.
Liz, This is so moving. You have taken us right to your heart and that is a beautiful place. Thank you for sharing. I will be saving this for future reference for the women that I hope to serve.
Thank you Sarah! That is one of the greatest compliments and my main purpose behind these posts – to hopefully reach out to other women who are going through similar situations. <3
Beautiful and accurate. So sorry for your loss. Your son is beautiful!
He is beautiful!
Going through this right now. I just lost my son, December 16. 39 weeks , his cord was knotted. Im just in so much pain.
Oh April, my heart hurts to hear of you going through this pain. There is nothing anyone can say to ease the heartache of such traumatic loss. No mama should ever have to bury her baby – but know that even though he is not in your arms, no one can take him away from you. You will always carry him in your heart, he will always be your baby, and you, his mom.
If you ever need someone to talk with (or rant at), please feel free to message me. You can find me on Facebook as “MommyMannegren” and inbox message me from there.
Praying for you as you embark on this long, unwanted journey of grief. ???
It’s been 2 weeks since I had my beautiful daughter. I had a still birth at 36weeks and 4 days. No one prepares you for moments when you’ll start lactating and being reminded of the loss and the empty ness. Almost everything around is a reminder of what life could be. And now am not sure where to start because she was my plans. And the difficult part is when you are single mum and she was all that you were leaning on.
I am going through this right now. I lost my beautiful little girl on May 16th. She was our 5th child and I just never imagined this would happen. The pain is unbearable at times. I get so jealous of babies I see that were born around the same time and that makes me feel bad for feeling that way. I cant sleep cause all I do is rerun what happened in my head or have nightmares. I know it will get better but that seems so far away. Thank you for your stories. They have helped me.
Ariel-I am so, so sorry for your loss. Our 5th child, Phoebe Madalyn, was stillborn March 24, 2017. I know the pain you are experiencing right now is all consuming. I want to encourage you to please feel free to give into the grief-don’t run away from it no matter how hard it is. I know it’s hard with 4 kids at home who need you and you have to be strong for them. You will get through this. Lean on those people the Lord has placed in your life to support you at this time. If you need someone to talk to, I’d be willing to be that person . You can IM me on Facebook-https://m.facebook.com/anna.horvat.58323?ref=bookmarks
This is so heartbreakingly beautiful and describes exactly how it is. Thankyou for this.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. I cried with every word. My mother’s firstborn was stillborn two years before I was born. I remember finding photos of him in a little box under my mother’s bed when I was a little girl. I have always grieved his loss and absence in my life even though I would never meet him. We named our firstborn’s (also a son) middle name after him and although she never spoke about it I truly believe that this was healing for my mother. With each pregnancy I’ve always found myself preparing for a stillbirth because it is so real to me. I hope you’ve found healing in the time since you lost your beautiful little one. Bless you.
Thank you so much for sharing a little piece of your heart with me. When a stillbirth occurs, it really does affect the whole family, and I think it’s so beautiful that you were able to name your firstborn after your brother! It’s definitely not an easy topic but it affects so many families that I believe it is important to raise awareness and share our stories. Thank you for writing with such honesty about your experience too. <3
Thank you so much for the post. What you posted is what am actually going through. It just happened to me early this year. I had never thought about it in my life. Japheth Darius just stopped moving and every dream i had with him ended. I got a c section without a live baby, walked out of the hospital with open hands. Surely just like you posted i wasnt prepared. The pain is still real and on going. Hoping to convince again get alive baby. Once again thanks for sharing you story cause it has made strong.
Our daughter, Phoebe Madalyn, was stillborn on March 24, 2017. I was blindsided-nothing prepared me for that kind of pain. Especially since she was our 5th child. Unless you’ve gone through it, nothing can prepare you for the sorrow, guilt, pain, depression, and pure tearing of your heart that you feel. I can relate to everything you said. That said, nothing will ever diminish our love for her and how much we miss her. Life goes on, unfortunately, but her memory does too and for that I am thankful. Our children are each blessings, no matter if they are alive or in heaven. Thank you for writing this.
Our son Turner passed away March 24, 2017 when I was 38 weeks pregnant. He was also our 5th child and his passing was so unexpected as he compressed on his cord. He was born the next day on March 25th. I’m so sorry for your loss. It is a pain and heartache like no other. I miss him terribly everyday and always will. Our children deeply miss their baby brother too.
Desiree-Thank you so much for letting me know. What an amazing God we serve that He would bring us together miles apart through our pain. Things are getting better-we have been blessed to enjoy 1 more baby since Phoebe died. I love taking her to visit her big sister’s grave and tell her all about what she’s missing out on. I pray that your pain is easing as well. Sometimes I am still blind sided by the pain of missing her so I have to focus on the blessing that she never experienced this pain and is happy in heaven.
Thank you for this post. You perfectly expressed the feelings I had (and continue to have) when our son was stillborn last year. I feel like you reached into my heart and pulled out this post. Thank you!!
Aw, thank you Alysia. Your words are such sweet encouragement to me. Remembering your little one today too. <3
Thank you for sharing your story about u & your beautiful angel xxx ? xxx
You’ve brought me right back to my first born Bonnie’s delivery , born silent , born still , always missed forever loved & talked about ? Xxx
No one knows how difficult it is to lose a child , still born
I lost a baby girl ,in 1970 , empty arms ,going home . And such a heavy heart . You never forget the little one that did not come home with you .
He’s beautiful!! That mms for sharing to help others.
Aw, thank you. ❤️
Thank you for sharing your story, I’ve been where you were, my son was stillborn at 26 weeks. I especially like what you said about a mother’s heart that’s broken but bursting with pride at the same time. It’s so true, it was my experience, too.
Losing my daughter my first child to stillbirth at 28 weeks gestation I so appreciate reading this as it sums up the feelings thanks
Thank you Tyra. <3 So much love sent your way.
This story is an amazing true story that has hit home to me, every word that you have said took me back to the year I went thru the loss of my lil boy, the way you have described it was how I was feeling and I was feeing all alone at that time, so sad to hear the other babies cry damn that is the most hardest thing to go thru..
I’m so sorry for your loss and I am so glad that you have shared this because you are such a brave lady and I wish you the best in the future and make every day feel a lil brighter 🙂
Thank you Kristy, I’m so sorry for your loss. <3 I think that sharing our stories is so important in order to not only process our own grief, but also to support other families and raise awareness about a topic not frequently discussed — and so it is always so encouraging to me to hear back from other loss mamas who have gone through a similar experience. Thank you for sharing a little bit of your own story and for taking the time to encourage me in mine. Much love sent your way.
My best friend just went through this my heart breaks everyday first her I am currently 12 weeks and terrified cause after seeing her in so much pain me hurting myself it just doesn’t go away and I am so scared to do this myself
Thank you for your story, your son is so beautiful. I am so sorry for your loss.
My sister lost her first son 2 years ago, I was there and my heart still breaks every day. How will she get over it when I can’t? Why do people not talk about this? I have 2 children and 4 grandchildren & didn’t realize how common stillbirth was. There needs to be more support systems for you available.
He is so perfectly beautiful!!!!
Thank you, Trista! <3
Your words are so on point! Takes me back 30 years ago…I had never heard of stillborn until those words were spoken to me. I was lucky enough to have a caring dr (i was his first patient to lose a child) that moved me off that floor So I didn’t have to hear that. It’s not something any of us will ever get over. The pain does get better but I still think about Elisa and where she’d be in life…career, married, grandkids???
Hugs to you and the best advise I can give, do whatever you feel like…grieve how you want, talk about him as much or little as you want, put his picture up of makes you feel better!
This is so profound. I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your heart. I hate it, but this is exactly what we went through. We lost our first son, Nathan, at 40 weeks. All the decisions and questions and answers we didn’t have still spin in my head. Your baby is beautiful. I blogged through my loss, and I so agree that this is something we should talk about. Thank you ❤️
I know this pain. My 3rd daughter, Rebecca Faith, was stillborn in May of 1981. That was some years ago, but sometimes I still feel sad. My mother, husband and I all held her, and then we gave her back to God. I’ve suffered many losses over the years, but there has never been a heartache to compare with the loss of my sweet baby girl, even when her daddy was killed in a car accident just 2 years later. I know where they are, and I know they’re waiting for me .. I will see them again, and Rebecca will be more alive than she could ever have been here! This is my comfort .. this is my hope, as I continue to live and love here.
This touched my heart. It said things I cant.
I wish I would have had someone tell me that even though I was scared and my husband who had seen her body tell me I shouldn’t i would have had been brave enough to picture her toes. I have feet prints and no pictures. I wish i could hold her and ever let go even though shes not here.
For 30 weeks i never considered planning for the worst. And within a second my heart shattered and i had to do all of it.
I lost my beautiful baby girl on Christmas eve 2019, she is absolutely beautiful. There is no help out there for grieving mothers and farthers. The pain does not get any easier, i dont like to talk to my friends about it as i feel like im being a burden and i feel no one want to talk about still birth,after her funeral everyone just disappears. I miss my baby so much and feel so empty. X
My heart is with you, Emily. Have you been able to find anyone to connect with and talk with lately? I know that this type of grief can feel so very isolating. Please message me if you need to chat. ♥️
I lost my precious son at 39 weeks a day after Christmas last year, 2018. It’s been 5 months but it’s really hard going back to normal life. I get anxious seeing people and I get really exhausted when I get home. I can’t talk about him because I don’t want to make people uncomfortable but all I think about everyday every minute is my baby. I have an older son who is 5 and a daughter who is 2. It was also very heart breaking to see my older son going though this. His grief was deeper than I have imagined. He never got to see him or hold him but I can clearly see that he really really loves his baby brother and there is a special bond between them. I failed as a mother not being able to protect my baby. But I also made him go though this at such an early age.
I sometimes just want to scream, I want my baby back. I miss him so much.
Irene-I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone. Everything you are going through right now, I went through. Our daughter died March 24, 2017. She was our 5th child, still born at exactly 40 weeks. I still miss her terribly. I do still talk about her all the time, take my other kids to her grave and remind people that I have kids at home and 1 in heaven. Remember he is your son and you are not responsible for other people’s comfort. I would never be able to gloss over her memory, even to this day. She is safe, perfect and loved in the arms of Jesus and so is your beautiful son. I’ll see her again one day and because of that I live with hope and remember her life-no matter how short. Please be encouraged mama from another mama who’s been there-embrace every hard moment. They go too soon. Love!
Thank you for sharing this. I just lost our first baby. He was born still alive at 19 weeks, but his lungs were not developed enough to survive. The few moments my husband and I had staring at our baby boy as his fingers moved and his mouth tried to breathe, are the most precious in my life.
We will forever love our Aiden Dominic. I have many friends who have suffered miscarriage, but theirs were in the first trimester and they don’t fully understand losing a child so visibly developed you think he should live. I have been searching for stories of stillbirth to try to find someone who gets it. And though I can’t understand being full term and losing your little one, there is something about leaving the hospital so “far along” with nothing in your womb or your hands. The baby cries you hear during your hosptial stay add to the pain. Every time you see a baby, you heart aches to hold yours. And your arms are heavy to hold and feed the child you have spent months dreaming of.
Thanks for sharing your story ?
I would had love to know, that I should have taken more time alone with my new little family without the grief of out family. I was So proud and in love with my little boy, it really hurted my feelings that my family was in so much pain and crying when they came in. All I wanted them to Do was see and say how pretty he is.
Thank you for sharing your story. I got pregnant for the first time last summer and my husband and I were expecting twins. I had a miscarriage early on and lost one of our precious babies in September. Our son, Elliott Isaiah, survived and I carried him up until April. On Easter Sunday, April 12th, I was 38 weeks and 4 days when we were told he no longer had a heartbeat and I delivered him the next day. My world has been shattered and my husband and I are devastated. We are deep in the midst of grief and long for our children every moment of every day. I pray it gets easier and better days come. Thanks again for sharing your story. I’m so sorry you lost your precious baby, but I’m thankful to know that I am not alone in this.
Dustie-I am so, so sorry to hear about your precious babies. You are not alone. Unfortunately I was thrown into this world just 3 short years ago when our daughter was stillborn on her due date. I still long for our daughter everyday but it does get less overwhelming with time. I wouldn’t say easier, especially since I don’t want anyone to forget her, I constantly have to remind people that she is alive in heaven. But, my husband and I have bonded in our grief in a way that we would otherwise never have. For that I am thankful. Lean on your husband and allow him to lean on you. Your teamwork brought these beautiful babies into the world and it’ll carry you through your lifetime. ❤️
I’m walking this road, and even though I knew my baby had a 75% chance of being stillborn, based on his Anencephaly diagnosis, my brain tricked me into thinking my baby would be born alive. My baby was born Wednesday, at 29 weeks gestation, after 4 days of labor, and 5 days after feeling him move for the last time. I wish I would have known it was the last time.
I am so, so sorry for your loss of your precious baby boy. Our daughter was stillborn just 3 short years ago. I’m so sorry for the pain you are going through. The only comfort we, as grieving mother’s have, is the knowledge that we will see our babies again someday. I will pray for you and your family. Hugs.
This is beautifully shared and written. Thank you for sharing your story. Although I had my daughter for 19 days, I feel all that you’ve said so deep.
I had a very unique situation my dad passed away August 27, 2021 and I gave birth to my baby girl Alli Rose just two weeks later September 10, 2021. I had finally been cleared from the high risk specialist then my water broke at 21 weeks just hours after leaving the drs office. Reading this gave put into words all the things I felt. It has been the hardest season of life but I know that God is still good. He was still good the day I held my daddy’s hand as he took his last breath and still good the day I geld lll held my lifeless baby girl in my arms. Thank you for sharing your story!