Remembering your baby after a stillbirth

For many people, the loss of a baby leaves them feeling shocked, isolated and empty. It is difficult in this traumatic time to realise that later, you may treasure memories of your baby and items relating to this time.

With so little to remember their baby by, it can be difficult to know how to commemorate the huge loss, of both their baby and the future that might have been.

Whilst the grieving process often begins as private and intimate, some then choose to honour their baby’s short life with a tribute page, in which donations are given to a charity of choice. This allows friends and family to show their support through messages and donations, and provides a channel through which to turn grief into something positive. You can support Tommy's stillbirth research through an In memory page and the donations help fund our research to prevent pregnancy loss. A lot of mums and dads also choose to ask for donations to Tommy’s at their baby’s funeral if one is held, instead of flowers.

Making a memory box

A memory box is a box or envelope that holds items that are related to the birth and to your stillborn baby and that will, in future, allow you to remember your baby and this time with more clarity. Ask your midwife about creating a memory box.

You may want to take photos of the baby or take handprints or footprints. Your midwife can help with this.

Some hospitals are able to store these keepsakes for you if you aren’t ready to take them home yourself. Or you could put them in a sealed envelope or box, which you can open when you’re ready.

If a twin or triplet has died, you could take a photograph of your babies together. One day you might want to show a surviving child their twin or sibling.

Some hospitals offer a memory booklet to record details and measurements of your baby.

You might want to collect scans, pressed flowers you’ve received, letters, the cord-clamp or your own or your baby’s hospital name band.

‘The things we have to remember Arthur are now some of my most treasured possessions. I wear a locket necklace every day with a photo of him in it and a lock of his hair. We have some beautiful photographs and moulds of his footprints. It keeps his memory alive to be surrounded by these mementoes.’ Kathryn, who lost her son Arthur at 36 weeks

'A few months after we lost Chloe I created a memory chest and a photo book of my journey with her. The box was made because the very small memory box they give you at the hospital is so impersonal, and just too small to capture everything we wanted to. So my husband made a large wooden chest, which I painted and decorated. It is about the size of a toy chest. In there we have the following:

  • Chalkboard that we used through the pregnancy to take photos each week, it still says 40 weeks, the photo was taken the day before I went into labour.
  • I have all the sympathy cards people sent us, and cards from bouquets of flowers we received.
  • I have a photo album with the hard copies of all the photos we have of Chloe.
  • The clothes we were both wearing the day I went into labour.
  • The nail varnish that I had worn that day.
  • The memory box the hospital gave us.
  • The clothes we dressed Chloe in along with her blanket, all still unwashed.
  • Her little socks.
  • Her ID bracelet and discharge paperwork.
  • The results of the post-mortem.
  • All my prenatal records.
  • The strip of paper from the last time we heard her heart beat.
  • Her hand prints and foot prints.
  • A few books on grief that we were advised to read at the time.
  • The photo book I made - this shows in chronological order all of my pregnancy, delivery, and the 12 hours we spent with her. It's like a photo storybook.
  • A USB stick with all the photos on.
  • A book that I write letters to Chloe in.
  • A Christmas bauble ornament with Chloe's name on that we will hang on the tree every year as a family tradition (I have a matching one for my son now too, who is six months old).

When I sit and look through it I am taken back to those feelings, and honestly sometimes I really need to just sit in that and feel it wash over me again. But then when I have had my time looking back through everything I can put it away and focus on my day to day life again.' Heather, who lost her daughter Chloe at 40 weeks (Read Heather's story here)

Remembering your baby in the future

As time passes, you might want to think about continuing to collect and make memories.

Some parents decide to mark anniversaries. These are likely to be triggers for your grief so be aware of this and look after yourself. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, your baby’s due date, birth date, the day of the funeral – these can all become difficult days. You might want to think about taking time off work, or marking important dates in some way.

‘Every year on Erin’s birthday, we do something to commemorate her memory. We release biodegradable balloons like we did at her funeral and we take time as a family to do an activity.’ Bethan, who lost her daughter Erin

If you have other children, they may want to celebrate their sibling’s birthday.

How you remember your baby is personal to you and your family. Here are some ideas:

  • You may want to get a piece of jewellery made, engraved with your baby’s name or their hand or footprint.
  • You may want to plant a tree – in a pot so you can take it with you if you move, or in a garden or special place.
  • You could choose a special candle holder and light a candle when you want to have quiet time or on special dates.

As time goes by grief will continue to hit you in waves. It might be unexpected at times.

'I got really upset about what would have been Rhianna’s first day of school. When I saw all the little five year olds, I burst into tears.' Kerry, who lost her baby Rhianna Lily at 28 weeks (Read Kerry's story here)

Be kind to yourself. Don’t expect too much. Give yourself time and space to grieve and to remember your baby.

How some have chosen to remember their baby

Below are some suggestions of other things that you can do to help create special memories:

  • Keep letters and cards.
  • You may wish to press the flowers you receive.
  • Many families find it helpful to write about their experiences. Try writing a diary or a letter to your baby.
  • If you have lost your baby during or after the birth, the first few days are crucial for gathering moments and memories. Spend as much time with your baby as you want. You can often visit your baby after leaving hospital. Some families may wish to take their baby home with them for a day or so.
  • It is natural to spend time talking, touching, cuddling and comforting your baby.Being together as a family is often very important. You may want to include other family members or close friends.
  • You can dress, wash or undress your baby as you wish. Some mothers wish they had undressed their babies to look at their bodies. You may like to keep the clothes your baby wore. Take as many photographs as you wish. You may like some photographs of the baby being cuddled by you and different family members. Don’t be afraid of taking close up shots.
  • Take a lock, or several, of your baby’s hair. The hospital will also make hand, foot and ear prints if you wish. Keep hospital nametags and other items and keep them in a special memory box.

You may not feel like doing any of the above so soon after you have experienced your loss, this is completely natural. But we have found that many mums and dads often come to regret this decision once they have had more time to start coming to terms with what has happened. We suggest not throwing things away immediately; it is never too late to start creating memories

Say goodbye to your stillborn baby through a ceremony

Planning a funeral or memorial for your stillborn baby can be a special way to commemorate your baby’s memory. If your baby was born after 24 weeks, or was born alive at any stage of pregnancy, you’re legally required to bury or cremate your baby’s body. Otherwise, it is a personal choice.

You may also decide to bless your baby in the hospital. Ask to speak to the hospital chaplaincy team. Your own religious figure may also be able to come into the hospital and do a blessing for you.

'The service was a lovely simple service, just the three of us, with Rhianna Lily in my arms the whole time. In her white blanket that had held her mummy and held her brother. It was such an important blanket and one that she had to have with her, it was the only thing that we could give her and I was so grateful that even though she’d been changed no one had removed that blanket from her.' Kerry, who lost her baby Rhianna Lily at 28 weeks (Read Kerry's story here)

It is your decision whether you have a small, private funeral for immediate family, or whether you decide to have a bigger funeral ceremony for your stillborn baby and invite friends and extended family.

Read more about planning a funeral or arranging a blessing here.

Remembrance services

Later, you might want to attend a remembrance service. Ask your hospital chaplain if the hospital holds a service for babies who have died there.

‘Saying Goodbye’ services are held at cathedrals across the UK, the USA and Canada for people who have lost a child at any stage of pregnancy, at birth, or in infancy, whether recently or in the past. Here is a full list of Saying Goodbye's 2017 remembrance services:

The 2017 services are:

Saturday April 8th – Exeter Cathedral – 1.30pm

Saturday April 29th – Plymouth Minster – 4.00pm

Saturday May 13th – Winchester Cathedral – 10.30am

Saturday May 20th – Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford – 7.30pm

Sunday May 28th – St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast – 3.30pm

Saturday July 1st – Tewkesbury Abbey, Tewkesbury – 6.00pm

Saturday July 8th – Manchester Cathedral – 2.30pm

Saturday July 15th – Derby Cathedral – 3.00pm

Sunday July 23rd – Wimborne Minster – 3.00pm

Saturday Sep 9th – Malmesbury Abbey – 3.30pm

Sunday Sep 24th – Sunderland Minster – 3.00pm

Wednesday Sep 27th – St Andrew’s Cathedral, Inverness – 7.30pm

Saturday Sep 30th – Glasgow Cathedral – 11.00am

Sunday Oct 8th – Lincoln Cathedral – 2.00pm

Sunday Oct 15th – Chelmsford Cathedral – 6.00pm

Sunday Oct 29th – Bradford Cathedral – 4.00pm

Sunday Nov 19th – Ely Cathedral – 6.30pm

Sunday Nov 26th – Westminster Central Hall – 3.30pm

Find out more.

Creating an In memory page

We hope that by offering our in-memory tribute page service, we can in some way aid this process. You can also take comfort in knowing that all donations received through tribute pages come directly to us, and are put towards our research projects. So, any donations you raise help us to find out why babies are lost during pregnancy and birth, and stop others’ experiencing the loss you have felt.

If you have any questions about setting up a tribute page, or have any problems whilst doing so, please contact us at [email protected] or call on 020 7398 3400.

Create an in-memory page

Information about stillbirth

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Comments

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 16 Feb 2017 - 13:16

    On February 15, 2000 I lost my precious little girl. She was 17 weeks old. I still can't cope with her loss. On that dreadful day everything was happening so fast we didn't know what to do. I was so distraught that when they asked if I wanted to see her I said " No" and I can't get passed this. I regret it everyday. I don't know why I did that maybe I was scared. I didn't want my last memory to be seeing her deceased. I wish I did get that chance to hold her and tell her how much we loved her. I just don't know how to move on.

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 17 Feb 2017 - 10:56

    I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your little girl, I cannot imagine how you are feeling or what you have been through. It sounds like it is important to be able to get some support into place for you. If you would like to, you can email us in confidence we can explore what support you have had already and anything else that may help you. Our email is [email protected] Take care x

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 14 Oct 2016 - 15:15

    Very good and sensitively written.

    I feel in the support section; we have felt it really supportive when others have used our baby's name, they are acknowledging him and that's respectful and comforting.

    More info needs to be available for employers; I was bullied into returning to work and it's been a horrendous; nobody at work knows what to say and have felt it easier just to avoid me.

    The information you have provided is brilliant and covers all topics, however I feel the timing of the delivery of this information is crucial; we found out during a scan our baby's heart had stop, we had a doctor talk to us about what happens next then past loads of booklets regarding stillborn; this was just too much, to this day we have not looked at the information; not only is written information important when it's offered is crucially important.
    Good work Tommys team.

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 14 Oct 2016 - 16:20

    Hi Natasha, We are so sorry to hear about you losing your little boy Thomas and that you had a horrendous time with little support from your work. Absolutely it can be very overwhelming you get so much information straight away and timing is so important. Thank you very much for your feedback and please know we are here if you ever need to chat 0800 0147 800

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