Bereavement: coping with grief after a stillbirth 

A stillborn baby is a baby born after the 24th week of pregnancy with no signs of life. An expert explains the emotional impact, and Lisa and Jason describe how they coped with a stillbirth.

Find out more about stillbirth

Transcript of Bereavement: coping with grief after a stillbirth

A stillborn baby is a baby born...

..after 24 weeks of pregnancy that shows no sign of life at birth.

What we know is, the stillbirth rate has decreased slightly.

Currently it's about 5.2 babies die

in every thousand babies that are delivered in the UK.

On the Tuesday we had the scan,

which was just a regular scan,

and the chap, the sonographer, Andrew,

who was doing it, he was very good.

He quickly found out there was no heartbeat.

And he was very professional

and he said, "There's no heartbeat. I've got to find a doctor."

Then it sinks in and next thing you know

we both realised what's happened.

We're in tears and it's bad for us. Then it's, how are we going to tell people?

What are we going to do? What... What happens?

We're just... You're just lost. You're just completely muddled.

Although we know what some of the risk factors are,

it's really, really important never to blame parents for their baby's death.

You know, they will blame themselves.

Most parents feel intensely responsible for the fact that their baby has died.

And we don't know why that baby's died,

and if we don't know, we need to not be making assumptions or blaming anyone.

Really, most families just need a huge amount of support

and time to talk about how they feel and about their baby.

It's... I'd been so excited. And it sounds strange, but I don't know.

It's like he sort of... I don't know how to say it.

He sort of let me down in a way. It's like, "That's not fair, you know?

"You... Lisa's carried you all this time and you sort of let me down,

so you're not really part of us any more."

I didn't want anything to do with him at all at that specific moment,

when we actually found out.

And that was quite... At the time, it's probably harsh,

but I just wanted to get it over with.

"Let's go home and just move on with our lives."

That's what I thought at the time.

Most families find it incredibly difficult

to think there could be anything positive

out of giving birth to a dead baby.

But over time,

most couples tell me that it's something they look back on with pride.

That they managed to do that.

And when your baby's dead you don't love it any less.

So we chose to have an induced normal delivery, which is what we did.

Before, they said, "Do you want to hold your son?"

and going back to my initial thing, "No, I want nothing to do with him."

But now, when she's prepped us and Jake came out, I held my son,

and it's one of the best things that's ever happened to me.

(Lisa) The midwife say that some people choose not to spend time with the baby,

but I think they kind of recommended it, so we did and...

I'm so glad that we had that time with him. We had the whole day with him,

and he was a perfect baby.

Um... (voice trembles) We were able to hold him...

and carry him and imagine what would have been.

It was amazing and I wouldn't have changed that for the world.

People generally, out there in the world,

think that you probably cared about it a bit less

because it didn't ever take a breath or it never looked at you.

But actually if you talk to families, that isn't how it is at all.

And most couples are very proud of the baby they've had.

(Lisa) We were able to take pictures and...

you know, everyone got to hold him and... he was part of our family.

Um, and we now have those memories of him. We have the pictures of him...

Um... And it was nice because were able to sort of be a family.

(Jenni Thomas) There is no right way to grieve.

People do it in their own time and in their own way.

But if somebody is asking for help,

was feeling that they really need more help than they're getting,

I would just encourage them to get in touch

with the very many organisations now that are around where you can get help.

We were lucky enough to have counselling through the Child Bereavement Charity,

and they helped us work out who's at what stage,

because grief is different for people and for the sexes as well, isn't it?

So when he was down, I wasn't, and when I was down, he wasn't,

so we were able to support each other.

I was against it, but Lisa wanted to go, so we went,

and it's the best thing that I've done, to be honest with you,

to help me through the grief.

They gave us advice on how we'd cope

and spoke to us about other people's pregnancies and situations.

And it really did help us through.

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