Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Remembering Your Baby

Depending upon your baby's gestational age or stage of development, you may or may not have had the opportunity to see, touch or hold him or her. You may or may not have named her or him. But gathering as many memories and mementos as possible like footprints, an ID bracelet, photos, ultrasound pictures, stuffed animals will help you to cope, to affirm your baby, to remember this time and feel close to your baby as you grieve.

Many parents seek to honor their baby's importance in their lives through a ceremony such as a memorial service, funeral, baptism or saying kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead.

This provides an opportunity for you to say a special good-bye and also allows other family members and friends to share your sorrow. The important thing is that the ceremony or service meets your special needs.

Such a ceremony can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. If you lost your baby through early miscarriage, you may want to have a ceremony at a location that is special to you (church, garden, home, etc.). It can be conducted by your clergy or even by yourselves. Some parents choose to do something symbolic, such as planting a tree.

If you have your baby's remains, your service will include burial or cremation. Many parents choose cremation because they can take their baby's ashes home or distribute them at a location that has some meaning to them.

With a later loss (after 20 weeks), funeral arrangements may be necessary. Even so, funerals can be simple, like a small graveside service. They can also be more elaborate, including viewing, interment, and a social function afterward. Your hospital social worker or clergyperson can help you decide what to do and work out details.

If you weren't encouraged or given the option to take your baby's remains, you might wonder what the hospital or clinic did with them. If you want to pursue this, you can call your health care provider. Usually, babies' remains are handled sensitively and are cremated. If your baby died early in pregnancy, cremation leaves no remains because of the tiny mass and lack of hard bones.

It's never too late to memorialize your baby. You can have a ceremony long after your loss. Or you can hold an annual service on a meaningful date. You also can publicly acknowledge your baby's existence by making a donation to a charity; submitting an article or poem about your baby to a magazine or newspaper; or giving something, during the holidays, to a needy child who is the age your child would have been.

You might memorialize your baby privately by displaying his or her portrait in your home, buying a piece of jewelry that symbolizes your baby, keeping a special houseplant as a living memorial of your baby, or making your own memorial such as a quilt, painting, pottery, or piece of furniture.

As you move on with your life into a new future, you won't forget your baby. You'll carry him or her always in your hearts. Your baby will live through you. And a full and well-lived and enjoyed life is the best gift you can give to that sweet child.


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