You have been told that your baby is going to die. Some parents already hear this news during pregnancy and then make the impossible choice to terminate the pregnancy. Read more about this in termination of pregnancy.
It is also possible to carry the pregnancy to term but your baby will die in your belly during pregnancy. Read more about stillbirth.
Sometimes something goes wrong during childbirth, causing damage to your baby that is so serious that it cannot continue to live. It also happens that babies get infections in the first period after birth and become seriously ill as a result. Or your baby has been born far too early and dies from the consequences of this premature birth. This can be an infection, a lung problem or a brain haemorrhage. But it is also possible that your baby has a congenital abnormality that is incompatible with life.
You will often wonder why this happened and why no one was able to do anything. What if we had been there earlier, what if they had administered other medicines, what if a different decision had been made? Many parents also blame themselves; what if I hadn’t worked so long, what if I hadn’t painted the baby’s room. Very logical thoughts. It is therefore a good idea to go through all these scenarios later with your attending physician. A conversation with the spiritual caregiver or medical social worker can also be very helpful.
Your baby will be brought to the NICU. This is the intensive care for newborn babies. The care there is optimal and your baby will be watched intensively 24 hours a day. The nurses and doctors here will do everything they can to make your baby better. Unfortunately, however, sometimes there is nothing they can do.
If the doctors know there is nothing more they can do, they will tell you in conversation. They will also indicate the possibilities for how to spend the last moments with your baby. Because the baby will not die unexpectedly, some things can be given just a little bit more thought. In this situation there is often enough time to calmly decide how you want to do things as a parent in your own way. Take the time you need. For example, write down everything that is said (or let someone else do it who is there a lot). That way, you can easily find out what has actually been discussed. Write down all the questions so that you can ask them when you are talking to the doctor. You can also get a printout of what nurses write down in the file. This is written down in medical terms, but it might be nice to have it anyway.
At many NICU’s there is the possibility to put a large bed in a separate room. You can lie in it together and keep your baby with you for a while. Your baby will initially be placed with you with all the tubes, infusions and artificial respiration. When you are ready, they will slowly remove everything. Your baby will then die in your arms. It is impossible to tell how long this will take after the treatment has stopped.
It is nice to have your baby naked with you for as long as possible. At the moment, it is still warm and this first skin contact is very important. This moment will never come back. After a while your baby will get colder and you can wash and dress him. They will also make hand and footprints in the hospital.
Taking your baby home
Many parents choose to take the baby home with them. This gives you all the time you need to take a good look at your baby and to “get to know” him or her and make memories (see Making memories and days until the funeral).
When you take your baby home, your baby needs to be kept cold. This can be done in different ways:
- Baby cooling
- Water method
- Cooling elements
- Embalming / thanatopraxy
Research into the cause of death?
Sometimes the cause of your baby’s death is immediately obvious because, for example, an infection has been diagnosed or because the placenta has come loose. These are things that can be seen on the outside. If the cause is not immediately apparent, you can have your baby examined further. Read more about the different methods of examination here.
"After the devastating news, the doctor asks what we want. Do we want to be on a big bed with Myla? Do we want a big bed next to Myla? Everything is being done to meet our wishes. When Myla died, we wanted nothing more than to hold her. At last that was possible and that felt good, even though she had died. For the first time we could wash and dress her. "
Mathijs, vader van Alec, Myla* en Liva
"The words, 'It is incompatible with life', are droning through my head forever. At the same time, I was grateful that we were once again able to fulfil the parental role. Letting her go would mean that we were doing the right thing as parents. We regained control. That, too, gave us peace of mind. The last, special 24 hours that followed were hard but beautiful. Grateful that we were able to 'round it off' like that. My greatest happiness is Félice. My greatest sorrow is Félice. I am most thankful that Félice came into my life and she made me a mummy."
Juliette, moeder van Félice* en Iselle