Dear Dr. Gloria and Dr. Heidi,
My niece, Suzanne, gave birth Monday, May 12, 2008 to a little boy. The baby was stillborn. Her pregnancy was fine and she had been to the doctor the previous friday. The baby’s heartbeat was strong and she discussed inducing labor with her doctor. They scheduled it for two weeks away.
On Sunday she started to feel not so well and put a call in to her doctor. She was given an appointment for the next morning. During her visit they were not able to hear a heartbeat so they did an ultrasound and discovered there was no longer any life in the baby.
They sent her directly to the hospital and induced her labor. She has a 5 year old son who was born thru C-section so she had not yet experienced giving birth vaginally. She later told me it was the hardest thing she ever did. They also were able to hold the baby and the nurses took numerous photos with the baby and various family members.
My niece was given a small teddy bear that was dressed in the clothes the baby wore. She also has a darling keepsake box that holds the baby’s footprints, a handprint and a lock of his hair. That is what she will take home with her when she leaves the hospital today. They are in the process of planning a service for the baby.
I have experienced many losses in my lifetime, starting with my dad when I was 5 years old. I lost a younger brother to suicide and several other losses along life’s way. But I have never felt such a sadness as I feel now. To see my niece go from expecting to bring home a baby boy next week to planning his burial in a matter of hours is indescribable.
I sat with her yesterday for a time and just held her hand and cried with her. She looks so much in disbelief. My heart aches for her and I want to help her. I am very close with her as her own mother is an alchoholic and can provide no real support. My brother, her dad, is there for her but he too is at a loss. The normal order of life has been switched around and we have no precedent for this situation. I am loking for knowledge on how to help my niece get through this. If there is information available in the Cincinnati, Ohio area to teach me how to help her please tell me. I am a christian and believe in God’s eternal plan but I need help with this one. Thank You,
Drs. Gloria and Heidi Respond
You have done the best thing possible right now – to sit and hold her hand and cry with her. For this kind of loss there are simply no words that console or comfort. She is lucky to have you. She may need help just getting the details of the burial accomplished – it is a tremendously hard thing to do. You don’t mention her husband – he may also need comforting and may not be able to console her now because of his own grief.
Her emotions may be much too raw right at this time to respond to any kind of help and there are simply no guidlines to tell you when she will be ready. Each person grieves in her own time and way. You sound like a very wise and compassionate woman and you will notice the little clues she gives you clues as to when she is ready. Your loving presence and undestanding is probably what she needs the most right now.
When she is ready there is a wonderful group called The Compassionate Friends. http://www.compassionatefriends.org. Each member has lost a child or a sibling and they understand what she is experiencing. They do have groups in Cincinnati and you might like to contact them to find the group located nearest to your niece. They also have an online support group for mothers who have lost babies during pregnancy or at birth. These may be of help to her later on. She may also need the help of a professional grief counselor for a period of time but it is too soon to determine that.
With our condolences,
Dr. Heidi and Dr. GloriaTags: Depression, grief, hope