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What to Expect After Losing Your Baby

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The feeling of losing an infant child is one of the worst kinds of emotional pain imaginable. You had so many hopes and dreams for your new child, and you weren't prepared to say goodbye so soon.

While the pain may never completely go away, you can relieve some of the stress of the situation when you know what to expect.

Requesting an Autopsy

If you want to determine what caused the death of your infant, request an autopsy through your doctor. The autopsy can take up to 10 weeks, with initial results at about three weeks. Common causes of infant death include:

  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Heart or lung problems
  • Trauma during birth
  • Breathing problems
  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Preeclampsia in the mother
  • Infection
  • Inflammation of the large and small intestines
  • Problems with the amniotic sac, placenta, or umbilical cord

The results of the autopsy may help your doctor treat you in future pregnancies. If the cause of death was genetic, you may benefit from meeting with a genetic counselor.

An autopsy isn't required. Some states or hospitals pay for it, but others don't. You may be able to request other kinds of testing, such as genetic tests.

Choosing a Burial Option

Burying or cremating your baby can give your baby a final resting place and a place you can visit to remember and reflect. As with other family deaths, it is your choice how you want to bury your baby.

If you choose to cremate your baby, you can keep the ashes in an urn or scatter the ashes at a meaningful location.

If you choose to bury your baby, work with a funeral home to arrange for a cemetery plot. Many cemeteries have special sections for infants. You can choose an infant marker to honor your baby.

Both urns and markers can include the name, birth date, and death date of your baby and a phrase that honors your baby. Some examples include:

  • God's gift to us, our gift to God.
  • There is no footprint so small it does not leave an imprint on this world.
  • Safe in the arms of Jesus.
  • Held for a moment, loved for a lifetime.
  • Though her time with us was brief, her memory is everlasting.

The urn or marker could also include an image, such as a religious image or a picture of something from nature.

If you suffered a miscarriage early in the pregnancy, you may not be required to bury or cremate your baby. Ask your doctor about your options.

Holding a Service

Many people choose to have some kind of service to commemorate their baby. This service could be a funeral with dozens of guests or a small gathering with family and close friends.

A funeral usually takes place at a church or funeral home. At the funeral, you could have family members and friends share thoughts about your baby or thoughts about death, life, and family. Singing songs and offering prayers might also bring you comfort.

If you choose to have a memorial service, you could gather near the burial plot, in a home, or in another intimate location. As with a funeral, you might want to sing, pray, or read poetry.

You may wish to inform out-of-town family members and friends of your baby's passing. Some people post a memorial to their baby on social media or send out an announcement to honor the baby. However, it's also okay if you prefer to keep the event private.

Grieving and Healing

The grieving process may continue for months or even years. In fact, the pain of losing a child may never completely go away.

You may request a temporary leave of absence from work during the initial grieving process. Some people feel that going back to work helps their grief, while others may need more time before they're ready to return.

Make sure you are willing to accept and request help during this time. Your friends will want to help but might feel unsure about what to do or say. Whether you need someone to talk to or just need to hug someone and cry, let your friends and family know what you need.

If you are the mother, you may have additional physical challenges. You may need to recover from a C-section. Your body may begin lactating, giving you a painful reminder of your baby. Follow your doctor's advice about physical healing during this time.

Give yourself time to heal physically and emotionally before you try to have another baby. The amount of time to wait differs for every couple.

Losing a child can be incredibly painful, but with time, you can begin to feel peace. A memorial can help you remember the impact your baby made on your life. Choose an urn or infant marker that honors your baby and comforts you.

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