Answering for our behaviour after the death of a baby

Two weeks ago, my son was stillborn at 38 weeks gestation, after what we think was a cord accident. While most people have been simply wonderful and offered my husband and I nothing but kindness and support, a handful of encounters have left me questioning my own behaviour and some of the decisions we’ve made.

Firstly, we decided to not opt for an autopsy to determine what may have happened with Eric. There was signs of damage to the cord and placenta (tests are being run on these to see if a vessel ruptured) but as paramedics who’ve seen an autopsy before, my husband and I both felt that we’d rather avoid that happening to our son. I know I’d like to have a solid answer for why it happened at all, but the chances of an autopsy revealing anything that we might have prevented is fairly small according to our midwives and the doctor who helped deliver him. However, when I communicated this decision to a friend of mine, she was shocked and actually proceded to lecture me on why this was a bad decision, why it would make me more paranoid when we tried again (as if I could be more paranoid), how it was neglectful given there could be genetic problems involved, and various other reasons. Now…aside from the fact that I found her lecturing me at a time like this somewhat distasteful, I wanted to poll opinions on whether or not we may have made a bad decision. Is it better to have an autopsy done, in spite of there being no guarantee that anything would be found? Should we maybe have just steeled ourselves and had it done, in spite of knowing just what would be done to our little guy while searching for answers?

The second thing is, about three days ago, we went to the Humane Society and adopted a cat. We’d wanted a cat for awhile, but hadn’t adopted one since pregnant women shouldn’t clean litter boxes, etc etc, and we had no idea whether or not our child would be allergic. Well…now that he’s gone, I’ve been feeling a horrible need to have something to take care of, and to keep me company when my husband goes back to work. So we adopted a perfectly precious little kitty, who is no doubt the friendliest, spunkiest, sweetest fuzzy I’ve ever had the honor of caring for. However, another friend is insisting that we’re being cruel and unfair to Callie the kitty by adopting her to ‘replace’ our dead baby. Obviously, I don’t feel that we’re replacing my child at all, as nothing could possibly replace him, but again I’d like to hear the opinions of others.

I know the language of this post sounds a little stiff. As a longtime lurker, I’m more used to reading than posting. But this has been nagging at me for the past few days and I’d like to get it out. Thanks for reading.

You’ve done absolutely nothing wrong that I can discern, outside of possibly maintaining some marginal friendships. I’m sorry to hear of your loss. Good luck.

Unless the cat is sleeping in the bassenett and wearing onesies, I think your friend is clearly overreacting, and being an ass as well. The best possible explaination is that she is so shocked and suprised by what has happened that she simply has no idea what to say and is babbleing.

If you are doing alot of second-guessing of your own motivations, I’d suggest that you find a support group whether IRL or on-line made up of couples in similair situations: there is obviously no baseline for a “normal” reaction here, but it might halp put your mind at ease as far as whether or not you are involved in self-destructive behavoir. Even then, take everything you hear wiht a heavy grain of salt: what is a normal and absolutly mandatory part of grief for one person may seem macabre and self-indulgent to another.

My condolences on your loss.

My deepest sympathy to you and your spouse on the loss of your child. A thousand hugs aren’t enough,

One of my best girlfriends also lost a child, at 36 weeks, due to a short cord wrapping around the baby’s neck. While you will get better, the pain and loss will be with you always. She had three subsequent uneventful pregnancies, but still misses her first. I don’t know for sure, but I don’t believe they had an autopsy done…apparently the cause of death was pretty straightforward. If you doctor is satisfied that nothing else is responsible, and you feel all the indicators point to one cause, then don’t feel bad about your choice…and don’t let anyone else make you feel bad.

As for the kitten…how exactly can loving and caring for a creature be unfair to it? Perhaps this friend is afraid you are not going to work through your grief if you’re busy with the kitten…which is balderdash, and you know it. The cat doesn’t care WHY you felt you needed its comfort right now…it just is glad to have a loving home. As long as you don’t dress it up and push it around town in a stroller, I can’t understand where the problem is.

I speak as someone who never had children, so you can take my opinion however you want.

In this situation you and your husband are the only judges of what was/is right to do, in the loss of your child. Don’t let anyone else make you feel bad. It’s none of their damn business. And as for the cat, love, any kind of love, is good. You are helping a creature that needed it, how can that be wrong?

Do what YOU need to do and don’t let anyone else try and influence you in this matter.

My deepest sympathies on the loss of Eric. I will pray for you and your husband.

Your friends are not acting like friends. They should support and respect you, not give you unasked-for advice about things that are truly none of their business.

Enjoy your kitty. Someday, you will provide it with a loving child to play with.

Deepest sympathies.


My Condolences on the lose of your child.

There is a wonderful group called Compassionate Friends
they helped me work through the feelings of guilt that comes with losing a child.

You done everything right as far as I can see. The lose of ones child is not something you can get over. It is something you must go through. I sure the kitten will help you get through this.

before anyone nit picks

I am aware that should be did

Wow. I am so so sorry for your loss.

I don’t know what possesses people to tell others that they are grieving incorrectly. Surely they can’t think it will help? Sounds like you made the autopsy decision carefully and with full information. If your friend can’t accept that it’s none of her business, then she’s no friend.

With regard to the cat thing–we have a dog. We are absolutely crazy about our dog. We have been told by a few people that once we have a “real” baby, our dog will not seem so special to us. :rolleyes: People who are not true dog/cat lovers can not relate to the special relationships between humans and animals, and thus persist in comparing those relationships to parent/child relationships. That’s just nuts. Your cat is not a “replacement baby.” Your cat is a cat. If having him makes you feel better, then it’s all good. As the others have said, how can giving him a good and loving home be cruel?

Good luck and hang in there.

I’m so sorry to hear this. My heart goes out to you.

Your friends are acting like jerks. No one has the right to tell you how you should react and what you should do. It’s doubtful the autopsy would be of much help, and it’s cheap pop psychology to insist that getting the cat is getting a replacement.

If these people hadn’t said anything, would these things have bothered you? I’d guess not. So just ignore them and get on with your life.

There have been a few threads here written by people who can’t have children or have miscarried, and one thing I might suggest here is deciding what you’re going to say about it to people who ask - it seems like there’s a lot of insensitive, ignorant people in the world (on top of the people who genuinely care about you and want to know how you’re doing), and being prepared for their prying could save you a lot of heartache. Decide how much you think people should know, and don’t hesitate to tell people to back off if they should rudely press you (like some of your “friends” apparently have already). You made your decisions for your own, valid reasons, and they really are nobody else’s business.

I’m sorry for your loss. I had two stillborn sons and now still two years later I have a hard time once in a while. Any way you and your husband choose to deal with it is OK, you have to do what feels right to you. Getting a pet is certainly not wrong. When I lost my babies, there were always a lot of well meaning friends that managed to say stupid things, that might be what is happening to you, no one can truely understand what you are going through unless they’ve been there.

I had autopsies done on my babies, but no cause was ever determined, again do what you are comfortable with.

Compassionate Friends is a good support group and online I found this one.

My thoughts are with you.

My condolences to you and your husband, DePahre.

Maybe your friends are trying to be helpful but their behavior is way out of line. I don’t want to add to your grief but I find their actions absolutely appalling, in fact. The decision wasn’t theirs to make. Period. Their crass insensitivity in spouting off ill-informed, guilt laden nonsense to people already bereaved was arrogant and cruel. They don’t know “what’s best”, for you, your husband or Eric.

As for taking a warm, loving purr to share your life, what possible harm could be involved? Callie The Kitty found a good home and humans to love, who love her right back for being the “friendliest, spunkiest, sweetest” cat she is. Cats (and dogs), being the sensible creatures they are, accept and return human love unconditionally. They really aren’t complicated at all about that. Callie herself certainly isn’t agonzing over motivations. She’s just happy to be home with her humans. Accept her for the gift she is, and damn the naysayers.

Tinkertoy had a great suggestion in Compassionate Friends. It might be a relief to be able to talk over your loss with others who’ve been through it themselves.

All the best to you, your husband and Callie.


Thank you to everyone who’s responded so far. A part of me knew that it was silly to let their comments bother me, but I guess they crept in when I wasn’t looking. It could very well be due to the fact that I didn’t have a script ready, in advance, for dealing with questions and comments (which is an excellent idea, and one I’ll be working on for future encounters). I know my friends weren’t trying to upset me, and they certainly didn’t say what they did to be malicious. It’s reassuring though to know that my initial instincts are being backed up here.

Thanks for the suggestions on where to go to get help in dealing with this. Our families have been great in giving us the support we need so far, and Mike and I have become even closer together, holding each other up, which I suppose is one of the few brighter results of our loss. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a back up support system in place, should we find things more difficult in the future.

And though it would be absolutely adorable, I will try my best to avoid the temptation to dress her up in baby clothes. I don’t think she’d stand for it anyways, having fully developed opinions on how she is to be treated (read that as spoiled rotten). Tuna and frequent scritches are acceptable, stroller rides are not. :slight_smile:

You are not responsible for the death of your child.

There are a million things that can happen, & no way to tell what.

Don’t listen to your so-called-friends. Their remarks are unkind, illogical, & highly unfair.

I urge you & your wife to seek counciling, or perhaps join a support group.

And keep posting here on the SDMB. We’re good at support. :slight_smile:

You don’t have to answer for your behaviour :). People say and do dumb things, it’s just the way it is. They don’t know what to say so shite comes out their mouths.

And IME you can’t win. If you have an autopsy, then people will criticise that choice. If you get pregnant straight away, that’s wrong. If you get a cat and wait to conceive, that’s wrong.

We adopted two cats, Jim and Bob, who are still treasured members of the family. They were not partial to the frontpack for the baby so we practised with a teddy bear.

Take care. It’s a very rough kind of loss to go through so be kind to yourself.

Your friend is so wrong.

Another thing-I believe there have been studies done saying that people with pets tend to be healthier than those without-it’s that whole power of the mind thing, and the fact that animals have a calming effect on people.

I know that when I was going through a severe depression, one thing that perked me up was our cat Noel-who was a kitten then. I remember the day I came home, I was having another one of those days where I did nothing at work but cry throughout my shift (and this was before Kmart, peeps), so when I got there, and saw that little white puff ball, it really helped.

Seriously, I don’t know if I would have gotten throught if not for No-no.

So I say scoff at your friend. I for one believe the world would be better if everyone had grown up to love cats. If Osama Bin Laden had had a kitten as a child, he might be better off.

Proof? Hitler hated cats. :wink:
Then again, Dubya is a cat lover…JUST KIDDING!

My condolences.

This here SDMB is all about facts, so here are some important ones.

**You did nothing wrong. **

**Your choices were yours alone. **

**Any views to the contrary can safely be disregarded. **

May you both find the peace you deserve, and one day share better news with us all. Give kitty a tickle under the chin and a cuddle from us all.

I am so sorry to hear your baby died.

You don’t have to answer for anything. Right now, grieving is a very important thing you need to do. I didn’t say “get over your grief” or “get past your grief” - you need to express this horrible loss in whatever manner works for you and your husband, in your own time, your own way, at your own pace.

Clearly, something went wrong. It sounds like you even have a pretty good idea what. What, then, would be the purpose of an autopsy? If you wanted one, that would be different, but you didn’t and that is a perfectly acceptable and valid choice. You don’t have to explain or “answer” for that. This so-called “friend” is waaaaaaaaaaaay out of line and you should have told her to butt out of your business. Shut up and leave.

And you didn’t “replace” your baby with a cat. You said you’ve wanted a cat for awhile but, being responsible prospective parents, you put that off until circumstances were better. Well, it’s a terrible thing that happened, but now there is no reason not to adopt a cat and there is no reason on God’s green earth to put off doing it. What are you supposed to do, stop living? What if you had said “we were going to buy a new car after the baby comes.” And, after your loss, you then went out and bought a new car - you’re not “replacing” the baby with a car, you’re just moving on with your lives, at your own pace, which you have to do.

I just don’t understand this sort of insenstive jerk who tells you how you’re supposed to feel, how you’re supposed to act, and what you’re supposed to do (or not do) during one of the most emotionally painful experiences a human being can go through.

Do what is best for YOU. Avoid loud-mouthed babblers. Seek support from those who actually give you support.

I try to avoid “me too” posts, but it may help you to know that many of us find what you have written to be absolutely reasonable. The behaviour of some of those around you has been lamentable! How horrible to try to make you suffer more!

Both of you have sincere wishes from me for your loss, and my admiration for dealing with difficult times so well.