I am the father of a stillborn baby boy. He was delivered at full term, 38 weeks. His demise was unexpected and unexplained. He probably died of a cord accident about twenty-four to forty-eight hours prior to delivery. We did not know of his demise until we went to the hospital for delivery (in the middle of the night, no less) and the fetal monitors could not locate a heartbeat or any other fetal sounds. To make life even more interesting, my wife suffered an eclamptic seisure four days later. Therefore, I feel qualified to comment on this topic.
Frylock, unless you’ve been there, you cannot understand. It is easily the most unbelievable, un-understandable, unfair moment of my (and my family’s) life. I would not wish that experience on anyone. I can still hear my mother screaming when I called her at 6:00AM and told her. I can see the faces of my wife and all the doctors and nurses. I can see my mother-in-law’s expression (she was there). Most of all, I can remember going out into the hall and explaining to my other two kids, then aged 13 and 8, what had happened. They asked why no one was doing anything. You can imagine, but it’s worse.
As for holding the baby – we did it many times. The baby was brought to us in the labor and delivery room, just as any normal birth. (The baby was delivered via a previously planned Cesearian.) We and both sets of grandparents held him. I have tons of pictures, just as any other sort of birth. They are the strangest pictures – they look perfectly normal until you look into the people’s eyes. There is a hollowness to everyone’s expressions.
After the guests had left, we also held the baby privately, with just me and my wife, and later, with us and our other kids. We even took a family picture. It is the only complete family picture we will ever have. At one point, I was holding the baby and a wave of panic came over me and had sat down hard – holding your dead child is the most unnatural, yet strangely natural thing. Your whole body screams that this is wrong and something must be done.
Each time we visited with the baby, the hospital’s chaplain brought him. We asked him to bring him in a warm blanket. The cold of the refrigerator was too much to bear.
I have no idea what standard medical opinion is, but our child was born in a very large, urban hospital. None of the staff indicated that what we were doing was out of the ordinary. They were extremely helpful in so many ways – nurses are angels sent from Heaven. The pictures we have are archived like nothing else we have. The physical pictures and negatives are in a safe deposit box purchased just for this purpose. All of the pictures were scanned and are archived on two hard drives. They are also saved to CD’s stored in four seperate locations. Short of the complete destruction of the entire state of Texas, those pictures will survive. They are unbelievably important. This evening, I have been backing up my computer’s data in preparation for a complete reformat tomorrow. Those pictures will be checked and triple checked before the wipe.
We have survived and have had many wonderful, happy experiences in the three years since then. However, it is a hurt that is as fresh as if it happened today. Right now, on the desk in front of me, is the computer sketch of his headstone. We ordered it two weeks ago and have approved the final design today. This is a big step because it’s the last step. After the headstone, there is nothing left to do for him. Even after three years, we still have a bedroom with baby furniture and baby clothes hanging in the closet and folded in the dresser.
I know that this is a long answer to your question, but I wanted to impress upon you just how important holding the baby is. If this happens to you, it is the only chance you will ever have to hold your child. If you don’t do it, you will regret it for the rest of your life. It never goes away.