Whether this is your first time giving birth, or your first time giving birth to a child who has died, you are likely to be terrified and unsure of what to expect when you delivery your baby. We at LOLA understand that fear and want to de-mystify the birth process for mums who are delivering their stillborn baby, and partners who are supporting them.
This section has been prepared with the help of specialist midwives and is designed to make you a little more familiar with the birth process, and how to deal with the physical and emotional effects of giving birth, afterwards.
What to take with you to the hospital
For some of you, the loss of your baby will happen before you have considered going to the hospital and you will need to prepare in advance for your delivery. It will undoubtedly be very difficult for you and your partner to imagine being in a birthing suite, and it may be difficult to manage making any preparations for your trip to the hospital. However, if you can find the strength to consider these things, it may be worthwhile, so that you are as comfortable as you can be. The following lists may help you or your partner to pack in preparation.
Things to take for You
Comfortable pants (3 or 4 pairs), socks, trousers and tops, pyjamas/nightgown, dressing gown, shoes for the ward (crocs or similar are ideal for being on the ward, and in the shower), toiletries (toothbrush and paste, deodorant, lip balm, hand cream, shampoo, conditioner, if you have them – sanitary towels and breast pads), warm clothes if it is winter, mobile phone and charger. You may find it more helpful to take your own pillow or other things from home which make you feel more comfortable. You may also want to take a note pad and pen with you, so that you can write questions down as they occur to you and have them ready to ask when your midwife or doctor come to chat. You may also find it helpful to take notes after meeting with those who are caring for you and your baby, so that you can recall important details later on.
Jan Auffret, specialist bereavement midwife, offers some suggestions for things that might be useful for mums to take with them when they deliver their baby.
Things to take for your Baby
Clothes: although your baby may be very small, you may wish to consider taking one or two special items you may have been given, or have bought already, to dress your baby in after he or she is born.
A blanket: you may also wish to consider taking a special blanket or shawl, if you have one, for your baby.
A camera: if you would like to have a picture of your baby it should be possible for you to take some. Making a decision about pictures in advance can sometimes be very difficult. Even if you are not sure how you will feel about taking pictures of your baby, it is worth considering packing a camera to take with you to the hospital, so that you have the option to take your own pictures if you decide you’d really like to do that after all. (If you choose not to take a camera with you, and later change your mind, your hospital may be able to help you with photos of your baby. It is worthwhile asking them for help with this if you need it.)
Other things you would like your baby to have: you may have some special gifts at home for your baby, little things you have collected, or photos of you and your family, which you would like him or her to have and keep with them, after you give birth.
Jan offers help with things you might want to take for your baby.
Things for your partner to take
Although your partner will be focused on your and your needs, and on your baby, he or she will need to be comfortable to give you good support. Partners should make sure they are well equipped so that they can be comfortable themselves, by taking changes of clothes, toiletries and something to sleep in, in case the visit to the hospital takes some time.
Jan discusses partners and dads’ and their needs at the hospital.
Other things to consider taking
When you get to the hospital, depending on the time of day and whether it is a weekend, there may be limited access to resources for you and your partner. If you are being induced, it may take some time for labour to begin and progress; it is possible you may be there some time.
Although it may seem unnecessary before you leave home, even frivolous, it is worthwhile considering adding books and some snack food to your bag. Because you are going go through the birth process, you will both need nourishment to keep you going and this may be something you prefer not to leave the privacy of your room to find once you are there. You may also find it helpful to have some distractions in the form of something to read, while you are waiting for labour to begin.
Jan talks about the importance of creating memories of your baby and how you can do that after your baby is stillborn.
People who will support you
You will have midwives who will support you during your labour at the hospital. If you are being induced, they will assist you with this.
You will also be visited by an anaesthetist while you are at the hospital. She or she will be responsible for additional pain relief during your labour, including the administration of morphine, should you want this.
At some hospitals, after your baby is born, you may also have a specialist bereavement midwife who will support you after your baby is born, including giving you advice on arrangements you may wish to make for your baby after the birth.
Where you will deliver your baby
Some hospitals in the United Kingdom – although not all – have special units called “SANDS” delivery suites, where parents who have experienced a stillbirth are able to deliver their baby. These units may also be available in other countries. They are provided so that parents of stillborn children are able to deliver their babies somewhere other than the ordinary labour ward. Despite that, even if you are provided with a SANDS delivery suite, your room may still be near to the delivery ward at your hospital.
It is a good idea to ask your hospital about the resources that are available for you to deliver your baby, and to prepare yourself for entering this space.
When you arrive at the hospital, it is likely your maternity notes (both electronic and those in hardcopy form) will have a SANDS or other sticker on them, to alert any of the hospital staff who are dealing with you that you have experienced a stillbirth, and to make sure they give you the care you need. However, administrative, nursing or other staff may miss this notification. It is helpful for partners and fathers to be alert to this possibility and to deal with any confusion or delays at the hospital as quickly and calmly as possible.