Coping With The Loss of Your Newborn Baby

Written by Jana Angeles

It’s the big day. You’re finally getting all the contractions and you find yourself in hospital, going through hours of labour. Once the final push happens, the doctors and nurses don’t say anything and all you hear is silence. You don’t want to think it, but the next thing they start saying is, “We’re sorry for your loss. Condolences.”  

In this scenario, this is what a parent’s nightmare would look like. Spending hours trying to push out a baby but having to face his/her’s death at the same time; it’s confronting and scary. Coping with any sort of loss, especially on people you care about is hard, but with time, you’ll find yourself living normally like you used to. However, this doesn’t mean losing a newborn baby won’t change you because it will. You’ll be a different person from this obstacle.  

What do I have to do after the death of my baby? 

  • If your baby has spent weeks in hospital and ends up passing away, the doctors and nurses will ask you if you’d like to spend time with him/her. Although it’s a sad moment for parents, holding your baby will provide you with comfort and peace. This is a memory you’re shaping with your child; one you’ll never forget. This can be heartbreaking for parents, especially for those that weren’t able to hold their baby when they were under intensive care. 
  • Spending quality time such as bathing, taking photos, handprints or footprints can benefit you and the family. Being able to do this will help you build on some cherished moments you had with your newborn before you say goodbye. It could also help you grieve with your family. Rest assured, this is something you’ll remember for a lifetime. 

What caused the death of my baby?  

  • This can be a frustrating and upsetting experience for families but if you need to know what happened, you can request for a post mortem. The examination of your baby will let you find out details on the cause of death, information of their development and other information on health problems. Of course, this is optional and some may choose not to go ahead with the post mortem because of personal or religious reasons. However, if the death of the baby is unclear (ie. death from SIDS), the coroner will go ahead with the post mortem examination anyway. 
  • There needs to be a consent form signed for the post mortem examination. Please take advice from nurses and doctors whether it is a good idea to see your baby after it. Sometimes, saying your goodbyes prior to the post mortem is a safe option for you and the family. 
  • A common reason for a baby’s death is if they’re born prematurely (before 37 weeks) or if they have a low birth weight. 
  • Other causes include: respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), pneumonia, bleeding in the brain, infections from the womb (during or after birth) and inflammation of the large and small intestine. 

Any further arrangements I need to make? 

  • You can register the birth or death (or both) of your baby. More information can be found via for guidelines in NSW. 
  • In Australia, it is a legislative requirement to hold a funeral service for babies born at 20 weeks or greater. You can choose to have it with a religious representative or hospital chaplain.  
  • If you don’t want a service for your baby, you are more than welcome to cremate them too. There are many ways to say goodbye. Each individual will choose an experience that is suited for them and the family. 
  • Schedule in some sessions with the counsellor. It’s not easy dealing with death, especially one you didn’t expect. Talking about your feelings and thoughts to another person can really help. We understand how much trauma you may feel so it’s really important to have an honest conversation with the people you care about.