Misperceptions of stillbirth

I remember a conversation I had with my wife after our first son Marlon died shortly after his birth. I have to admit that it was really the first time that I had actively thought about what actually happens during miscarriage or stillbirth. There is a baby and he or she has to come out. I had thought about and understood the implications, i.e. the baby had died, but somehow I had not thought about the actual procedure. Call me stupid if you want, but that was the reality. Like many parents I had never considered that this would happen to us and I did not know much about it. When we talked about child loss more often after our own experience and spend time thinking about stillbirth, one of my emotional responses was that it must be terribly hard to deliver a dead child. How wrong I have been. I should have known better because of our first experience with neonatal death, but I did not. And I believe that many people who try to support parents who experience a stillbirth don’t always understand either.

Why should it be hard to give birth to your dead baby? Like any other parent, we have cared for him for months. We have adjusted our life style, our food consumption, our daily routines and much more, all in anticipation of our child. We were looking forward to the moment he would be with us, putting him skin to skin, seeing him for the first time, cuddling him. And these feelings continued after we received the terrible diagnosis that they could not find his heartbeat any more. We still wanted to see and hold him and be with him. Why would I ever have thought that it would be difficult to welcome our son to be with us. I cannot tell you where I got this thought. In reality it was an honor to bring him into this world. We use terms such as beautiful, magical and amazing when we talk about the experience of the birth. That might not be the case for everyone if there are difficulties or complications, but we had a picture-perfect delivery. In any case I would not have wanted to miss the birth of our children under any circumstances.

What is difficult is that our baby had died, not that we delivered a dead baby. And that is a big difference. The birth and the experience get overshadowed by the loss that occurs simultaneously. It almost feels like we did not only get robbed of our baby, but of the opportunity to share our birth experience. Only very few people, among them our midwifes, doula and close friends would fondly remember that experience with us. But in general I think hardly anyone would dare to ask parents of a stillborn baby how the birth was.

Help break the silence!

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