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Healing after attending a still birth

Last post 05-04-2009 5:54 PM by michelled4. 4 replies.
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  • 03-12-2009 1:25 PM

    Healing after attending a still birth

    I attended a still birth as a doula about a week and a half ago. The baby died on Saturday, followed by a long, slow induction on Sunday and Monday. She VBAC'd on Tuesday. (Yay for that small/big victory in all of this!)

    This was the first still birth I've attended, and I'm having a little trouble processing. I don't really know HOW to process, I think... Can anyone offer some suggestions on healing for a doula after such a sad birth? We found many moments of love, grace and peace along the way, but still. I am having some difficulty.

    I am a big believer in bodywork, and have had a 90-minute massage since the birth. I've talked about it a little with some doula sisters. Other thoughts? People keep saying to find someone to talk with and process, but I'm not really sure what to say anymore.

    mom of two boys
    doula, natural childbirth instructor, birth activist

    mulling my next steps in the birth world!
  • 03-12-2009 2:27 PM In reply to

    Re: Healing after attending a still birth

    I have found that talking with others helps but also keeping in touch with the parents and remembering anniversary dates--a week from the birth, a month from that date, Mothers' Day, Fathers' Day, etc.  Bringing them a meal every now and then especially when all the other mourners have left and they feel alone.  This not only helps them but it helps you to heal.

    Penny Simkin brought up a concept at one of her workshops that I'd forgotten and that's women are more likely to "Tend and befriend" so talking about the experience with other doulas who have been at still births may continue to be helpful to you. I would also stress that you need to go easy on yourself.  You are also grieving which brings up not only feelings of sadness but also shock and anger.  Sometimes taking it 10 minutes at a time is all you can handle.  Eventually you will be able to go longer without feelings of overwhelming sadness.  One thing for me that is helpful is to find the good and the alive in the Universe.  It's so difficult ruminating why this happened and why it happened to them ... but who would we like it to happen to?  It may sound corny and woo woo but I find it helpful to keep thinking about other Ones (human and not human) in the Universe who don't live very long; there must be a purpose.  And focusing on how much joy this Little One did bring to his/her parents world even for only a short time.

    It's hard.  It's not easy at all.  You go through so many emotions--from birth is totally unsafe, drag out all the machines that go beep to acceptance.  Eventually you will find acceptance and peace but you have to give yourself time and you have to go easy on yourself.  Don't make major decisions now about anything unless you absolutely have to.  Do something that brings you a little bit of joy every day even it's a coffee splurge at the local coffee shop or some ice cream or petting a puppy's rubbery belly.   


    I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult. --E.B. White
  • 03-30-2009 9:33 AM In reply to

    • shanti
    • Top 200 Contributor
    • Joined on 03-04-2009
    • Posts 4

    Re: Healing after attending a still birth

     I'm sorry to hear that this family had to go through this. It sounds as though they were lucky to have such great support with them through all of this. The reality is all those involved in this baby's birth have their own grief to deal with. it's a tough thing as we all go into this work wanting to help babies be born safely and parents to have positive birth experiences. So when things don't go as planned, it's heartbreaking.

    Like any loss, it feels so tough to deal with initially, then things get easier with time. You will grieve in your own way. the family will grieve in their own way. As has been said, as doulas and midwives, we often have to be the supportive ones in these difficult times. I think this helps us in our grief - to be there with and for the family - as it's something we can do for them. it gives us the opportunity to share some of the common grief between us - to remember this little one.

    I think it's common for our usual supports (friends and family) may not 'get' why we're so upset and so it puts us in a funny place of not being able to fully rely on our usual supports when these things happen. I agree that it's important to do what you can for yourself. be good to yourself, allow yourself to cry when you need to and also allow yourself to laugh when you want to. Know that those of us who have been through similar situations understand. It's a really tough job that you took on - supporting a family dealing with such grief as they birthed their baby. The fact that you were there with them, supported them, shared what joy existed in the moment, speaks volumes to your capacity as a doula. don't underestimate the intensity of what you went through. This will surely have strengthened you as a doula.

    I know what you mean about not sure how to process this. I really can't give you suggestions more than this. I was a midwife for a family in the Philippines a few years ago when their baby girl was born stillborn. Long story, but it all happened pretty quickly. So suddenly I find myself in a situation where I have to be a support to the family, and I washed and dressed this little one for her burial, at the family's request (something that I never thought I'd never have to do). Part of me wanted to just break down and cry rather than deal with what was going on. But, my job was the be the midwife, so I buried those emotions as best I could and got on with the work. I got through the day. I think I buried those emotions so deep that they had a hard time coming out. Like you, I felt like I should be upset, but not sure how to deal with all of it. I found myself crying over silly things totally unrelated to this family - the tears had to come out one way or another. Visiting with the family helped me with my grief. I found myself thinking about this birth every so often even once I was back home and eventually I could be at peace with my emotions but it took time.

    I don't know if that helps. Hugs to you as you deal with all of this.

  • 04-07-2009 3:30 PM In reply to

    Re: Healing after attending a still birth

    (((((Hugs)))) I love what everyone has been saying. Do you think creating a birth story book might help? Also finding some friends who understand and may be open to doing some sort of ceremony to let it go.

  • 05-04-2009 5:54 PM In reply to

    Re: Healing after attending a still birth

    I have had 3 stillborn babies and 1 infant born with a fatal heart defect (passed at 9 months) over the last 3-4 years within my clientele.  I have to say that each time it was different for both me and the parents.  I offer to them whatever they needed at the time... labor support, photos, kind words....  For myself I found that speaking with my sister and writing down my thoughts helped me to process my own grief.  I have stayed in close contact with three of the families and together we seem to have helped each other move forward.  I do not hesitate to send a quick email to let them know I am thinking about them.  It is always appreciated even after several years.

    Part of the healing for all of us is when we rejoin to welcome their next baby into this world.  I have been fortunate to see 3 healthy boys come into this world after their ill or stillborn sibling.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

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