This Mother’s Day we want to talk about the Mothers of still born children. We discuss how still born grief can develop and how the parents of the children can work through their loss.
Read Time: 5 Mins
This Mother’s Day, we celebrated all mothers, grandmother and guardians who have loved and cared for us over the past 12 months. Today we will talk about mother’s who are not often discussed: mothers of still born children A stillbirth is when a baby is born without signs of life after 24 completed weeks of pregnancy, and according to the NHS it happens in around 1 in every 200 births in England. This is a large number, and unfortunately the resources to help the grieving process are not as prominent as other types of grief. We will be touching upon the many misconceptions about grieving for a baby that was not born, and the lack of awareness concerning how differently one can grieve a stillborn.
The same type of grief?
Grieving is an individual process, no one experiences grief the same way as it is such a personal journey. Nonetheless, some relative guidelines on bereavement can be found in different forms such as online, or through a health institution. What is not often examined is the psychological, physiological and spiritual consequences of the trauma of child loss. Grief is often treated with the same tools used for depression and anxiety; however, the trauma symptoms are usually overlooked. It includes, and is not limited to, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, but also intrusive thoughts (unwelcome, involuntary thoughts), rumination (constant focus on stressful thoughts), sleep disturbance and guilt.
It is critical that we understand that mothers (and parents in general too) who have experienced child loss are at a greater risk to develop complicated grief disorder (CGD) (more information about CGD here).
The same type of mourning?
Waiting for a baby is often a wonderful anticipation of that child’s future hopes, dreams and passions. For a mother, it is the preparation of welcoming a human being and supporting them through their growth. Oftentimes the prospect of their future gets mixed up with the mothers’ feelings as the baby grows inside of them. As a parent, you prepare both mentally and physically for the baby to come, perhaps by designing their bedrooms, clothes and toys.
As mothers’ experience a stillbirth, they also have to grieve and mourn the future that could have been. The what ifs, the life the baby could have had, all the plans are shattered and this can give the mothers a more intense mourning period.
As a society we do not recognise that there are no cultural norms for mourning the loss of someone who never lived outside the womb, and didn’t have a chance to be formally welcomed into a larger community of family and friends.
However, acknowledging the death of the baby is a step into healing. One way to acknowledge it is to hold a memorial service for them. This could be with just close friends and family where they light a candle and acknowledge the precious life that has passed.
The same grief for both of the parents?
It is difficult for the mother bearing the child, but we should also recognize (if there is) the partner who is also grieving. Since partners grieve differently about the same situation, it is possible that one’s partner grieves could end up bothersome, as reported by Stillborn Foundation. It is a consequence that shows how important it is to keep open communication in order to not emphasise the strain on the trauma on both sides. Having a solid community, either represented by the partner, family or friends, is another way to reduce the loneliness a mother could feel.
The same guarantee for another baby?
‘Rainbow Babies’ is a term used to define babies born after a loss. It underlines the need for mothers to try to have another child. However, Emily Pong from GoodTherapy calls this term a myth as she acknowledges that having a new baby does not replace the one the mother lost and consequently ‘fix’ the grief.
There is no guarantee that the mother can have another baby afterwards, and so for multiple reasons. Some mothers know they cannot handle the physical and emotional effort to try to have another baby. Others might have to deal with infertility or maybe the baby they have lost was supposed to be their ‘miracle baby’ due to some anterior health reasons. All of them are as valid as the other, and people around those mothers, who make assumptions, have to be aware of how detrimental it can be to the mother.
The same motherhood?
Another misconception rarely addressed is the debate over whether women who have lost their only child can call themselves ‘mother’. Some would argue that the ‘absence of a child’ means that you cannot identify the parent as a mother. This is simply not true. As you might have realised, we have used the term ‘mothers’ over this article as we believe that their grief is as valid as mothers who have lost older children. We believe that being able to claim the identity of a mother is an important healing process, and it goes hand in hand with acknowledging the baby as her child.
This article is not a guide on how to grieve, or putting a pedestal on mothers who experienced a stillbirth. We are trying to shine a light to the struggle mothers can experience that are not often talked about, and sometimes even overlooked. Perhaps, no one will ever fully ease the pain of a mother after the loss of her child. What we can do is be compassionate, aware and supportive without judgement or assumptions. And this is the case for all mothers, and anyone in pain.
Visit our Helpful Websites page for links to helplines and other centres. There’s no shame in asking for help.