There were 2,818 babies stillborn in Canada in 2011, the last year for which stats are available. In B.C. there were 217.
We asked our readers to share their stories of stillbirth and infant loss and here are some of the (unedited) responses below.
I lost my son LeeRoy on August 10, 2013.
It was very difficult to find resourses that I desperately needed right away. I actually recieved a call from one place for counselling last week, that I had applied for in early February of 2014!
In my opinion, it would be helpful to have a support group for families of infant loss available at hospitals.
I also want to mention that the volunteers at NILMDTS (Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep ) sent a photographer to the hospital who provided me with photos professionally arranged in a book, as well as a lovely box with a lock of his hair. The service they provide is excellent.
In 2007, My wife, Emma, and I’s first born daughter was stillborn at 35 weeks.
Of course, much like your article pointed out, people said all the wrong things… “She’s in a better place”, “You’ll have another baby”, “At least she didn’t suffer”, etc.
The Woman’s Hospital at Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg was great, except for the delivery ward. Again, like your article said, we had to be on the same ward as all the “live births” which made things worse hearing all the baby screams as they were born. A literal “dead silence” occurred when our daughter Claire was born. We took our own pictures and the hospital provided plaster casts of her hands and feet, as well as ink imprints. We kept a locket of hair and put it in a locket. The hospital chaplain said some very nice things, not too religious, I wish I could remember what they were but I remember the feeling, which is what matters.
After delivery, they put us on a different floor than all the other mothers so we didn’t have to be surrounded by the blissful naive happiness that most people associate and go through after giving birth.
We got to spend the next 8 hours of the night with our daughter, we didn’t have a cooling cot or ice bags but we could see her color get more and more purple and her body get cooler and cooler to the point where we had to say goodbye forever.
For next year, we had to stay away from two of our friends who were pregnant at the same time as we were with due dates within weeks. We purposefully did not communicate due to extreme rage and jealousy. We found solace in The Compassionate Friends support group for grieving parents, through which we met others who had stillborn babies. The format was therapeutic as well as validating. Others were feeling the same things we were.
We commemorated Claire’s birth by commissioning an artist to create a piece that we could look at forever. We did an 8 hour road trip to visit with the the artist who was touched by our story, it was a cathartic experience. Justified the money spend on the project as diaper and formula money we would have spent over the next year on our live baby is she were with us.
We since have two other healthy children which have not replaced Claire but added to our family. Thanks for sharing these stories! It’s just what people need. A little awareness.
I too suffered a great loss and still, each year at the anniversary of my baby’s birthday, I am filled with so much pain and guilt. And this December will be 11 years.
The pain never goes away and no one really seems to get it. They just tell you to get over it and get with it. It’s a part of you that you lost and can never get back.
Having being forced to stop my daughter’s heart while still in my stomach, and then go through the stages of labour and delivery, is nothing that I would ever want to have another endure and relive annually.
I do know that had I not done so, I would not be here today for my daughter Madison, but the pain still resonates. I feel that more need to speak out and share their losses and know they are not alone and that there are others who have gone through the very same if not very similar experiences and loss.
In honor of my daughter Brooklynn Rose Pitceathly, September 30th 2013.
I lost my little girl the day before I was 6 months pregnant. Its been a very hard road and certain things have been difficult to do. Hearing your two living kids ask about their little sister, why they couldn’t meet her, why she left, why, why, why. It breaks my heart every time. It brings back those feelings I had in the hospital.
Being in the delivery room at Women’s Hospital hearing crying healthy babies and over joyed families was hard. Being forced to deliver a helpless life that you can’t do anything for was hard. When my daughter was finally in the world in my arms, it hit me hard.
I tried my best, did what I could for her. Gave her the chance to try and live.
Watching my oldest daughter break down and cry that she wont ever get to meet her sister she always wanted, hurts. Having support from family and friends is what you want. When people around you have no idea how to support you or what to do, its hard for them as well. No one truly understands what you are going through, how you are feeling or what to say until they have gone through it. This is one thing I would never wish upon anyone.
I wish it never happened. I feel everyone has a chance in life, but sometimes the world can’t handle these little bundles of joy.
I can say that talking about her, telling her story to anyone, and informing people that I have been there and they are not alone. There still is no answer as to why I lost my daughter. I wish I had more time and a cuddle cot to spend more time my Brooklynn.
My son was still born Decemeber 4th, he was due to be born (via C-section) Decemeber 9th (my birthday). I found amazing support through Fraser Valley Health. I had nurses calling me to check in and let me know when I was ready there were resources to help. My nurse that was assigned to us at the Abbotsford Hospital was amazing, she called multiple funeral homes and broke them down one by one… You don’t think about it, but before you even leave the hospital you must decide what you would like to do with your babe. She made what was a difficult time, as comfortable as she could. She even sent us a card a couple weeks later to tell us she still thinks about us. It was never a position that I ever thought I would ever find myself in.
I was 19 when I had my stillborn son TJ at 7 1/2 months, placental abruption
I was all alone on the maternity ward. It was 3 days after he died that I delivered him with the “help ” of an orderly and nurse I had to scream for.
The nurse kept trying to push the baby back inside because the Dr. wasn’t available yet. It was horrible watching and listening to the other 5 women in my room go have their baby come back and nurse them. I was in that room for almost 2 weeks so you can imagine how devastating that was.
After the baby was born they told me it was a boy and he was perfectly formed. All I saw of him was a head of dark hair as the orderly or nurse, I can’t remember for sure, which ran out of the room with him. They didn’t give me a chance to see him, let alone hold him.
That was 37 years ago and it stills hurts. I have no picture to remember him by, only a birth certificate and a death certificate that had to both be done at the same time. It was a scary time and not being able to talk to anyone then or now is heartbreaking.
I am so happy to see there are more resources for parents of stillborns and can only hope there will be more to come.
On March 9, 1978, I had the most excruciating cramps after my husband and I had dinner.
My husband was not very helpful and said he was going to bed. I went into the washroom awhile later to get ready for bed and noticed I was haemorrhaging, so I woke my husband and he drove me to Vernon Jubilee Hospital. They examined me and did a C-Section right away. The baby was stillborn.
The nurses asked me if I had a name picked out, which I did. The name I had picked out was Jennifer Lynn Hoefsloot.
Nothing was done and it was never talked about. I never forgot this!!
My marriage failed as my husband would not let me forget this. In 2002 I moved from Maple Ridge to Armstrong. I did some checking and the Division of Vital Statistics had a record of my stillbirth, so I paid for a Certificate of Stillbirth. I told my Minister about this and on June 21, 2003, Rev. Lorraine Powell at Zion United Church officiated at a Celebration of Life for Jennifer Lynn. I had about 12 ladies present. I purchased baby pink balloons for all of us and at the end of the service we all released our balloons for Jennifer. I also found out that she had been cremated and the ashes scattered at the Crematoriam in Penticton, B.C.
This did bring closure for me after all those years. Even at 68 years of age now, I wonder what Jennifer would look like and be like as a woman of 37 years of age.
I had a stillborn son 22 years ago. I was 20 weeks pregnant and it was the worst thing I have ever gone through.
He was my fourth child and I still miss him every day.
At that time there was nowhere to turn for help or understanding.
Everyone around me, including my husband, was afraid to talk about him because they didn’t want to upset me, but I needed to talk about it.
I felt alone and isolated, even from my husband. We couldn’t grieve together because my husband felt it was just too painful for me. Maybe it was too painful for him? I didn’t know.
I felt like I had died inside. It took over a year of this awful pain before I started to find my way back from it.
We were finally able to talk about the loss of our son and found out that we were both going through our own hell alone. I wish we could have shared our grief together at the time. I think it would have helped, but through this I found that I have grown and matured a lot.
No one knows or understands why these things happen but for me, now, I am thankful. He is always here in my heart and he is my teacher. He helps me everyday to face the unknown and to help others who have, or are going through, similar situations. He taught me compassion and understanding. He taught me that while I never knew him as a person that I know him as a part of my soul. I will always miss the things we never got to see or share but he is with me, always.
My son, Ryder, was born in the wee hours of the morning on April 15, 2015. At our 18 week appointment in January, we learned he had a congenital heart defect (CHD) and we were immediately sent to a specialist down the street. Eventually we were referred to a center in a larger city nearby that specialized in high-risk pregnancies. There, we learned that the CHD was caused by Heterotaxy Syndrome.
Originally, prognosis was good. His heart was functioning very well despite the defect and the fluid around his lungs was minimal and expected. He was safe snd sound inside my tummy. He would undergo a series of surgeries after his birth, but could otherwise lead a “normal” life. It was a tough pill to swallow, but we put our faith in God and we trudged on, trying to prepare ourselves for our newly prescribed future.
At 24 weeks, I was placed on bed rest due to an incompetent cervix. If Ryder were a baby with no other health concerns, we would just need to make it to 28 weeks to increase his chances of survival. However, he did have health concerns, so we would need to make it much farther in order for surgery to be an option.
Just two weeks later, at a follow-up appointment, we discovered that Hydrops had developed. Ryder’s chances of survival were now slim-to-none. I was sent home to grieve and wait – to wait for his heart to stop beating.
The next two weeks were filled with mourning the baby we may never meet, prayer for his healing and for peace no matter the outcome, and joy and thankfulness for the chance to be his parents and care for him in his short time here on earth. We talked to him, sang to him, read to him, and prayed over him.
I started having contractions on Monday, April 13th. I was scared and I was nervous. I just kept thinking that if he stayed inside for a little longer, we would have more time with him. But sometime between Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, his little heart had given out. It had just been working too hard for too long
Ryder came into this world in silence at 12:45 am on Wednesday, April 15th, weighing 2 lbs. and 1.8 oz. He had my nose and chubby cheeks, and his dad’s lips and long, skinny feet. And he was beautiful.
We held him, kissed him, and cried for him.
After measurements had been taken and prints had been made, we held him and cuddled him for a few hours until exhaustion hit like a wave. I allowed a nurse to take him then. I knew he was in good hands and would be well cared for. The hospital staff were patient, caring, and sympathetic to our needs. This was my first pregnancy, but I felt like I had been treated just like any other laboring mamma. I was never rushed. I never felt panicked. I’m so thankful for their care.
There are a few things I wish had gone differently. I wish I had thought to get pictures of his hands and feet. I wish I had gotten more copies of his prints. I wish I had touched his skin, but I didn’t because his skin was so tender from the edema, and I thought I might break him. I wish I could have held him again after I had gotten some rest, but I didn’t ask for fear of what he might look like after a few hours and how I might react to him.
Since coming home, I’ve tried to come up with ways I can honor him and help others in similar situations. I want to be an advocate, a voice for babies born still.
Held in our Hearts Forever
“C’mon, Jordie,” I offered. “Let’s read a story.”
I sank heavily against the wall, lowering my pregnant torso gently to the floor. My young son picked a favorite book, fully memorized from many bedtime readings. His blonde head cocked with suspicion as he sat next to me. “Are you okay, Mommy?” he asked.
I placed his hand on my belly, which, as if on cue, grew tight with a contraction. Jordie’s eyes widened. “Oh, you are in labor,” he whispered. Our precocious son had celebrated his third birthday just two weeks previously. And now, as he snuggled up against me, I thought back to the peaceful days we spent awaiting his birth. My husband, Harry, and I had experienced the miscarriages of three planned and wanted babies, so that by the time Jordie arrived, he did so into very welcoming arms. And we held fast this new life, determined that nothing would part us. When insistent nurses wanted to take the baby to the nursery I held him tighter and told them that they would need a crowbar.
I couldn’t keep my eyes off our son. The word “precious” kept springing to my lips, for now there was justification for this addition to my vocabulary. Yet somehow we felt that we really didn’t have a newborn. This child was born with the look of an already experienced adult. Even friends with babes of their own would look into his eyes and say, “This kid is spooky! It’s like he knows…”
Jordie started talking, clearly and distinctly, at the age of nine months. When barely two years old he could carry on an adult conversation. I remember listening to him tell a friend, “You know, there’s this theory of where the moon came from. See there is a hole in the Pacific Ocean…”
And now, this little boy who knew, was silent.
That night was a blur of pain, doctors, nurses, hospital smells, sharing decisions with Harry, and laughing between contractions with my friend and midwife, Linda. Finally I was pushing out tiny feet, and the obstetrician whom I had only met the day before, was asking, “Is there a possibility of twins here?”
Suddenly this joyous event became one of sheer terror: pushing twins that were wedged together, that could not be born; the doctor pushing back, unlocking them, catching two little boys.
Joshua died first. His little heart beat only briefly. Cole stayed with us for almost three hours; long enough to squeeze his daddy’s finger, to let me hold his hand as he struggled to breathe. We waited for the flying squad from Children’s Hospital. They finally appeared as Cole’s heart beat its last. Later we were to discover that both boys were born without kidneys. They had no chance of survival.
Shock and grief filled the room. The head nurse bathed Cole at my bedside, her tears splashing into the water. As a physically and emotionally traumatized mother was handed her still babies, doctors and cleaning staff alike dabbed at their eyes. Children are not supposed to die.
Harry and I kept our babies for hours, forcing the coroner to wait. We had them foot printed, saved locks of hair, took photos, and loved their physical beings for as long as we could.
At home, Jordie had not been told anything. My mother bundled him up and brought him to the hospital. The nurses tried to stop her from taking him in. “You want to take a three year old in to see dead babies?” they asked incredulously.
My mother put aside her own grief long enough to gather her courage and insist, “Diane wants him there, and he is going in!”
Jordie walked in quietly, obviously worried about his very pale mother. He crawled up beside me. “Jordie, something very sad has happened. You had two little brothers, but they both died.”
“Oh. That’s too bad.” In reverence, his voice was hushed.
“Would you like to see them?” He nodded.
His grandmother picked Jordie up and took him over to the bassinet where Josh and Cole lay. He looked in and cooed, “Aww. They’re so beautiful. May I touch them?”
“Yes,” I replied. “But you have to remember, they are dead. They are cold, and they won’t move.”
“That’s okay,” he assured me, reaching out and gently stroking their cheeks. “They are so soft…” he sighed.
Jordie taught the hospital staff priceless lessons about grieving, and about not underestimating children. He continued his teaching during the difficult days, weeks and months ahead. Once, during one of my particularly intense crying sessions, I heard him answer, “No, I’m sorry. She can’t come to the phone right now. She’s crying because our babies died.” Death and grief were now subjects worth exploring for our surviving son. And he did so with confidence, and with a new understanding that death is an integral part of this continuum we call life, and is not to be avoided or feared.
Several years later Harry and I felt that it was time to try for another baby. That pregnancy ended in another miscarriage, this time of a little girl. Friends and family expected that we would remain a one-child family, but I had a strong feeling that there was another child waiting for us. I convinced my husband that we should try one last time and that however it concluded, it would be our last attempt.
When the pregnancy developed complications at thirteen weeks, Harry shook his head, “Here we go again.”
“No,” I was emphatic. “This baby is fine.”
“That August, with my husband, my mother, and Linda in attendance, I gave birth to a 9 pound, 5 ounce boy. Harry held his breath until our baby took one of his own. Benjamin was healthy, beautiful, and a custom fit for the void in our arms. Again, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room, but this time the tears were those of joy.
Although Benjie’s birth allowed our hearts to heal, Josh and Cole remain part of our lives. Jordie, now a young man preferring the name of Jordan, remembers little of his time with them. And Benjie knows the twins only from stories and from looking through their scrapbook. But they both understand why I light two candles every year in September. And they have both visited the grave and know the meaning of the headstone that reads: Our Twins. Held In Our Arms For Hours; Held In Our Hearts Forever.
Almost 40 years ago I gave birth to a healthy daughter, but while I was in the maternity wing in a B.C. hospital there is a mother there who gave birth to a stillborn child as I was informed by staff.
All I could think of, and frequently still do, is how lonely and lost she looked walking the corridors. I was a young mother so I really did not know how to reach out but I thought ‘how mean, how cruel to leave her alone out there surround by the sounds of other people’s joy.’ She seemed a ghost who tried to stay out of other people’s way, staff, parents and visitors. No one, no one at all was helping her. They were waiting for her to be well enough to discharge.
And here we are 40 years later and not much has changed. We have support for breastfeeding, support for cancer victims, for all victims, really. We have support for those going through the process of losing a loved one in the ‘natural’ way. Maybe it is because babies are not supposed to die, it is the joy of new life we want to celebrate, not death. Maybe we think it’s contagious. We are so far removed from death in Western society that it is only acceptable under a given criteria and even then we make it antiseptic. Death is natural, even an unnatural one.
I would think these parents would like to be able to embrace their child, both the joy and the grief. This was and is their child and pretending it didn’t happen won’t help these parents. They need help to grieve and it is their right to do so. After all this time, we need ways to give them the supports they need to grieve productively and to openly love the memory of their child. Society needs to embrace them with the sensitivity and support necessary.