Based on what other families have shared with us, we suggest that you consider the following:
- Use your Empty Arms Peer Companion, who can help you think through options and decisions from the perspective of a parent who has been there. If you are delivering in Western Massachusetts, Empty Arms can provide you with this emotional support. Your nurse can call us at any time, or you can start this process by texting 413-570-0811 with the message "NEED COMPANION"
- Allow yourself to be present for this difficult time. It may be surprising to learn that most people spend time with their baby, take photos, and bring home mementos. You can wait until your baby is born to decide if these things feel right for your family.
- Allow family and friends to help you. They can make phone calls, feed your dog, bring you snacks or a comfortable nightgown. It will help them to help you.
We want you to know…
- You can spend as much or as little time with your baby as you would like, and you don't need to know how long that will be until after your baby is born. Some parents feel overwhelmed after a few hours, while others spend days together. You can also invite your family or friends to meet your baby if that feels right.
- Many parents feel comforted by experiencing some “normal” parenting acts with their baby. Bathing, diapering, dressing, or singing to your baby are examples of moments some of us have cherished. Whatever feels right to you, know it’s okay, and none of this needs to be decided in advance.
- Hospital staff will work with you and behind the scenes to make sure you have as many mementos of your baby as possible. Even if you’re not sure if you want these things now, they will collect them for you so that they will always be available in case you change your mind.
- Some people choose to have a ceremony—baptism, naming ceremony, etc.—in the hospital or afterward. We can assist with thinking through that choice.
You are now and will always be your baby’s parents. What feels right to you, you have a right to ask for or to do. No matter what it is, you can be almost sure it’s been done (or not done) before.
Take your time to talk about such difficult topics as autopsy, funeral, or burial. They all need to be addressed eventually, but right now is the time you need to focus on preparing to give birth, and anticipating spending time with your baby. The staff and your companion can help you with all logistics when the time comes.
After you do say goodbye, know it’s okay to ask to see your baby again at any point before you go home.
Offer immediate, practical support with funeral or memorial planning, sibling grief, and lactation.
Offer peer-to- peer support. An experienced, trained parent who has been through a similar loss can text, email, talk on the phone with you, or meet you in person.
Offer group support. Our Stillbirth and Infant Loss Support Group meets from 7-9 pm, usually on the 4th Wednesday of each month in our cozy meeting space. This confidential, safe group has helped many parents navigate the murky waters of grief. **We are currently meeting virtually via the Zoom platform due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Help you manage the everyday. Need help figuring out how to tell colleagues about what happened? Would you like someone to call around to find you an individual therapist who takes your insurance? These are the sorts of day-to- day tasks that we can help with. If there is anything at all that has you feeling like you’re not sure whom to call, we can likely help out.
Provide you with community down the road. Even people who don’t choose our resources immediately after their loss sometimes attend groups months or even years later, come to social events, or join during a subsequent pregnancy. It is never too early or late to use our resources.