Making memories after giving birth at 20 to 24 weeks of pregnancy

Memory making was very important in the short, precious time parents had with their baby. There were many ways that parents made memories with their baby including bathing and dressing them, spending time with them and creating mementoes of their baby’s life. Time was often limited. Parents knew it was their only chance to make memories with their baby. Joelle explained how she felt she and her husband only had ‘a few hours to make as many memories as we could’.

Memory boxes

Memory boxes are often given to parents who have lost a baby. They provide a place for parents to keep memories of their baby. Memory boxes were a key part of memory making for many parents we spoke to. While many found walking out of the hospital with a memory box instead of their baby traumatic, in the long term many parents really valued them. Several parents talked about how they felt the memory box validated their baby’s life. Liz did not feel ready to accept one in hospital but created her own once she got home and was able to reflect more on her loss.

For others the memory box did not have such an important role. Helen explained how she wasn’t a very ‘memento-type person, so the care that I got that day from everybody was more important to me than the things I got.’ Although most parents we spoke to had received a memory box, a few didn’t. Sharon, who lost three babies, felt the use of memory boxes had changed over time. The hospital staff provided more memory making opportunities when she lost her second and third babies than her first baby.

Lindsay explained how without the memory box no one would ever have known her son existed.

Age at interview 35

Gender Female

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Some parents appreciated the thoughtfulness of items that were in the memory box such as having two teddy bears or two blankets, one to stay with their baby after they had died and an identical one to take home with them as a keepsake. For Sam the teddy bear she took home with her was one of her ‘prized possessions’. Others appreciated informal birth certificates recording their name, the date and time of their birth and information like their birth-weight although not everyone found this helpful. Some parents found memory boxes very helpful when staying in hospital, offering them things they may not have thought about in the difficult time before birth such as books to read or lullabies to sing to their baby. Joelle found the memory box ‘gave me something to do a positive way of making memories’.

Helen Z explains how she and her husband spent their time while in hospital with their baby.

Age at interview 37

Gender Female

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Nesta described how she found her memory box immensely helpful.

Age at interview 39

Gender Female

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The creation of the memory box and mementoes was often an ongoing process after leaving hospital. Many parents added their ultrasound photos or special things that physically touched their baby including teddy bears, blankets and wrist bands. Vikki, Carly and Elaine found the wristband particularly important to them as Carly explained it was ‘the only real medical documented proof that I have that she was here’. Several parents included mementoes of their baby’s funeral including the order of service, poems they had written, as well as cards they had been given or the post mortem report. Parents varied in how much they would look at the box after they went home. For some it was important to know it was there but they didn’t look through it. For others it was something that they looked at more frequently. Joelle and Adam spoke of how it was ‘something we can keep forever, and it’s brought comfort to us’. The parents we spoke to rarely talked about sharing the box with others although occasionally close family had looked at them.

Carly talked about what her memory box contains and some of the things she wished she had done.

Age at interview 30

Gender Female

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Photographs and hand and foot prints

Most parents we spoke to had been asked by their midwife if they wanted to have photographs or hand and foot prints taken of their baby. Many parents were also able to take their own photographs if they preferred. Deciding whether to take photographs was a very individual choice. Some parents initially didn’t like the idea of taking photographs of their baby after they had died but they felt differently later on. Asun described how when the midwife offered to take photos ‘I thought what a horrible thing. You know? But it’s not. It’s your little treasure, after’. Helen appreciated her midwife’s support about whether to take photographs saying to her “Some people don’t want photos, some people do – you do what you want. But we’re here if you’d like us to take a photo.” Midwives often encouraged parents who were unsure about having photographs, to have hospital photographs taken and stored with their medical notes in case they changed their minds. Lindsay and Carly both decided to have hospital photos taken and sent to them on a disc so they could choose if they wanted to look at them later on.

Despite being unsure about having photographs at the time, David Z described how much they mean to him now.

Camille didn’st want photographs but was pleased her midwife suggested taking some to keep in her medical notes for when she wanted to look at them.

Age at interview 26

Gender Female

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Some parents talked about how difficult it was to have photographs taken in such a sad situation and not knowing what to do. Joelle felt the photographs they had taken by the hospital felt too medical and intense and she would have appreciated a different style of photograph. In retrospect she also wished that her midwife had suggested that she change out of her hospital gown into her normal clothes.

Lisa and Matt talked about how they found taking photographs difficult, not knowing whether to smile or not.

Elaine lost the photos of her baby as the film got ruined. She was devastated.

As well as mementoes such as memory boxes, photographs and hand and foot prints, some people created other ways to remember their baby over time. Parents talked about planting trees and plants in their gardens to remind them of the baby or kept their baby’s ashes somewhere special.