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Losing a baby at 20-24 weeks of pregnancy

Deciding whether to see and hold the baby

Giving birth so early meant that the baby had either already died or only lived for a few minutes or hours after being born. Whether to see or hold their baby was a difficult decision and many parents were unsure about what they would want to do. They didn’t know what to expect, or what their baby would look like, and worried they wouldn’t be able to cope.

Coping with seeing the baby

In general, parents were pleased they had seen their baby. Many we spoke to were reassured by how their baby looked. Several described their babies as 'perfect' and ‘beautiful’. They were intensely moved by what they saw, often noticing family resemblances. Some noticed their baby’s skin was redder than they expected.
 

Alison explained how her baby “really looked so perfect” although she knew he had a severe problem with his kidneys.

Alison explained how her baby “really looked so perfect” although she knew he had a severe problem with his kidneys.

Age at interview: 30
Sex: Female
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And then he was, he was born. In the early hours of the Wednesday morning. He was stillborn. His heart had stopped in the womb. Because like, because of the stress. He was quite red. He was really tiny [in tears]. Yeah. So he was. But he was beautiful. Like he really looked so perfect, apart from - He wasn’t. And then his hands and feet were still so tiny, and kind of fused together. But he did look like a real tiny baby. 
 

Mike and Emily were anxious about how their baby might look, but she was like a very tiny baby.

Mike and Emily were anxious about how their baby might look, but she was like a very tiny baby.

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Mike: I remember the nurse saying that she looked great when she was born. And she was, she was - she was exactly what you'd expect a baby to look like, but just smaller, like everything was there in proportion, nothing –

Emily: Perfectly formed, yeah.

Mike: Like I mean, it wasn't like a - like a fetus, you know, they're slightly still developing. Like she, she was ready. All she was going to do from there was get bigger.

Emily: Mmm.

Mike: She was perfectly formed. So, to – 

Emily: I think we were even shocked at that. Because I – 

Mike: Yeah.

Emily: -that was one of the things I was really anxious about, it's like, what is she going to look like? Is it going to be disgusting?

Mike: Fingernails, and little things like that, as well. Just these tiny details that - to me, that's - that wasn't a miscarriage. In no way, shape or form. Medically it was. But I don't, I don't think it was. 

Emily: Because I - yeah, we were worried of what she'd look - I didn't know if she'd still look sort of like blobby, or - you know, be squid-, I don’t know. I just didn't know what to expect at all. So, I, we were both surprised, weren't we?

Mike: Yeah.

Emily: And when we've shown people photos, they're like "Oh, my goodness - she is a, like just a tiny little baby." So, yeah. I think that terminology - I don't know how you’d, on earth you'd go around changing it. But I do feel like it doesn't do justice to what we went through. 
 

Maxine found it helpful having time before birth to use the internet to look at pictures of what their baby might look like.

Maxine found it helpful having time before birth to use the internet to look at pictures of what their baby might look like.

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Maxine: I'd looked on the internet. Which maybe I shouldn't have. But we'd looked at things about it. And we'd looked - I'd looked at pictures of what she'd look like, to be prepared for holding her and things, hadn't I?

Steve: Yeah. Well we'd gone through that - we'd gone through that as well, hadn't we? When I think - you know - When you rewind the clock back, when we were told on the Tuesday when it was blatantly - you know, you're not going to survive. We obviously had this, we had to then think 'well, when Maxine gives birth - you know - birth to Heidi, do we want to see her?

Maxine: Do we want to hold her?

Steve: Do we want to hold her? Or do we just, you know?

Maxine: Do we just give her away?

Steve: Yeah. Yeah.

Maxine: And I think you know, that was - We'd, I'd said - I think we had very mixed views on that. 

Steve: Yeah. I think originally –

Maxine: We had very different views, maybe not mixed. 

Steve: I think originally we sort of said no.

Maxine: We both said no.

Steve: No, you know, we couldn't handle it. And things like that. And –

Maxine: I think, I think it's that detachment.

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: If you don't see it, it's not - it's not happened.

Steve: Yeah. Yeah.

Maxine: That's very, that’s very naive –

Steve: And I think that, yeah. Because I think suddenly you think oh, you know - what's the baby going to look like when it comes out? And everything like that. And you just think right, you know, take it away, and you don't see it. So, you know.

Maxine: And then I think the more, the more I looked into it, and I looked at pictures, and - I don't know what I was expecting –

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: Because obviously all you’ve got to - All you've got to go on is, a baby like when we had our first child. 

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: Which is a normal baby. Or, what you've seen on a scan. And a scan doesn't look anything –

Steve: No.

Maxine: You know, it doesn't look anything like it. And I think I gradually - You know, when I'd had the time over Christmas, I'd looked. And I'd said to you - I told you I'd looked –

Steve: Yeah. Yeah.

Maxine: You know, I just Googled - you know - eighteen week old babies.

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: And I'd looked, and I'd kind of thought, 'I can probably - I can do it, and I want to do it'. And I'd said it to you, hadn't I?

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: And I'd said, "We don't have to have the same decision. You can go out of the room, and I will gladly -."

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: I said, "But I think I want to do it." And I think it's - I think looking at stuff and reading stuff as well, you - you read people who didn't have the chance to hold their baby. And it's - You can't go back on your decision, once –

Steve: Yeah. I mean, it - that's the thing, isn't it.

Maxine: Once she's gone, she's gone.

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: And you can't, you know, a week later say "I want to go back and hold her." There's no, there's no choice. And I think equally, it's nice - I think the time we had made us - If we'd have been forced to do it on the Tuesday, and terminate the pregnancy straight away before Christmas, then we'd have probably both still said "No, we don't want to hold her."

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: And I think you know, now –

Steve: Yeah, time sort of changed, didn't it?
Several mothers had not wanted to see their baby initially. Midwives often helped guide parents in such an unfamiliar situation. They often offered to look at the baby first and were then able to reassure them about how they looked or show them photos. Liz was unsure whether she wanted to see her twins but was helped by her midwife who said "I'll tell you what, I'll go and look at them. And if I think you would like to see them, we'll see - you know - we'll go for it". This wasn’t the same for everyone, and some parents felt they weren’t asked by their midwife if they would like to meet their baby and had no one to talk it through with.
 

Courtney explained how at first she didn’t want to see her baby but she was glad she changed her mind.

Courtney explained how at first she didn’t want to see her baby but she was glad she changed her mind.

Age at interview: 30
Sex: Female
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And the whole time, I just didn't want to see him. So I made them put a big sheet up, and - because I was just like, 'if it isn't real, if I don't see it, it isn't real'. 

And, and so I had my head turned the whole time I was giving birth. And, and my husband saw him as he came out. And then - But then I'd, I was having this fit. So then I just said "I don't want to see him, I don't want to see him. Take him away."

And then I woke up, and - and he said - and I still was adamant that I wasn't going to see him, the boy. Because we - Obviously it was - it was a son that we were going to have. And, and my husband was like, "Oh, you really should see him. I feel better for seeing him." So they brought him in. And I literally - it is really difficult to remember. Because it was such a blur. Like I was still quite out of it. And, but I remember thinking - couldn't believe how formed he was. I couldn't believe how much he looked like my husband. I was just like shocked. That was pretty tough. Because it was like [in tears]. But I'm really pleased that I did see him.
 

Nesta found that the layout of the bereavement suite allowed her time to prepare herself to see and hold her baby.

Nesta found that the layout of the bereavement suite allowed her time to prepare herself to see and hold her baby.

Age at interview: 39
Sex: Female
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Actually by the time things started happening, we got transferred to one of the special rooms, they'd become free. And it was when I was in that, I realised what an amazing facility they are.

You know, there was - We were much more comfortable. And they had - They had the sort of birthing room and the bathroom, and then they had a sitting area. You know, where you could make tea and coffees and things. And then there was also another little room, where you could put the baby afterwards. Which was amazing to have. 

And you stayed in there for the rest of the time?

And that's where I gave birth in the end, yeah.

Yeah. And it was special because it was just a bit more cosy, and you had that room?

It was special [sigh]. Yes, it was much more comforting, but that extra room was so useful. Because you can take your time to work up to see the baby. Because you don't know what to expect. I kept asking what to expect, and they said, "Well, it's a baby." [Laugh]. But Daniel, he was born completely in his sac, as can happen quite a lot - can happen anyway, can't it. But, so I couldn't see anything. And it was - He actually came out when I was in the toilet [laugh]. So I was in labour for a while. And the one thing I remember that you don't have with a live birth is they can give you morphine, they can give you any drugs you want. So it does make you more out of it [laugh].

And I went to the loo, and he actually came out then. And then they took him away to clean him up. And they put him in a little Moses basket in this room. And you can prepare yourself to go and see him. So I went to see him immediately.
Some women asked their husbands to look at their baby first before they did, although often partners were also unsure about whether they wanted to see or hold the baby. Helen explained how her husband “wanted me to hold her, and looked, but he didn't want to actually hold her himself.” Other women felt that seeing and holding the baby had helped their partner make a connection with the baby that they had lacked during the pregnancy. For David Z seeing his baby was extremely important to him, “I mean, it's your boy. You love him anyway. Doesn't matter if he's dead, or not. You love him”.
 

Vikki spent time with her baby on her own as her partner didn’t feel he wanted to see her.

Vikki spent time with her baby on her own as her partner didn’t feel he wanted to see her.

Age at interview: 33
Sex: Female
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Yeah. And they left us. After I'd given birth, they left us for a while, quite a while, on our own, in the room. And then they came back and asked if I wanted to see her. And I did. But my partner didn't. So he walked out of the room. So I got a little bit of time with her on my own. And they brought the footprint and handprint back, and said, "Take your time. You can stay as long as you like in this room." I think they even brought lunch through for us. And we eventually left about three o'clock in the afternoon. 

Yeah, they brought her through in a tiny little basket. She was very small. They covered up her head. I remember they covered her head up. Her face was showing. But because her head - the skull bones aren't correctly formed at that stage of pregnancy. Because they only become more rounded I think a lot later on. So they didn't want to distress me, so they put a hat on her, and put a little blanket over her. And the midwife stayed with me, by my side. And asked if I wanted a little bit of time alone. And I said "Yeah, I would." 
 
 

Sam described how a midwife took photos of her baby to help her decide whether she wanted to see and hold him.

Sam described how a midwife took photos of her baby to help her decide whether she wanted to see and hold him.

Age at interview: 26
Sex: Female
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Well, we'd - We'd decided we didn't want to see him straight away.

We wanted to see photos. Because it - We didn't know what to expect. And it's easier to forget a photo than it is something you've actually lived. So we said, "We don't, we don't want to - we don't want to see him. But we would really like to see some photos." And so [nurse], bless her, she - Even though she'd finished work, she - We - She took some photos. And then they couldn't find a printer, and they were running round. You know, I think 45 minutes to an hour later, she came back with these photos, and she was like, you know, "Here you go." And showed us the photos. And she was like "He's, he's beautiful." And so we looked at the photos, and then were like, "Yeah. We would like to see him." And so they brought him in a little - in a little basket, with a blanket over him. And [laugh] my - My partner at the time had a beanie hat on, that him and [nurse] had joked about. And she'd managed to find a little blue hat for him, that she'd put on for him. So when he came in, he was in his basket, and had his little hat on, and. And she said, like "If you want to see him, just ask." You know. Because we didn't want to keep him in the room with us, we wanted him to be kept - to be kept safe, and everything. And so I think - I think we saw, saw him five or six times throughout the next few days.

But yeah, he - My, my Mum and my partner's Mum also saw him on their own, in a side room. Before we'd seen him. Because we were adamant we didn't want to see him yet. 

And we said "Yes, fine - if they, if they want to see him." So, they - they saw him in another room. And it was, yeah. I don't - I think for me, the hardest part was not knowing what to expect. And I don't think - I don't think you can even tell someone what to expect. Because even if someone had told me what to expect, I wouldn't have believed them. 

In terms of seeing him?

Seeing him. The whole experience. You can't -

Mmm. The birth as well?

Yeah. I don't think you can describe that to someone accurately enough for it to be, to turn out exactly how you've said. I think that's - That's a big part of it. Yeah. And even - Even friends I know that have had more than one loss have said, you know, that it's not the same between one and the other. They're always very different experiences.
 

Nesta’s husband was unsure about seeing and holding their baby. He was worried because he looked so delicate and found holding him in a Moses basket really helped.

Nesta’s husband was unsure about seeing and holding their baby. He was worried because he looked so delicate and found holding him in a Moses basket really helped.

Age at interview: 39
Sex: Female
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So I went to see him immediately. Looking back, I wondered if I was less affected because of these drugs I'd had. [My husband], my husband, he couldn't go at first. He took perhaps - I don't know - an hour or an hour and a half to work himself up to go and see. 

But he felt that it was important to go and see?

He did.

Yeah. And how did he find it?

He was - he was terribly upset. Very upset. We took - We took photos. And we sat in the sort of living area. Like I held - I'd held the baby directly, but I remember [my husband] didn't want to. But he did hold him in his basket. And he said it was mainly because he looked so delicate, he thought he'd damage him [laugh], or. He was tiny.

Mmm. So you picked him up and held him?

Yeah. For a long time. There was - It was really good, there was no - you know - pressure from anyone.
On the whole, parents were pleased they had made the decision to see their baby. When Camille’s baby was born alive, she was concerned that her baby was suffering and “didn’t have the strength to watch my baby die”. Before the birth she had wanted to see, hold and dress her baby but she changed her mind and asked her midwife to do this for her.
 

Camille found holding her baby “heart-breaking”.

Camille found holding her baby “heart-breaking”.

Age at interview: 26
Sex: Female
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And when she was born, the midwife said that she was moving. I said that I did not have the strength to watch her die. So I said I would see her when she was gone. So the midwife wrapped her up, and put her in a cot in the room. At that point, I think I started becoming very unwell. They tried to get my placenta out, but they couldn't touch me because I was in so much pain. And my temperature went up as well, so I think they started antibiotics and gave me morphine. I managed to push my placenta out. And then I was sort of out of it for a couple of hours, which actually was really nice, because although I was - I wasn't unconscious, I was still conscious, but.

And I wasn't asleep. I was just not quite there. And I think that really helped me process what happened. Which was helpful. Then when I started feeling better, I think the survival instinct kicked in, and I thought 'I need to eat something before I see her, because I don't know how I'm going to feel after, and I need to look after myself'. So we had something to eat first. The midwife had asked me already a couple of times whether I wanted to see her, but I kept on saying, "Not yet." And then once I felt better, once we had eaten something, then I asked the midwife to - if I could see her. 

They were going to do everything in front of us. Which I wanted at the time. So they were going to weigh her, do the hands and foot prints, and all of that. But I asked to hold her in my arms first. And it's probably going to sound awful, but when they put her in my arms, the first thing that came into my head was 'this is not my baby' [in tears]. And that wasn't because I didn't love her, because of course I did. But she looked very distressed, her mouth was wide open, as if she'd been gasping for air. She was quite bruised from the birth. And just that look on her face was really heartbreaking. And I think my brain just wanted to protect me, and make me remember her from the scans, and the time that she was alive and happy and comfortable, rather than that particular image at that particular moment. 

Was actually a bit too much. So I only held her for a couple of minutes. I remember my husband staying with me for the whole thing after that, he couldn't leave me. He was actually really surprised when they put her in my arms, and he said, "She's a real baby. She's even got hair." And it really dawned on me that. As silly as it sounds, we weren't prepared for that. As much as I knew from my training, the stage of pregnancy I was at, that it wasn’t going to be a bit of blood and tissue, and a little sac with foetus. I don't think either of us were expecting to have a baby. Because we had been told the word 'miscarriage' so many times. Yeah. It wasn't - it really didn't register in our mind that we were having a baby. And that really - that moment really made me realise that when my husband said that, because I thought 'yes, we're having a baby, and they should have prepared us for that, they really should have'. And instead of using that horrible word 'miscarriage', they should have said you're about to have a baby. And that probably would have helped a little bit. Her - Then I gave her back to the midwives, and I asked them to do everything outside of the room, because I couldn't bear it. That's the only time that I saw her. I can't really remember much after that.
Babies were often carefully dressed by midwives or wrapped up in a blanket. Most parents were grateful this was done, although not everyone. Some felt the decision about whether to clean and dress their baby was intensely personal and that people's feelings should be respected. Vikki Z said she “didn't like the way… they had cleaned her up, and I didn't really want her cleaned up”. Midwives often carefully placed the baby in a small Moses basket or cot, which parents appreciated.
 

Collette remembered wanting to undress her baby and see his body.

Collette remembered wanting to undress her baby and see his body.

Age at interview: 41
Sex: Female
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And he was tiny. Tiny, tiny, tiny. And his head was stuck, he couldn't come out. So he had to even be pulled out. And I remember just [sigh]. I guess for the - Once he was born, they whisked him away. They didn't - they didn't give him to me. I guess I didn't even ask what I, what I'd wanted. But after I'd sort of - I guess maybe come to like an awareness that I'd had him, I was like "Where is he?" Like "I need to see him." And by then they had cleaned him and dressed him. They'd put him in this little - little outfit, with this tiny hat, and they'd wrapped him in a blanket. And brought him to me. And I remember just undressing him. I just wanted to see his body. And the midwife that I had was amazing. She was like "Oh, he's so beautiful. Look at his perfect -" [in tears]. Just kind of using those words. "Look at his perfect hands, and his beautiful face." And he had eyelashes, and. I remember looking at his nails and thinking 'oh my god, he's got my nose', and. And I just wanted to see his body. And I remember seeing movement in his chest. Which I guess was probably still his heart. And you could see through his skin, so you could see a lot of the veins and the arteries. And I remember being quite frightened, because I thought he was alive. You know, he was alive. And in my head he was alive - he wasn't breathing, but he - his organs were still going, and. But she was amazing. She was like - I was absolutely petrified that he was suffering, that he was in pain, and that he knew that he - you know - couldn't breathe, and he. And she, you know. She was - the midwife was incredible. She was - She just kept saying to me, "He, he doesn't know. His - you know, the cord that connects the brain for all the thinking and that isn't fully developed yet. He doesn't know what's happening. It's just processes that are slowing down now because they're not supported by your placenta any more." And, but - you know. I remember just holding him, and. You know, she - There was, there was no pressure. There was no - She just said the nicest things about him, and. And, and left - left me to have him. And I remember holding onto him for ages. I remember at the time, my husband didn't want to hold. I remember him saying he didn't want to hold our son. And I think after I held him and he saw him, he wanted to hold him too.
 

Lindsay was pleased her midwife discussed how she wanted to see and hold her baby.

Lindsay was pleased her midwife discussed how she wanted to see and hold her baby.

Age at interview: 35
Sex: Female
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So, I mean, this is one of the things. I was so lucky with the midwives that I had at that time. So they had talked to me - Before I got to that real end stage of labour, when you were a bit more coherent, they had talked to me about what I wanted to happen. Did I want to see him? Did I want skin to skin contact? Did I want him cleaned up before they gave him to me? What [my husband] wanted. Did [my husband] want, or me want to cut the umbilical cord? You know, every option was offered to us. And, yeah. They basically did whatever I wanted. They would have taken him away and I'd never have seen him, if that's what I'd wanted. 

Oh, yeah. Yeah. So he was born, and I think he kind of flopped out onto the bed, really. Because obviously he was limp. And as, as he was being born, I remember them saying "Do you want to do skin to skin?" And I was kind of still thinking there's hope, you know, like maybe if I do skin to skin - you hear these miraculous stories of these babies that come back to life. So I was like "Yeah, yeah." And then, so they were trying to get the robe off me, because obviously it was all tied up, and they were all trying to do this. And then when he came out, I said to [my husband], "Is he alive?" And he said "No." And then I said "Well I don't want to do skin to skin, then." But they did just wrap him up in a towel, and I guess they must have like cleaned his face or something. And then yeah, they handed him to me. Swaddled like that.
 

Michelle and Iain were anxious about how their baby would look but seeing him was a “life-changing moment”.

Michelle and Iain were anxious about how their baby would look but seeing him was a “life-changing moment”.

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Iain: And you have no idea. We had no idea what was going to come out, and how we're going to feel, and. You know, I was saying - you know - I think, you know, seeing Arthur as a - you know - this little foetus in a cardboard tray, which wasn't the best. But you know, seeing him or her - you don't really know - that was probably a life-changing moment. You know? 

Probably changed my perspective on a lot of things. You know? Seeing this incredible creation, you know, lying there, that hadn't fully formed but was still - you know - to me, a full human being. How are you supposed to know how you're going to feel about that before it's even –

Michelle: Right.

Iain: You know, I though [laugh] - you know - so we're doing our best. 

Michelle: Yeah.

Iain: Having conversations as much as we could. Trying to work out what, what we were going to do. So, and - But with no - Again, with no one else there sort of talking us through it or anything, it was just here's some information, and she had to carry on with her job, probably [laugh], go and be somewhere else.
 

Loretta’s experience over 25 years ago was very different to more recent parents’ experiences.

Loretta’s experience over 25 years ago was very different to more recent parents’ experiences.

Age at interview: 54
Sex: Female
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And did you get to see the baby again?

Didn't get to see the baby again, no. I mean, only sort of when he first came out, I had a look at him then. But one of the nurses there, she actually took a photo of him, and put like - she had a Polaroid camera, took a photo and put a little carnation next to him. And it just showed you really the size of him, he was quite tiny still.

Which I thought that was quite nice. But yeah, no - we never saw him.

Okay. Did you ask? Did you ask to see him, or want to see him, or?

[Sigh] At the time, didn't even think of something like that. You know, it's only as time goes on, you think 'oh, we should have done this, we should have done that'. And they did give us the option to have like a memorial service for him. But we didn't go down that route. Which again now I'm thinking maybe I should have done something like that. But you know, at least I've got the photo, so. But we did name him, we called him Adam.
Holding and touching the baby

Parents made different choices about holding and touching their baby. Some felt scared they would hurt the baby because they were so small. Often parents held their babies for hours - cuddling and talking to them sometimes through the night. The baby was often kept in a cool cot to allow parents to spend more time with them and Sarah felt it would have helped to know about how cold her baby would feel. Some mothers, looking back, wished they had been guided and encouraged by their midwife to pick up and hold their baby.
 

For David Z, spending time with his son and holding him was incredibly important.

For David Z, spending time with his son and holding him was incredibly important.

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I knew - I knew I wanted to hold him.

Because I knew that he was going to die, so I just - just making the, spending the more time I can. I mean, any - any second I could. He was with us, I mean, and actually we - He was born at 9:46, and he died after - after midnight. But still, it was a - it was a dead body, no? We stayed with him all night. It's alright, I mean. Maybe if, if, don't know, few months back somebody was telling me "Oh yeah, would you spend like a night - a night with a dead body," you would say "What are you talking about?" But no, you do. You do. 

I mean, it's your boy. You love him anyway. Doesn't matter if he's dead, or not. You love him. Yeah. And I - But I was really sure I wanted to hold him, I wanted to feel him. Because I - I can remember him. I can. There's this - That whole experience is, is just - it's here. I mean, it will never go away. I mean, I can remember every second of everything that happened. Maybe because now is - it's quite recent. Maybe it was four months, five months ago. But still, I remember everything. Everything. I will, I'm not sure I will, I will ever forget. But, but yeah. The delivery was, was good. Good I hope, yeah. It was fine. Was fine. Yeah. But definitely, yeah - holding him, it helped. 
How parents wanted to handle seeing and holding their baby was a very individual choice. For most it was an intensely private experience and they did not want to share that with others. Some parents did invite the baby’s grandparents or close friends to meet their baby. Others regretted not sharing those moments, and wished they had invited their parents to meet their baby to be able to share the experience with them.
 

Carly described how her and her husband met their baby but wished she had invited other family members to be there too.

Carly described how her and her husband met their baby but wished she had invited other family members to be there too.

Age at interview: 30
Sex: Female
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I think it's a different experience, isn't it. Like going to hospital, going to the labour ward, going through labour. Getting to - I mean, my baby - you know - She was washed and dressed. And you know, she was - you know - we could see her features, we could see her eyes and her little hands and feet. And she wasn't, she wasn't anything less than a real baby, to me. Like she was a real, you know, she was - she was just a little - she was another child. She was my little girl, and. And we really desperately wanted her. You know? And, she died. And it was so sudden, you know? It was one day she was fine, and then she's just dead. There's no - It's like your whole bottom of your world has gone. Like you're in shock. You know? The shock of what happened is, is almost as bad as the grief. Like you just can't seem to comprehend it. You know, your whole world's destroyed in a second. And all them things that you thought you would do, you just - you can't do them any more. 

You were saying you were worried about seeing her, after she was born?

Yeah.

How did it feel when you held her and saw her?

She wasn't deteriorated. I don't think she had passed away that long before we found out. Like she was just - she just looked like a little premature girl, you know? She wasn't. There was nothing wrong with her. You know? Like, and. I’m pleased I held her. And I'm pleased that I got to see her. I would have regretted it if I'd chosen to say 'no, I'm not going to see her', I would have left the hospital and I would have regretted that decision my whole life. So although it was hard to hold her, you know, she'd passed away so holding your dead baby is never easy. I'm still - it was the right decision, for me. And I'm glad that my husband got to meet her, too. Because I felt like I had this connection with her, you know, from the second she was conceived.

I think men bond better when the baby's born. Because they're not as involved in the pregnancy - you know - other than coming to the scans, and they're excited, but you know. For me, like we were one person. You know? So I'm glad that he got that little connection with her, and he got to hold his daughter.

You know, even if it was just for a short time. And I think he's glad too. He's happy he held her.

I wish now that I'd invited family to come and meet her. But at the time, it didn't seem right. It was so private. You know? The only people that saw Josephine were me and [my husband], the midwife, and the hospital chaplain came and blessed her. And, and nobody else. So I think probably - You know, in hindsight maybe I could have had some close family to come and that could have met her before, but. You know, I can't change that now, that's - that's happened, and we just have to be happy that we’ve seen her.

But she was just, she was just a little baby, you know? She was just tiny. And just - her, her face was like a little bit like more - the skin was a bit more red than like a full term baby. And, obviously her features were smaller. I got her hands and foot prints, and they're just - you know - she's just little, little tiny handprints, you know? 
 

Sarah talked about preparing herself to see and hold her baby and not expecting him to feel cold.

Sarah talked about preparing herself to see and hold her baby and not expecting him to feel cold.

Age at interview: 34
Sex: Female
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And we were given options - you know - what we wanted to do. And we decided that we didn't want to see him straight away. Which I felt kind of bad about. But then it's, you know, because obviously usually - my other two, as soon as they were born, you're the first person to hold them and see them afterwards. But I wasn't - I was really worried about what he would look like. Because we knew at that point that he'd been dead for about a week. So I was really scared that he would - that I wouldn't - You know, that I would be scared of what he looked like. So we decided - So we gave birth - When I gave birth, we won't look at him. We just kept our eyes closed the whole time. And the midwife took him. There was a little side room with a sliding door. And she took him in there. And she cleaned him up, and - and dressed him. Obviously had these - They provided these clothes and things. But actually my Mum had made a small cardigan for him, because she knits. So we dressed - She had him dressed. And we asked for the midwife to make a decision about whether we would see him afterwards or not. And whether she thought that it was wise for us to see him afterwards.

And she said "I think," she went "No, I think - you know, he's absolutely fine. You should, you know, you could see him." So then my husband and I - he - I asked him to go first. So he went first. And then they brought him out in - They put him in one of the cold cots. Which is something that's very odd as well, because you never think about picking up a cold baby. Really cold baby. That's something that's very strange. Because obviously every other baby I've had or held has always been a warm baby.

And that's a very - That's something we didn't, I didn't think about beforehand. Literally like taking something out of a fridge. It was that cold. And then we were allowed to spend as much time with him as possible. And I really appreciated the fact that actually everyone there - everyone at the hospital treated us like we had had a stillborn baby. And that was something that I think made a massive - I found afterwards, there's a massive difference between my experience and a lot of other people, other people I've spoken to when I've been to - We went to a bereavement, a bereavement group.

And I knew a lot of other people who'd had babies similar time as us, similar week. But had been treated - you know - not badly, but they felt that they had been treated as if they'd had a miscarriage. Whereas actually I felt - We very much felt like they had treated us as if we'd had a stillborn baby. Even though that wasn't the medical, you know, time. Then - But the midwives, well they provided everything for us that they would for a stillborn baby. So because he couldn't get a birth certificate because, you know, ten days short of his twenty four weeks.

But they actually made a small - they have a small birth certificate, which they gave to us. And the midwife did his handprints and footprints for us. Which was lovely. And we were allowed to spend as much time in the room as we wanted. And we did actually have a few family members - grandparents - who actually came, came up and saw him. And they were allowed to come and go as, as and when they wanted. And, yeah. We got to spend as much time. And the doctor came in, and we had to sign forms to do with post-mortem.
 

Joelle wished someone had suggested that her parents might like some time with the baby.

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Joelle wished someone had suggested that her parents might like some time with the baby.

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“They'd already told us we could spend as long as with him as we want. I guess the only thing that I was very sure at that point that I only wanted Adam there during the birth, I only wanted Adam there in the afternoon. And looking back, I wish someone had said to me, "Your parents - the grandparents might need some time with him, to come to terms with it themselves." Because actually we were there, and we met him, but there were times following that when I wish someone had - when I kind of - I wish my Mum had met him too, because there were times when I kind of think - She didn't mean it in a horrible way, like but there were a few comments where I was like "But he was real." And she wasn’t saying that he wasn't. But I very much felt that I was like, "But he was real. And you didn't see him." I guess it would have been an interesting discussion for someone to have sat down with us on that Thursday and said, ‘So you want it to be the three of you, because that's the family. Might there - might you be able to sort of leave him for ten minutes with the grandparents, because they might find that helpful? And as part of the grieving process, you might appreciate that they spent time with him.’”
Some parents had seen the baby after the birth, but felt a day or two after leaving hospital that they needed to see their baby again. They were very grateful to staff for making it possible
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