A-Z

Losing a baby at 20-24 weeks of pregnancy

​Talking to children after losing a baby

Some parents already had children before their loss. Many had involved their children in the new pregnancy and talked about how excited their children were at being a big brother or sister.
 

Vikki’s older daughters were both excited about the pregnancy and telling them there wouldn't be a brother or sister was extremely upsetting.

Vikki’s older daughters were both excited about the pregnancy and telling them there wouldn't be a brother or sister was extremely upsetting.

Age at interview: 33
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
So we took a pregnancy test at New Year’s Eve, and at the stroke of midnight we found out that it was pregnant. And it was brilliant. We were over the moon. Everything seemed to be going to plan, as it had with the other two pregnancies. We had a twelve week scan, it all looked perfect. The Down's screening come back clear. So we were quite excited. And the girls - both our daughters - knew about the pregnancy then, and we said to them we've got a baby in the belly, and you need to be careful around Mummy, and. They got excited about it, and wanted to know what I was having, and how long they had to wait until the baby came. And dates were always quite - strangely important. I don't know why. It's just one of them things that come up. We got the letter through for the twenty week scan, which happened to be on my partner's birthday. So, but I remember waking up on the day of the scan, sitting in bed with the presents and cards, and the girls were on the bed with us, and we were opening everything, and. Luckily we'd decided to give the girls over to my Mum while we went to the scan on our own. 

We went to my Mum's house, to pick up the girls. And my Mum answered the door, and she had this big smile on her face, and she said "So?" And I said, "No, the baby's gone." And she didn't kind of understand what I was saying then. And I remember walking into the kitchen, and my Dad walked out, because I think he kind of understood a bit better, and he walked out. He didn't want to see me upset. So he walked out. And the girls come through, and we had to tell them then, you know, there is no baby. And there won't be a brother or sister for you. And kind of shattering their world. It wasn't, it wasn't nice. They didn't really understand it still. And we took them home. Brought them back here. And we tried to carry on, for them. So I remember the oldest one went to nursery the next day. And we'd asked if my Mum could have them while I went into hospital. 
So while grieving the loss of their baby, parents had to “put on a front” for their older children. But they did find that the focus and routine of caring for their children helped their grieving process. For Helen, her son was “a joy and he pulled us through the dark days”. Mothers who had spent a long time in hospital worried about their child at home. Lindsay remembered her son often asking, “Will you be here when I wake up?” as she had suddenly been admitted to hospital for several days.
 

Asun described her son’s reaction to the loss and how he suffered from her not being around while she was in hospital.

Asun described her son’s reaction to the loss and how he suffered from her not being around while she was in hospital.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
But [son’s name] knew, well - I was pregnant. And he used to kiss my belly, and say his brother name. Because, we - we decided quite early what was his name. Or I don't know even - I think at the very beginning we knew - we knew his name. Or we - how we wanted to call him, rather.

So it was quite a familiar thing. He would kiss my belly, and say Pau, or baby. But then when I was in hospital, David my husband explained to [son’s name] why Mummy was in hospital. And he said that Pau wasn't very well, and. It was funny, because from that moment, [son’s name] never acknowledged my belly again. He didn't give me a kiss on the belly again, or call - or call him again. From that moment. So he would come to see me at hospital, but it's like - he, he wasn't there anymore. So I think after that we, we didn't feel the need to explain anymore, because it looked like he took it in even before we knew what was going to happen. Yeah. And I think - the only thing he suffered is me not being around, more than anything else. And I remember that the first day when I came back home, when that night he didn't want me to put him to bed. You know, I hadn't been here for a week, and it was Daddy who was doing it, so. And it was a bit hard, to feel - not rejected, but a bit of resentment from - It's understandable. I didn't get upset, but I think in the middle of the night he came to our bed, and he slept with us. So he was hugging me. And that was, a bit of comfort for me. Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
 

Helen Z took her son to the scan and had to cope with her grief while staying positive for her son.

Helen Z took her son to the scan and had to cope with her grief while staying positive for her son.

Age at interview: 37
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
He wasn't at school yet. He wasn't at school. So he just came along with us. And we were sitting in the waiting room. And our name hadn't got called out for ages. And I think they'd just not realised that we were there. My husband went up and said "Hang on, we've been here for ages." And my little boy was messing around, and we - I didn't have any worries at all, in my head. I was - I feel stupid that I didn't even think anything was wrong. I just was sitting in that waiting room for longer than I should have been, trying to control a 4 year old, and I didn't even think that anything was wrong. And I laid on that bed, and I went, "Oh, is he in a better position now? Because last time he wasn't." Stupidly said that. And she said there was no heartbeat. And, just makes you feel - just awful, most awful thing to hear. My little boy didn't really understand what was going on. He was, he didn't understand at all.

It must have been hard having him there.

Having him there, yeah. Yeah. And he was just running around. And when we got taken to the delivery room, he was just running around playing. And you're trying to be happy and positive for one, for one child, and you're so, so sad on the other side. But [sigh] I mean, actually looking back and thinking about it, having him there probably made it a bit easier, than if it was just us on our own. Because he brought us back to reality, and actually there was another little boy there that needed us. Yeah.
Telling children their baby brother or sister had died was extremely difficult. Deciding when was the right time was a very individual choice and depended on the age of the child. Some parents told their children when they got home from hospital. Maxine and Steve found out that their baby would not survive just before Christmas, but it was several days until Maxine gave birth, and they decided to pretend everything was normal for their daughter until Christmas was over. Some felt they wanted to make their child aware throughout life about their sibling, while others felt their child wasn’t old enough at the time to understand the death. Helen told her son several years later when discussing why he didn’t have any brothers or sisters. Parents who had children from a subsequent pregnancy also talked about the difficulty of telling these children about their earlier loss. Some wanted their children to be aware of their brother or sister from a very early age while others left it until later when they thought they could better cope with understanding it. Alison was keen that her daughter knew that “she's not our first child, that we were pregnant before” but was unsure when would be the right time.
 

Iain remembered very clearly going home to tell his older children about their loss.

Iain remembered very clearly going home to tell his older children about their loss.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Michelle: We went home, picked the kids up. And then that's the time where you get very emotional isn't it, about having to tell the children.

Iain: Mmm. Mmm. So, yeah. So obviously they're - obvious to say they're a big factor. But even the practical side of it, they're a big factor. Like we'd had to ask for babysitters to look after them. I mean, having to look after four kids isn't everybody's cup of tea [laughing]. So we'd had to, you know. So even talking through what was going to happen next, our thoughts are - right, this hospital was 45 minutes away from home, so we'd - you know - what childcare can we have, and how - And so those arrangements - even at that initial stage, are really important. You know, so any error in your hospital's delivery of what's going to happen next actually has a big impact on us, because we were trying to work out how to sort that out. But then obviously the emotional point of view as a family, it's the bit I always choke up on.

Michelle: So we picked them up, didn't we, from our friends. And we went back to our house. And then we just sat them down really formally, didn't we, in the lounge. 

Iain: [laughing] Yeah.

Michelle: And you know, this is the story we sort of remember. It's a really big memory.

Iain: Mmm.

Michelle: And it's like a memory that our children know we'll share.

Because, you know, Iain just said to them, "Look, we've got some really sad news, you know - the baby's died. And Mummy's got to go back into hospital to give birth to the baby."

Iain: Mmm. Mmm.

Michelle: And they were really silent and quiet. I mean, they were like between 2 and 7, the four of them. So, very young. But really seemed to understand. Obviously they'd seen the scan, as well. 

Iain: Mmm.

Michelle: And then I said, you know - or you said - "So, Grandma's coming to stay and look after you." And they just got really excited.

Iain: [laughing]

Michelle: Jumped up, and ran round the lounge, going "Grandma's coming, Grandma's coming, Grandma's coming!"

Iain: Mmm.

Michelle: And even now, [our son] - he's 20 - said "Oh, we'd still do that, if Grandma's coming now." [Laughing].

[Laughing.]

Michelle: You know? So it was that, it was that lovely childlike emotions, where they can go from really feeling it, to then moving on to being happy.

Iain: Mmm.

Michelle: And then they felt it again later, so. 

Iain: Mmm. Quite a bit of - you know - had to keep going over it, really, as it sunk in. I remember at bed time, "So there won't be a baby to cuddle?" You know? And I said, "No, there won't be a baby to cuddle."

That's when you realise that it's not just a loss of - 'just' is a stupid word to use, but you know - you've lost a baby, but you've lost everyone's expectations. You know, all the life you were expecting.
For Sarah, information from the hospital and Sands was really helpful and helped her and her husband counsel their children. Helen could only find general advice on talking about bereavement and nothing specific to help discuss the loss of a sibling at birth. 

Parents said that their children reacted in different ways when they were told about the loss. Maxine and Steve described how their daughter would talk about the baby “for say two minutes and then the next minute, it's the next subject, do you know what I mean?... Their grief is very different to ours.”
 

Losing the baby had a big impact on Sarah’s children. She found it hard managing her own grief while supporting them.

Losing the baby had a big impact on Sarah’s children. She found it hard managing her own grief while supporting them.

Age at interview: 34
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
And we also taught the kids what to say. Because I felt awful for my son going back to school, because he'd only - he'd only gone in - he'd gone in with scans to show, to do show and tell in his class about we're having a baby, and. And so we spoke to his teacher about obviously how he was dealing with things. And he - she said he - he stood up in front of his class on his first day back, and just explained to his whole class that the baby had died. And she said he did it - and then - even let the kids take questions - he took questions from the other kids in his class. So yeah, he - and he talks about it more now than he did. But he was a bit young at the time, and he wanted to - he didn't want to talk about it. He, you know, he blocked it out. My daughter going back to school, she's going back to secondary school, and one of the first lessons she had on her day back, first day back, she had a cover teacher for French, and they did all the members of my family, in French. And she just ran out of the classroom in tears. And so luckily her head of year was really supportive. And I think it was really good for her to know that she had people at school that she'd go to.

And also when I was at home, if they phoned me at any time - I said, "Phone me at any time, I'll come and get you." So she - we tried to get her back into school as quickly as possible. Not like straight away, but. We - they took a whole week or so off. But then it became one of those things where they just needed the routine back, to kind of get back to normal. And so, but she had that get-out, that she could just go home whenever she wanted. And obviously she was 12 at the time, and it's an emotional time being a teenager anyway. So she, yeah. So she did have to come home a few times, when she was just really upset and she just wanted - she felt like everything got on top of her a bit too much. But yeah, apart from that her school were really supportive, and she saw the emotional welfare officer. I don't know if that's what they're called now. But it used to be called the emotional welfare officer. But like the kind of like student support counsellor. And that really helped her as well, helped her get back into, get back into school a bit. Because yeah, she really was grieving for him a lot. And she said she found it hard, because people kept saying well, you know, you lost a - your mum was pregnant but now isn't, kind of thing. They didn't quite get how it had impacted on her as well. 

So I think that was a lot to consider. It was not - it was just not just dealing with our grief, but also managing our children's grief as well. Which is really hard. And also asking other people to help deal with their grief too.
 

Lindsay found her son was very factual about death and would catch her unawares talking about the loss of his brother when he was very young.

Lindsay found her son was very factual about death and would catch her unawares talking about the loss of his brother when he was very young.

Age at interview: 35
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
And we were very factual with it. And at the time, he was like "Okay." And off he went to play. But then he'd say things like [sigh], just like catch you unaware. "Oh, that spider's dead. Dead like Henry." "Mmm, yes. Dead like Henry." You know. Or when it got to Christmas time, lots of people gave us like baubles and stuff for the tree. And he would very matter of factly explain it to my Dad, that "This is a special bauble, you have to be careful. This is Henry's bauble, Henry died." "Ah, okay." But now, he's sort of matured a bit more. And he - so we've got the tree in the garden, where Henry's ashes are. And our friends also bought us like an olive tree, so we've got that as well. And he's very, "They're Henry's trees, you have to be careful with them. I want to water Henry's trees. Let's put - let's build that for Henry." You know, so he does talk about him a lot more. And the hospital also gave him a bear, a Henry bear. Which stays in bed with him. And even though it's not one of his favourites, and he doesn't play with it all the time, he would say that that is a special bear, because that's a Henry bear. And he knows about the work I do for Aching Arms, and I do Henry talks. And stuff like that. And I think, yeah. I mean, the enormity of it he obviously can't comprehend at all. But he has very good understanding that this, something has gone really wrong. And he was supposed to have a Henry, and now he doesn't have a Henry any more. And I'm - [my husband] and I have differed really, in how we wanted to approach it. So I feel like he should know, not all the ins and outs - probably never all the ins and outs - but that actually, Henry is part of our family. And, you know, I don't feel the need to make Henry birthday cakes, or anything like that, but that every year we'll have a family day out and it'll be for Henry's birthday. And, you know, at Christmas we might light a candle for Henry, and we'll remember him that way. Because I think he needs to grow up sort of kind of knowing, like acknowledging that he did exist. So it's made this pregnancy rather interesting [laugh]. So I'd planned not to tell him, like forever, really - until the last minute. Because he was disappointed, and he did for a long time sort of keep saying "When Henry comes, we can play football." And then I'd have to say "Oh no, Henry's not coming." "Ah. Henry died. Yes, Henry died." You know, so it took him a while to really kind of absorb that. Because until then of course, I hadn't talked about death with my two year old. Why would you? You know? [Laugh]. So, yeah. So that whole concept was quite tricky. So with this baby, I'd planned not to really mention it until my baby was in hospital, and like here [laugh]. But, he guessed, from like seven weeks. Some crazy child intuition. So he again, is very excited. He's fed up with waiting [laugh]. He wants the baby here now, and I'm like 'keep it in', [laughing]. But, yeah. So, but it's been - we've been more cautious, I think, this time. We very much jumped into telling him all about it, from very early on, with Henry. But hindsight's a wonderful thing, really [laugh]. So, yeah.
 

Elaine wanted to be open with their son about his sister as he grew older.

Elaine wanted to be open with their son about his sister as he grew older.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
So [sigh]. You know, my husband and I were really concerned about telling him. Because I thought it will change his life slightly, because - you know - from being, you know, quite a carefree 10 year old, we're telling him something so big. But we decided we'd tell him in sort of more of a relaxed way. Rather than saying "Right, we need to tell you this." So, I don't know. I think we were maybe eating dinner, and I just said, you know, "There's something we need to tell you. Before you were born, I was pregnant. And unfortunately, you know, she didn't survive." So, you know, "Otherwise you may have had a sister." And he was shocked. He said he knew something was going on. And that's how smart he is. Because he'd always said he wanted a sister.

And I think - I don't know how he would have figured something out, but he said he thought something had gone on. He ran up to his room, and he was really upset. And I thought 'oh my gosh, what have we done?' But we said, you know, "We'll give you time." And then we encouraged him to talk about it. And you know, he's – he’s said it's part of his life now. He said it has changed his life, completely. Because he is an only child.

Some people said it's a good idea to tell him. "Are you sure? Do you think you should?" Will I ever be a hundred percent sure? No. I don't think a hundred percent about anything. I just think he's a smart kid. I didn't want him to grow up saying "Why didn't you tell me? Why did you keep it a secret?" You know, she has a grave. She has a gravestone. 

And he asked to go, and we took him. And you know, he took flowers. And it's important, because when we're not here, he can then choose whether to continue to visit her, or not. And that's his choice. 
donate
Previous Page
Next Page