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Birth planning in special situations: A celebration of life

Birth planning is important with any impending delivery. It's a way of conveying your wishes for your baby's birth and for the care of your baby and you. If your baby's birth is expected to be different from a typical birth, birth planning is especially important along with making sure there is someone who can help you no matter what the circumstance. 

In some cases, families receive a prenatal diagnosis that indicates their baby is only expected to live hours or days. In these cases, it helps to understand and discuss choices available to make every precious moment count. Options might include:

  • pain relief
  • support people at the birth or in a nearby room
  • baptism or naming ceremony
  • medical decision for baby
  • collecting keepsakes such as foot prints and hand prints
  • photographing your baby
  • involving siblings and family

The goal is to help your birth team understand the birth you envision and also help you create memories. Talk to your team about how you may want to spend the time during pregnancy and during and after the birth. You are parenting this baby now and all the time with him/her is precious.  

Here are a few other things to remember:

Grief takes as long as it takes.
Losing a baby is a traumatic experience and grieving is a process. Many women ask, "How long will my grief last?" Unfortunately, there is no one answer to that question. The most important thing is to be gentle with yourself—your body is still recovering, physically and hormonally, from giving birth and your baby has just died. Set realistic expectations. Grief will take as long as it takes for you.

Ask friends to "just be with you."
While friends and family mean well, they want to minimize your grief or try to fix this situation. They may even say things like, "You're young, you can have more kids" or "There's a reason this happened." But the best thing they can do is be with you. Sit with you, be present and listen if you want to talk. Nothing they say can "fix" this, but listening may lighten the load. 

Join a support group.
After losing a child, you may feel isolated and alone, even when you're with others. It's important to connect with those who understand your intense grief and emptiness. Bereaved parents share a natural bond, and it enables them to support and encourage each other in a very unique way. The best way to connect with others is to join a support group. Allina Health offers a free Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support Group led by a registered nurse and social worker. This group is not a therapy group. It is made up of parents who find comfort and courage in talking with others who also walk this difficult path. I've had many participants say it was the most helpful piece in their healing process. To register, or for more information, call me at 651-241-6206.

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