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Omega (Westport). 2013-2014;68(4):337-46.

You don't leave your baby--mother's experiences after a stillbirth.


When a baby has died during pregnancy, the first encounter between mother and child occurs when the baby is already dead. Despair, emptiness, and grief characterize the encounter, which is also a gradual farewell to the child and the planned future for the family. This study describes mothers' experiences of the farewell of their stillborn baby at discharge from hospital. Twenty-three mothers from different parts of Sweden, who suffered stillbirth, were interviewed. Semi-structured questions were used and the replies were analyzed using content analysis. The mothers describe the separation from the child when leaving hospital as unnatural and that the separation ruins the motherhood they felt during pregnancy. Five categories were identified: unnatural to leave the baby; going home empty-handed; access to the child; security and insecurity in the separation; to let go. The overarching theme that we recognized from these responses we have formulated as: You don't leave your baby. Leaving the baby at the hospital goes against the biological instinct to care for and protect the offspring. Routines for a dignified goodbye including designating a deputy guardian into whose arms the mother can place the baby can help to facilitate the separation. The possibility of leaving the baby in the arms of someone known to the parents should be an option for parents who choose to take farewell of the child at the hospital. The place and time for the farewell should be decided on by the parents, taking the baby home for a personal farewell could be an alternative.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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