The stillbirth of a child is a most devastating loss.
The hospital staff, midwife or social worker will all assist and support you in your decisions, and respect your wishes. It is very difficult to have to make painful decisions regarding funeral arrangements, and there is no need to rush to contact a funeral director. You should not feel pressured to make decisions that you’re not ready to make. The hospital staff can give you guidance in this regard.
It is a legal requirement to register their birth (a) if your baby was 20 weeks or more gestation, or (b), if the gestation period cannot be reliably established and the baby weighs at least 400 grams. The formal acknowledgement of your baby’s birth with the opportunity to name your baby can sometimes bring comfort to parents. Choosing a name for your baby is a very important acknowledgement of the reality of your baby’s existence.
While you are at the hospital you may be offered the opportunity to take more photos, foot and handprints and even a lock of hair to keep, which will become precious keepsakes. Heartfelt, (formerly known as the Australian Community of Child Photographers), is a volunteer organisation of professional photographers from all over Australia, dedicated to giving the gift of photographic memories to families that have experienced a stillbirth. All services are provided free of charge. For more information, please visit: Heartfelt.
The medical staff will issue a Medical Certificate of Stillbirth, which will be required to obtain a Birth Certificate. A funeral director will lodge a request for a Birth Certificate to be issued with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, or you can do this yourself.
You can say goodbye to your baby in almost any way you choose. It may be a relief to let other family members or friends make the arrangements. Some parents choose not to have a funeral service, and prefer to remember their baby the way they were when they said goodbye at the hospital.
You may prefer to have a ceremony that is personal to you, and have either a ‘private service’ with only the family in attendance, or a service with invited guests, whilst also taking into account cultural and religious beliefs. Some parents feel a service to honour their baby’s importance in their lives, helps them to experience a gradual goodbye. This is about doing what feels right for you, and there is no right or wrong way to deal with this situation.