At this time of loss, you may find yourself faced with a number of difficult decisions. The kinds of decisions you face may vary depending on the stage of pregnancy during which your loss occurred, but they are all painful. Much of the information here in the Decision Making section will not be as helpful to those of you who have miscarried early in your pregnancy or have had an ectopic pregnancy. You may wish to skip down to the Understanding and Coping With Grief section. Remember, regardless of the stage of pregnancy during which your loss occurred, you are still a mother or father and the life you nurtured was real.
When your baby is given to you to hold, allow yourself as much time as you need to spend with your child. Examine your baby and hold him or her closely for as long as you wish. You may feel uncomfortable with the idea, but it will be a cherished moment in a later time.
Keep and ask for any mementos and keepsakes of your child such as the I.D. bracelet, blanket, or a lock of your child's hair, and take as many pictures as possible. As with holding your baby, this may also be uncomfortable, but to go back later and look at yourself holding your baby may be a bittersweet moment in time. Most hospitals will issue the family a birth certificate, but make sure you ask so you are sure to get one, and request that it include the baby's hand and footprints.
You may want to have an autopsy performed, or your doctor may wish to have one performed. You have the right to deny it, if this is your wish. You also have the right to limit the autopsy to eliminate any incisions on your baby that are not comfortable for you (for instance, you can give instructions that no incisions are to be made on the baby's head). Be sure to write these requests on the autopsy permission form. Some hospitals do not perform their own autopsies, so your baby may have to be transported elsewhere. Be sure you feel comfortable about where your child is being taken. You may find the option of autopsy beneficial in answering some questions about your baby's death; however, sometimes none of your questions may be clearly answered.
Regarding the arrangements for your baby, what may be suitable for one family may not suit another. Basic options are burial and cremation. Take your time; usually the decision does not have to be made the day your baby dies. If the hospital offers to handle your arrangements, be sure you understand where and what will be done with your baby. No matter what your choice is, you have the right to change your mind - be sure you ask whoever is carrying out your arrangements just how long you have to make any changes.
Some things you might keep in mind: Ask if you can bathe and dress your baby before the service if you are having one, again take pictures and hold your baby as much and as long as possible. If you feel comfortable, ask close family members or friends if they wish to hold your baby. You may be surprised at how meaningful this can be for all of you.
These are all permanent decisions, so take your time.
This is your child and the last decisions you will make for him or her.
Being comfortable with the decisions you make may eliminate some of the
"I wish I hads" later on.