Grieving Parents of Stillborns Find Healing on Facebook and YouTube

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About half of all infant deaths are stillborns -- about 25,000 babies a year in the United States and 3 million around the world, according to Cacciatore.

"Birth by itself is traumatic enough when the outcome is good," Cacciatore said. "But put a dead baby in a woman's arms."

She said she lost her fourth daughter, who died just 15 minutes before her stillbirth in 1994.

"I was in the hospital in active labor and they lost the heartbeat," said Cacciatore. "They talked about a crash cesarean, but I was able to push her out fast enough. They didn't try to resuscitate her because they thought she would be brain damaged and didn't want litigation."

"It was quiet and I had three other children and knew that was not the way the delivery room sounds," she said. "My eyes were shut tight and I was shaking uncontrollably. I could hear my husband crying, 'Oh my god, she is so beautiful. ... It was somewhat like a horror movie."

Cacciatore held the baby, named Cheyenne, for two hours before nurses pried her away to take the body to the morgue.

The loss was "life-altering," said Cacciatore, who dropped to 90 pounds in grief. She drove back home with a car seat in the back and to a fully decorated nursery. No one bothered to tell her breast milk would begin to flow, despite the death.

"This child lived. This child died. This child matters," said Cacciatore. "It's really sad to put people in a position where they have to defend the worthiness of the child they loved."

Lienau said she is glad that the Greenville, S.C., hospital nurses encouraged her to document Collin's death, at first, she was horrified when they suggested she bathe him.

"You want me to put a diaper on my dead baby?" she asked.

Her husband bathed Collin, then nurses took his footprints and urged Lienau to hold her baby.

Lienau said she "didn't realize at the time," but she was bonding with her baby, "creating a memory with him."

Today, she has two children, aged 3 and 5, and helps other mothers who have similarly had stillborns. "They say, 'Don't give me a nurse. I need to know that this dark, cutting, stabbing pain in my heart is going to get a little better.' They feel like they will feel like this for the their rest of their lives."

"I needed to be there for other families," said Lienau. "Their number one question is, 'Did you go on to have another baby?'"

This is the first story in a series about stillborn babies: How families deal with their grief, how friends can help and what medical science knows about why these babies die.

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