Dealing with Your Baby's Passing
After my miscarriage, I felt devastated. The baby that my husband and I worked so long to conceive had been lost. However, as traumatic as the actual miscarriage was, the stark reality of my baby's passing included the fact that my husband and I would have to decide what to do with our little one's remains. If you miscarry, many factors can affect the arrangements you choose, including how far along you were in your pregnancy, your personal beliefs, and the hospital's legal obligations. No matter how far along you were when you miscarried, caring for your baby's remains can help you find closure and solace in your time of despair.
How you handle your baby's remains depends mostly on how far along you were in your pregnancy. Health care providers have policies for handling miscarriages, and those policies must comply with state laws. Boston Medical Center, for example, says Massachusetts state law requires hospitals, clinics, and midwives to report miscarriages that occur in the 20th week of pregnancy or later, or if the fetus weighs at least 350 grams. (Such miscarriages must be reported to the Department of Public Health and the Registry of Vital Records within 10 days.) This means that starting in the 20th week of pregnancy, they must treat a miscarriage as they would any other death, including helping the parents manage the remains, helping them find resources for planning a burial or cremation, and connecting them with organizations that can help fund burial arrangements, if necessary. For miscarriages occurring before 20 weeks' gestation with fetuses weighing less than 350 grams, the medical facility can dispose of the remains without reporting the death.
Check with your hospital for the regulations and policies that apply in your case. Be aware that if you want to keep your baby's remains for a burial or cremation, you may need to specifically tell your attending doctors and staff to make sure they know. Since hospitals handle the majority of miscarriage remains, the earlier you can tell the staff your wishes, the better. If you had an early miscarriage at home, you should still seek medical help to make sure you do not have any remaining tissue or placenta inside your uterus, which could cause excessive bleeding or infection. You can decide to plan a burial or cremation yourself, or you can bring the remains with you to the hospital if you would rather have the staff assist you.
In a paper published by the Luther Seminary, Kathleen Lull Seaton suggests that the trauma of miscarriage can sometimes cause parents to question their faith and can leave grieving parents feeling alone, helpless, and apathetic. If this sounds like you or your partner, seeking the guidance of clergy may help you get through this difficult time. Sometimes having a spiritual leader help with funeral preparations can alleviate this type of faith crisis and can help you feel a sense of relief knowing that your house of worship includes your little one within its community.