Grieving patients are encouraged to see and hold their stillborn infacnts--and in some cases even bring them home.
By Sarah Zhang February 12, 2020
Katie Marin/The Atlantic
"AARHUS, Denmark-When Ane Petrea Ornstrand's daughter was stillborn at 37 weeks, she and her husband spent five days in the hospital grieving with their dead daughters body. They held her and cried. They took photos. They welcomed family and freinds and visitors. And then they brought her home for four more days, where she lay on ice packs that they changed every eight hours.
If you had asked Ornstrand before she herself went through this in 2018, she might have found it strange or even morbid. She's aware, still, of how it can sound. "Death is such a taboo," she says. "You have to hurry, get the dead out, and get them buried in order to move on. But that's not how things work." In those moments with her daughter, it felt like the most natural thing to see her, to hold her, and to take her home. The hospital allowed--even gently encouraged--her to do all that.
This would have been unthinkable 30 or 40 years ago, when standard hospital practice was to take stillborn babies away soon after birth. "It was and have another and forget about it," says, Dorte Hvidtjorn, a midwife at Aarhus University Hospital. Since then, a revolution in thinking about stillbirth has swept throught hospitals, as the medical profession began to recognize the importance of the parent-child bond even in mourning. These changes have come to American hospitals, too."