Monday, 11 April 2011

Why Couldn't I Have Held Him?

I share a lot in this space. The good, the bad, and the ugly. No holds barred. It's the main reason I don't reveal myself here, so that I can be totally honest.

But this is something that I am not sure I should share. In fact, I may type the whole thing and then not publish it (if I do publish it then I apologize in advance because I'm sure my thoughts will be all over the place).

Why? Because I'm not sure you will ever think of me the same way after reading it. Not that any of you know me in real life (well except for 2 of you, 1 being my husband). But I fear that those of you who have gotten to know the "virtual me" will never see me in the same light.

You see, I am not like the rest of you.

I know this because I have read many of your stories on your blogs. I know what is "normal" for a grieving mother. I know what most other Baby Loss Mom's have done when their babies were born still. I have read how you held them, and kissed them, and told them you loved them. I have seen the photos of you holding your babies even after they were gone. I see the love and sadness in your eyes as you treasured this final embrace.

I know exactly how you were all feeling in those moments. I felt that way too. But there is one huge difference between your birth stories and mine.

I was unable to hold my son after he died. And for that I am ashamed.

Not because the doctors wouldn't let me, but because I just couldn't. Mentally, I was not in a place where I could even comprehend holding a dead baby. No matter that he was my dead baby. No matter that he was my firstborn son who I loved more than anything. I just couldn't do it.

They tried to talk me into it at the hospital. But each time the brought it up I went into a panic. I kept screaming, "No, No, No!" There were no other words that came out of my mouth. Just those words and a flood of tears. Each time they would back off as they could clearly see that I was on the verge of a total breakdown.

After several days, I was mentally able to see him. The midwives set everything up in a special room. They dressed him in the outfit my husband had picked out. I wasn't even able to pick out his own outfit at that point. When I finally saw him I almost collapsed with sadness. If it weren't for the wall that I propped myself up against I would have ended up in a heap on the floor. He was absolutely beautiful. But still I couldn't bring myself to hold him. I did touch his face, but it was cold from the refrigeration. That one touch would be the only contact I would ever have with my beloved son.

Tonight I was hit with a tsumani of regret.

Why couldn't I hold my son after he was born? Why was I so hysterical right before his birth that I had to be sedated? Why couldn't I just hold it together? I am normally such a strong person, why couldn't I handle this better? Why did I continue to act with such hysteria after his birth that I was unable to hold him and tell him how much I loved him?


Logically I know that we do the best we can in times like these. That we do what we are capable of. But in my heart I regret not having the strength to see past my fears of what a dead baby would look like. He was my only son after all. And now I am starting to feel like I have somehow rejected him. Even though I know that he had already left his earthly body before he was born, I still somehow feel like I have failed as a Mother.

Why couldn't I have held him???


  1. I totally understand the place you are in (then and now). In our hearts we know how much we love and miss our children and that is all that matters.

  2. I don't think of you any differently. Everyone grieves differently. I know this is a different situation, but when my grandma died, I refused to go with The rest of the family to the hospital. I was hurting so bad I could hardly breathe.

  3. Oh hon... In no way do I think any less of you, in fact I respect you even more for your sharing something so deeply personal. My hubby couldn't hold our sons either, it was just too much for him. Certainly we all grieve differently and I believe your reaction was your mind and body's way of protecting you from the extreme pain and heartache you had no choice but to endure. You loved your son no less than any other baby loss mama. Your experience is different because it was yours. You did the best you were able...please be gentle with yourself.

  4. You aren't crazy. I didn't bathe Andrew or anything like that. I didn't even kiss him-- to which I regret also. My husband did, though, so I feel content in that.

    At first I told them I did not want to see him and I am so glad I finally did. When it came to holding him, I was shaking uncontrollably-- like off the bed shaking.

    You are NOT a bad person and I think no less of you. What kind of individual even knows what to do in this situation? No one dare judge you for that. I know some people who had their babies in their room for days... dead babies. I held Andrew 3 times for probably less than a hour total. And then, we told them they needed to take him away. If we couldn't keep him, we could no longer have him with us.

  5. *an hour. I can't handle my grammar. Ick.

  6. I wasn't able to look at his body, his feet, his little arms. Yes I held him, but that was all. I do regret now, of course. No matter how much time we spent with them, it's never enough. But I do not think I'm a bad mother. You aren't a bad mother too. We do what we have the strength to do in crazy moments, or, better, what we can do with the strength we have left, which isn't much. Don't blame yourself, you don't deserve this. And I certainly don't think of you in any different way!

  7. I don't think any less of you. Grief and shock are completely debilitating. You did only what you could do at the time, which was breathe and survive the moment. You have not failed as a mother. I am so sorry you have this regret and sadness, but, if you can, try to erase the judgment from the process - it has no place here.

    Thinking of you and your son, with love and light.

  8. I wish I has the perfect words to reeve of the guilt feeling, because maybe I could then relieve some of mine. I think we all react in different ways to protect ourselves. I wish I had spoken to my son more when I was still pregnant with him. I wish I had taken more pictures when I was pregnant and more pictures after he was born. Please don't best yourself up, we all do the best we can do with what we are given. I know your little man knows how much you love him.

  9. You did the best you could at the time. And not that it will help, but I ALMOST didn't hold her and can clearly see a scenario in my head where I didn't. Because a few times throughout the day I laboured with her, the midwives would ask if I wanted to. And each time I said no. Then when I was pushing and she was almost out, the obstetrician asked again and I firmly said no. I'm not sure why or how things changed, but I did hold her in the end. But we all have regrets and I wouldn't undress her, nor would I let anyone else undress her, so we never got to see all of her precious features. And there are no photos of anyone else holding her except for hubby and I. We'd all do things so differently if we could go back and live it again.
    I am so sorry you have this regret. I know one thing is certain, your little boy felt your love.

  10. We all have regrets. I regret not holding Hayes longer than I did. I was just thinking yesterday how unfair our situation is--we are in total shock and we have only one opportunity to hold our babies. I wish the shock and the opportunity didn't have to happen together.

  11. You held him inside your body and, for a short time, he was closer to you than anyone could have been. During that time he knew that you loved him and that is the most important thing to remember.

    I understand your pain but on a different level which I won't go into here. All I can say, from my heart, is that there is nothing to be ashamed about and please, please don't allow this guilt to overwhelm you.

    Before my mother died, I attended an Alzheimer's support group; during each session, people shared some fairly intense family situations that they were trying to deal with but most, if not all, could not. I've passed along the advice that was given to others, will share it with you.

    Write a letter to your son with everything that is hurting you; seal it in an envelope and then carefully burn it. In some way, this does bring closure and my hope is that it helps to lessen any guilt you are feeling.

    Keeping good thoughts,


  12. Oh honey, please don't beat yourself up for this. At the time, you couldn't. You just couldn't.

    That's all there is to it.

  13. I wrote a post like this at one point, only it was, I never kissed her, and just writing it helped ease some of the pain and guilt.

    I am sorry you are carrying this regret. Know that your baby boy knows you love him very much.

  14. I refused to see Chai too, but L so wanted to see him. I couldn't hold him and made the nurse give him off. I'm still angry that we were never told that we could bathe him or dress him. I doubt that I would have wanted to, but to know that we could have... I have begun the process of forgiving myself for the things I didn't or couldn't do. We can't change the past and not a one of us will think of you differently. I know your decision is weighing on your chest and I hope you feel some relief for just putting it out there. Sending you love and strength~

  15. Grief is such a whirlwind of emotions, crap, crap and more crap. It's so up and down, sideways and backwards. I hate when people say everything you feel is normal.. nothing about grief is normal. We all feel crazy and all have been in a place we should never have to be in. Just know that you are not alone. I am certain there are others that share this pain and regret.. I have my own, but of a different calliber. And talking to others that share that.. made me feel a little less 'crazy.' And if someone chooses to look at you differently, clearly they have no inkling of this life of loss.. this emptiness and voided heart.. Praying for some relief for you and release of the regret and guilt.. that guilt is a nasty darkness and an ugly shadow.. I hope your sweet boy will help to raise it from your shoulders. Sending you hugs.. xoxo

  16. i never held my baby son either, at the time i couldnt bring myself too, i felt like i'd be somehow disturbing him. i did give hime a tiny kiss. we all have new waves of regrets or wishes, but no-one will think differently of you, it was your grief, we all handle it in our own ways, there is no right or wrong. so try not to be hard on yourself, he will have known his mommy loved him very much xo

  17. If you read some March posts in my blog you will know I didn't hold my son either. I didn't touch him. Worse, I didn't see him after he died. The only time I saw him was when he was alive. (I have given all the reasons like nobody told me to hold him, the culture blah blah..but truth is I was so chicken).
    I will beat all baby loss mamas in this regard - I'm the most useless mother and sometimes I feel my son was so unlucky to have me.My poor baby went without a hug/kiss.

  18. And all I saw of him when he was alive was his lovely face and an adorable feet (that stuck outside the blanket). I don't know how the rest of him looked.

  19. Oh sweetheart, you did what you could, all you were capable of. There's no shame in that, truly.
    He knew you loved him, you carried him inside you for all that time.
    I wish I could ease your guilt and stop your regrets. x

  20. I want to hug you right now...and am crying, feeling your pain through your writing. I've never been in your situation, but I believe that I might react exactly as you did. I don't do well at funerals and NEVER touch the person who died or the casket, no matter how special the person was to me. I don't need that to complete my final goodbye...I don't believe they are there anymore. I believe words and feelings can be sent to the passed loved one just by thinking the thoughts. I know that I've never been in your position, but I can also tell how much you loved your son...and I believe wholeheartedly that he felt your love and your connection to him regardless of the degree of physical contact. I hope that your sadness and regret passes soon.

  21. I do understand your regret so much, and how we do this to ourselves. I just don't know why we do it. We left our daughter at the hospital after being with her body for a couple of hours, just drove away, knowing that she was going to be subjected to a p.m. I don't know how I could have done that. I don't think I even kissed her goodbye. That deep shock of early grief makes you not yourself, I think. I would have done things differently the way I feel now.

    Please don't blame yourself, or think that not holding yourself means anything than that you were deeply traumatised and trying to functions through shock. As Slidecutter said, you could not have held him closer than you did for the nine months of his life, and he knew he was loved by you. x

  22. My heart just aches for you when I read this. I know that feeling of regret that just eats at you. I have so many "why didn't I's" and "what if's"
    You did the best you could and I promise, these what if's will get less and less over time.
    Sending lots of hugs.

  23. I'm going to second what all these wonderful ladies have can't beat yourself up over this. You also can't base your experience on anyone else's. This was your experience, this was your child.

    I did hold Caroline, but I was scared. I loved on her, but I was terrified. I didn't have that ease that it seems many have with their own (even those gone too soon). I didn't change her, or bathe her. I didn't even let them put the clothes on her that I brought from home. I also didn't lift her hat to see her ears. That thought struck me not long ago: I don't know what her ears looked like.

    We're given such a horrible shock, losing our through the unthinkable. We only get such a short amount of time with them, so we're bound to look back and wish we'd done things differently. I think we all do. I know I do.

    Sending hugs and prayers.

  24. I wrote out a comment to you last night, but it doesn't seem to have stuck.

    No one would judge you. No one here, that actually understands, would ever, ever judge you. You did what you could at the most difficult time of your life. There aren't any right or wrong answers.

    Thinking of you.

  25. You did the best you could at the time, of course you did. I know that doesn't ease the guilt, though. I hope as time goes on the guilt and regret will lessen some for you. I'm so sorry this is weighing so heavily on you. Sending you so much love and support right now. xx

  26. No shame in honesty. No shame that you did the BEST you could at that time. You are not stronger nor weaker then any other person, we all handle things differently. I lost my baby at 15 weeks. I've read stories of women who lovingly labored through the birth of their still born babies no matter how far along they were. When I went to the hospital my loudest thought was; "You want me to do WHAT?!!" I did not want to give birth to my baby who had been dead for 3 weeks so who knows what would happen. So when the pills weren't working after 24 hours of taking them, and I had to make the choice of a D&C or continue trying with the pills, I chose to be KNOCKED OUT for the event I wasn't sure I could mentally make it through awake.
    I'm sorry you regret your choices, I know what that is like as well. But you did the best you could, and that's all you should expect of yourself. I hope you find forgivness.
    You hold him in your heart forever. That's enough.

  27. I wish there were a comforting answer that could come from your question, but I think that in the pit of darkness.. in our hardest moments, we just never know how we are going to react. I know it is easy to say 'please don't beat yourself up' and I know that it is equally easy to know that no matter how many times we hear this we still do. In the end it is impossible to change what has happened.. no matter how much we want to. I hope that you will find a way to be gentle on yourself.. I know that I am still looking for that feeling myself, but still hope that in times like this perhaps you will find a way to do it.
    Sending love and light...

  28. Please be kinder to yourself. You would have been in such deep shock and grief. As you have written, you did the very, very best you could at that time. That is all that any of us can do. I don't think you failed him, not in the slightest. xo

  29. There is no normal.
    You did the best you could.
    Your son knows that you love him.
    You are not alone.
    We are here for you.

  30. This is the second time I have visited your blog through PYHO. And my heart breaks for you again. You have endured a loss I cannot imagine, and your courage and strength overwhelm me.

    I'm grieving with you, mama.

    And you're doing better than I would in your shoes.

    Please don't feel like you need to return my visit. My post is trivial in comparison to yours.

  31. You certainly haven't failed him... you're his mum and did the best possible for him. There are plenty of mums who can't hold their little one who is so still... love is the most important thing and that shines through everything. We are all here for you and understand how painful any memory of a stillborn child can be. Don't be hard on yourself... grief is hard enough. From all the words that I've read on your blog, it certainly sounds like you hold him very closely in your heart and that will be there forever xoxo

  32. Holding you in complete empathy. You live with why did you not. I live with why I was not.

    I will tell you something, even those fanciful words such as closure never make sense at a time like this. There never can be complete closure and we should not necessarily seek it.

    That regret will remain a regret. Just keep it in your mind that you have loved him with every inch of your soul and that in body he was connected to you like no one else can ever.

    Just the warmest hug.

    You know the answers to the questions you are asking. Sometimes, there are no rational answers to what we are seeking.

  33. I am crippled with pain reading this. Oh, your heart. Your poor smashed and broken heart.

    It has been a long time since the tears have come so easily to me. I am just broken with you. I hope you can feel us by your side.

    I am without words for you. You have so very much to heal. We all do. I hope you feel a release getting this out of you.

    You will always be a loving mother, despite any old ghosts that chase you.

  34. I'm sorry for your loss! I left a comment on Bloggy Moms ( but I see most left their comments here. I just wanted you to know that you are not looked upon as anything less than an honest, broken hearted, loving mother.

  35. I am so sorry for your loss. My 16 week old baby boy died of sids 13 weeks ago tomorrow. By the time I made it from work to the hospital closest to his sitters, he had been gone for a while. I went back and forth between holding him and insisting that someone else take him while I threw up. The coroner (Such a sweet lady!) was there and I must have told her 6 times that she had to take him out of there right then. Then, I'd change my mind before she got out the door. I don't believe there is a right or a wrong or a normal. It's an unbearable situation. You did what you could do. That's is all anyone, including yourself, should expect. And, if you want total honesty, there are many many nights when I wish that I hadn't held him. I'm not going to go into how he looked or felt (because it can still make me throw up!), but that is not the memory I Want! It is unfortunately the one I have just on the outskirts of my mind almost all of the time. I want the happy memories back and am slightly (ok, not slightly) addicted to looking at his pictures. I'm sorry you don't have that option. But, know that you loved him for 36 weeks! He knows that and still feels your love. I firmly believe this, even if it makes me a raving lunatic. And, I did not go in to view him at the funeral home. I have no idea how he looked in his little outfit. I couldn't do it. I was at my limit. Yes, there has been guilt about that. But, I try to tell myself that I loved him to the fullest. Seeing, holding, not-seeing, not-holding doesn't change that. You loved your son. Period!

  36. I don't know if you're still reading comments on this post, but your post has stuck with me since you wrote it, and I immediately thought of you when I read this Salon article today:
    I will warn you that it's tough going, like every poignant piece Ann Hood writes about losing her daughter--but you may find some solace in kinship, despite your differing losses.

  37. God, my heart aches for you. What can possibly be termed as normal under circumstances like that? We do what we do. You can only react the way that you react. Looking back at it now doesn't help him or you. He would understand. Of course he would.

    Visiting from the Rewind.

  38. I can't even imagine what I would do in that circumstance. I wish you had held him if that is what you wish for now, but I know that it doesn't matter. Your bub was snuggled up inside you for so long. He gets that you loved him. He felt the safety of your touch. You are still his Mum. Please forgive yourself. Thanks for Rewinding x