Honouring your baby's due date after pregnancy loss

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 Photo: Getty Images

Kelly was delighted when she found out she was pregnant for the first time.

When she went for her eight-week scan, the sonographer placed the ultrasound on her belly and she looked up at the screen in excitement.

"I had an, 'Oh, that's my baby' moment," she describes lovingly.

But then came devastating news: her baby had no heartbeat.

"The next few months were the hardest time of my life," Kelly says.

She watched people who were pregnant at the same time as her go on to have their babies, while she grieved and desperately tried to conceive again.

"When my baby's due date came around I was still in a place where I couldn't think about it without crying," she says.

Both Kelly and her husband wanted to do something to honour their baby's due date. However, they weren't sure how to go about that.

They knew they wanted to spend the day together, allowing themselves to feel sad and think about the baby they lost.

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The couple eventually decided to go away for the weekend.

"Somehow embracing the pain that day made it better," she notes.

Though rarely discussed, a baby's due date is a difficult day for women who have lost pregnancies. Like Kelly, most women want to acknowledge their baby in some way on that day.

"Honouring angel babies is really important for most women," says clinical psychologist Kirstin Bouse.

"In fact, one of the things that women can struggle with the most (beyond the loss itself) is feeling guilty if they 'forget' their baby."

She says parents worry that by 'forgetting' their baby they are "diminishing" his or her significance.

Commemorating your baby's due date isn't just a way to reflect on how important your baby was to you, it's also a vital step in the grieving process, says Bouse.

"Sadly, some mothers don't do this but really need to. They avoid thinking about their baby and yet are holding on to so much grief."

There are many ways you can honour your baby. Bouse says the most important part is that it feels meaningful to you.

For some mums, that means focusing on their baby's existence, more so than their passing. "So for them, it is often about writing a letter to their baby talking about how they felt when they found out they were pregnant, what their dreams had been… and what it means to them now."

Other mums may wish to focus more on acknowledging their loss. For instance, if there was a service following the loss of your baby, Bouse says you might spend that day visiting the place where the service occurred, such as the hospital chapel.

She says holding a keepsake - such as an outfit, photo, ultrasound picture or teddy bear - can help you feel more connected to your baby.

It's common for women to simply spend the day privately, says Bouse. "[They may] talk about their baby with their husband and maybe have a cry".

While Kelly was ready to cry on her weekend away, she wasn't expecting that sadness to lead to joy.

But the next month, when her period was late, she was stunned – and thrilled  –  to discover she had fallen pregnant on her miscarried baby's due date.

Kelly went on to have a healthy pregnancy second time around, and her baby boy is now seven months old. "He's the most beautiful, funny little thing I have ever laid my eyes on," Kelly gushes.

While she's head over heels in love with her son, Kelly says she will never forget her first baby.

"We will always acknowledge the due date of our first [baby] and plan to make the weekend of our due date our 'getaway weekend' once a year."