Ending a pregnancy for fetal abnormality

Photographs and other mementoes of the baby

There are many ways that parents can remember the baby and mark his or her short life. Some people planted trees and plants in their gardens to remind them of the baby, others collected everything connected with the baby, so that teddy bears, shawls, wrist tags and anything else which had physically touched the baby were saved and stored in a memory box. Several parents had collected poems and song lyrics and kept them in a special book, others had kept journals of their thoughts and feelings since the baby's death, a few women had written letters to their baby (see also 'Saying goodbye to the baby'). Some of those who had a surgical termination treasured photographs of the baby's first scan because they felt it was all they had left of the baby.

When the pregnancy has been ended by induction, midwives routinely ask parents if they want to have photographs taken of the baby, just as they would if the baby was stillborn. Parents can also take their own photographs if they prefer. After the baby is delivered, and if parents agree, midwives will bathe the baby, dress her in baby clothes or a shawl, place the baby in a Moses basket and return her to the parents. Midwives will also take the baby's hand and footprints if parents wish. When parents decide they don't want photographs or foot/handprints, they can still be taken and stored with medical notes in case parents change their minds. 

Though parents realised that others might not understand why photographs were so important, many said that they needed to keen something tangible and real. Photographs were important as evidence that the baby had existed and been part of their family, and also because some thought that their memories of the baby might fade. 

For many people photographs were for looking at privately, and some stored the baby's photos and footprints in a memory box. Some women said they only looked at photographs when they felt sad or 'wobbly' about the baby. Several parents felt so strongly about the baby's photographs that they had given copies to relatives in case the originals got lost. 

Photographs were also a way of introducing the baby to other members of the family and marking his/her life. Some people decided to leave the baby's photos in places where other people could find them and take a look at them if they wished. Other parents took a more direct approach and made a point of showing the baby's photographs to others -several parents had put photographs of the baby - and also scan photographs - on display in their homes. 

Not everyone wanted to have photographs taken of their baby, and several people who had agreed to photographs said that the quality was poor and didn't capture 'the essence' of the baby. People didn't always know how they would feel about taking photographs of the baby until it happened - some parents who had agreed to it wished they hadn't or disliked the end results. One couple decided not to look at the baby though the midwife had taken some photographs. Over time the woman found she became 'fixated' on seeing the photographs that her husband had kept hidden.

Parents could become very upset when others made too many assumptions about taking photographs - sometimes people felt that staff had taken too many photographs, or had disliked flash being used - sometimes women were upset when the situation was handled insensitively particularly when they had just given birth and had not been given enough time to think. One woman felt her baby's privacy had been invaded when her aunts took photographs of her baby with their mobile phones without asking first. Another woman felt that staff questioned her choice not to have photographs taken of the baby. 

Parents valued having the chance to keep something tangible and real that would remind them of the baby, but most people felt it was important that everyone around them should respect their choices about what they did and did not want and not make assumptions. (See also 'Deciding whether to see, hold and name the baby'.) 

Last reviewed July 2017.


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