This is going to be a really hard post to read. It’s even harder for me to attempt to put into words that will encourage the readability of the topic. Why? Because it’s about end-of-life processes for when a newborn, a stillborn or a young child dies. It’s a topic that no one ever wants to think about; no one ever wants to learn to be prepared, and no one ever believes that it will be their own situation.
We know the reality of life is that we are all going to die at some point. For some, they live a long life; for others, circumstances around health or accident, give them a shorter life. Humankind will never understand why a baby can be conceived yet not make it into life. Certainly, research and advanced medical developments have given us reasons for a baby to be incompatible with life but for most people, having a child comes with hope for a future filled with love, joy, happiness and family.
Twenty weeks gestation is the mid-point of a pregnancy, where a fetus becomes registerable although, a baby born at 24+ weeks is more likely to survive with the support of a Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU). At twenty weeks or more, the birth of a stillborn must be registered and can be done online through Service NSW and a birth certificate can be purchased.
If the baby dies soon after being born, the baby must be registered for birth and death. Funeral Directorsusually register the death and organise the Death Certificate.
If a miscarriage has occurred prior to twenty weeks of pregnancy, the baby does not need to be registered. There is though, an Early Loss Certificate that can be applied for in New South Wales through Service NSW. The link is called ‘recognition of early pregnancy loss application’ and it must be signed by the treating doctor or midwife in the health professional’s declaration section.
As a Funeral Director in Sydney, my experience with parents who have suffered the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, infant, or child death is considerable. Social Workers carry the initial load – the shock, the confusion and the uncertainty, and support the parent/s through the loss and heartbreak. For some parents, a medical termination may have been necessary and access to the services of counsellors and social workers may have already been in place. By the time I am called upon as a funeral director and celebrant, the burden is still heavy, but the parent/s have been guided by the Social Workers as to the next process. Sometimes the parent is still in hospital, sometimes they have been discharged home. Wherever it is, I call them to arrange a meeting at a time that they feel is most suitable.
It is not a requirement that every person who dies, whether it be an adult, child or stillborn has to have a funeral. The heartbreak of losing a child is such a heavy burden to carry that in many instances, the parent/s decide not to have a funeral but to receive the cremated ashes for a quiet memorial of their own. This may be a scattering ashes ceremony in a favourite place or having the ashes made into a porcelain urn with a tealight candle inside an inscription of the name such as one from Deb Taylor from www.theporcelaineurncompany.com.au
Some parents for reasons of ethnicity or religion will choose a cremation or burial with a traditional or non-traditional funeral service. A non-traditional funeral service may be an outdoor funeral in a park or a garden, on a beach, or in a home backyard and may be conducted by a funeral celebrant. Traditional services are most often held in funeral venues such as churches officiated by the Parish Priest or Minister, or chapels in funeral homes or crematoriums where the funeral service is attended by family and friends with the option of funeral live streaming for those family members who are unable to attend.
The fee for a cremation of a baby or small child is in most circumstances waived and at Picaluna, business fees are not charged for children up to six years of age. Fees that are payable are for transfers, venue costs, statutory certificates, planner/arrangement fee, funeral wake venues, coffins, floral arrangements, or any other necessity to provide a suitable farewell to their child.
For a burial, cemeteries differ in their process dependent on the area in Sydney that the burial is to occur. Picaluna can assist at the required time.
Making these decisions can be mind-numbing for a parent/s at possibly the most traumatic time of their life. It is my role as a funeral director to have the knowledge, the experience and the empathy and understanding required to guide them to achieve a suitable outcome where they believe their baby or small child has been appropriately honoured and farewelled