Burial / Final Goodbyes

There are many ways to say goodbye to your baby. A bereavement doula can offer many suggestions while encouraging parents to incorporate their own cultural beliefs, values, and spiritual preferences to create a meaningful experience. Every state has different rules, and our recommendations are based on the practices in Pennsylvania.

We encourage parents to contact their local funeral director. They make the process of filing paperwork, transporting the body, and navigating interment procedures much easier. Most will offer their services for free and offer a fair price for items such as caskets and plot markers. Requests may be made for funeral directors to come directly to the hospital room instead of relinquishing baby to the morgue. Pittsburgh Bereavement Doulas can provide a car seat to aid in transport.

Cremation

It is common practice for crematoriums to offer cremation for free for babies. However, depending on gestational age, the remains returned can be a teaspoon or even less. Parents can choose to keep their remains or bury privately in a purchased cemetery lot/mausoleum, or in a special lot designated for babies that some cemeteries offer.

Many parents choose to finalize their goodbye through:

Yes, it is legal and possible to bring baby home. Parents can leave the hospital with their baby and transport the baby in their own vehicle to their home and to the funeral home/crematory. This is one thing parents can control, and it can alleviate regret, and allow for the expression of parenting skills such as nurturing, protecting, and socializing their baby. Taking time to mourn at their own pace helps move towards healing. We can facilitate this through the connections we have established with funeral directors, as paperwork needs to be filed. You could invite your own religious/spiritual celebrant or we can refer a non-denominational home funeral celebrant.

We are also able to provide you with an infant car seat at no cost to you and your family to make this decision easier.

Infant Car Seat

Cooling a Baby's Body

Some parents may choose to cool their baby in order to slow the natural body changes after death. However, a deceased baby does not need to be cooled in order to stay with parents for an extended amount of time. After death, most parents want to continue contact with their baby through holding and cuddling, introducing them to their family and making memories. Many hospitals offer some configuration of Cuddle Cots or Caring Cradle so that parents can spend more time, even days, with their baby that has passed away.

It is not essential, but slowing the deterioration is another way of supporting families after the loss of a baby, allowing extra time together in the hospital, slowing down the necessity to make decisions quickly and allowing families the chance to take their baby home to grieve in their own way.

If you choose to take your baby home, we can assist with using a dry ice method for cooling.

More about cooling:
https://www.gundersenhealth.org/app/files/public/2080/RTS-Position-Paper-Cooling-Baby -Body.pdf

Read here to see how a local Pittsburgh family chose a home funeral to celebrate their child.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iKpT-vBTJTvkqOBS94NOsA9GYeWChaM1/view

 

Peter and Nicholas saying goodbye to their baby sister, Lucy Rose

Miscarriage

With all due respect to parents experiencing a miscarriage, there are laws in Pennsylvania regarding losses prior to 16 weeks gestation, written with words that may seem insensitive. First, there is no death certificate issued because, for the state’s purpose, the baby is considered “fetal remains” and therefore not a person, and no record of interment or cremation is necessary. Therefore, remains can be buried/scattered almost anywhere the parents choose.

That doesn’t mean parents cannot memorialize their child. Some find comfort in burying or cremating the remains of the miscarried baby; others don't consider their “fetus” something to be mourned, and prefer that the hospital handles the remains with it's biomedical waste protocol.

Parents should be reminded of some options:

  • Mini vessels and caskets are available for burial from websites such as  Mainleyurns, and Heaven's Gain Ministries
  • Cremation can be arranged at no charge. However, depending on gestational age, the cremains returned may be a teaspoon or even less.

The hospital disposes the remains according to protocol for medical waste. Ask your local hospital what their standard practice is. As a courtesy, Magee-Womens Hospital cremates remains with a private funeral home and buries the cremains at an undisclosed cemetery.

Stillbirth

The sudden and tragic nature of stillbirth does not leave parents with much time to plan how they would like their baby to be laid to rest. In Pennsylvania, a stillbirth after 16 weeks gestation is treated the same as any other death and requires legal disposition at a cemetery or cremation. However, there are no state laws controlling where you may keep or scatter ashes. Ashes may be stored in a crypt, niche, grave, or decorative vessel at home.

Precious Papers

In 2011, former PA Gov. Tom Corbett signed legislation that gave recognition to stillborn babies by offering special birth certificates to about 1,000 Pennsylvania families every year that have a stillbirth.  Pennsylvania had been one of 22 states that did not issue stillborn children birth certificates. The Missing Angels law grants parents the ability to apply to the state Department of Health for the certificates, known as a Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth, for their child. The law covers all past recorded stillbirths as well as new cases.

Babies that are not alive at the time of birth receive a Fetal Death Certificate, a certified copy of which will be delivered to you by your funeral director. This is then used to apply for Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth, if you so desire.

If you choose not to use a funeral director, a parent will have to file the death certificate with their local registrar or at the PA Department of Vital Statistics to obtain the certified copy required to file for the Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth.

Contacts

Pittsburgh Only | 2004-Present
Vital Records
Chamber of Commerce Bldg.
411 Seventh Ave.
Pittsburgh PA 15219
Phone: 412-565-5113

All of Pennsylvania | 1906-Present
Vital Records
101 South Mercer Street
PO Box 1528
New Castle, PA 16103
Phone: 724-656-3100

Life-Limiting Diagnosis

After baby is given a life-limiting diagnosis in which the baby will die shortly after birth, the gift of time can help parents sort through options for a peaceful life and death, organ donation, choosing the perfect vessel to hold the baby’s remains, and create a meaningful goodbye.

A child who dies shortly after birth can still be considered a dependent. This is true even if the child lived only for a moment. Both a birth certificate and a death certificate will be issued. The rule is that you generally need a Social Security number in order to claim a deceased child on your tax return. When providing information for baby’s birth certificate, mark ‘yes’ in the appropriate space on the birth certificate application.

If there is no Social Security number, you may still claim the child as a dependent. Simply attach a copy of the child's birth certificate, death certificate, or hospital records to the tax return and write "DIED" in column (2) of line 6c on the federal form 1040.

Get in touch with us today to learn how we can support you or a loved one during perinatal loss or to offer support.

"We all must part sometime, be it in death or with time, but no matter what our time together continues as long as one or the other is alive to remember."

– E.Z. Michaels