The death of a baby, stillborn or living only briefly after birth, is a moral affront to the cycle of life, leaving parents without the life stories and material objects that traditionally offer comfort to the bereaved, nor—in an increasingly secularized society—a religious framework for making sense of their loss. For the grieving mother, it is also a physical affront, as her body continues to rehearse its part in its symbiotic relationship with a baby whose own body is disintegrating. Attempting to forge continuing bonds with her child after death makes special demands upon the notion of embodied spirituality, as she attempts to make sense of this tragedy in an embodied way. This paper, which reconciles the distinct perspectives of bereaved mothers and children’s doctors, proposes that the thoughtful re-presentation of medical insight into pregnancy and fetal development may assuage parents’ grief by adding precious detail to their baby’s life course, and by offering the mother a material basis to conceptualize her own body as part of the distributed personhood of her baby.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited