On rare occasions — statistically more rarely than in hospital — a baby delivered at home dies, either before it is born or shortly afterwards. This is always a tragedy and there really is no consolation. However there are aspects of stillbirth or neonatal death at home from which bereaved families draw some comfort. (If you feel that your baby would not have died if you had been in hospital then the following considerations will be of no help at all.)
If his or her death seems to be inevitable or unpreventable, you may prefer that your baby is born at home. The baby will then be born into his or her home, with the benefits that labor at home brings; you will be freer than in hospital to express your grief; and you will be in your own surroundings with the rest of your family around you if you wish. You will not be among other women who have given birth to healthy babies. Once the baby is born you can spend as long as you like with him or her — the decision about when the baby leaves the house is up to you, and you can feel that he or she has been home, even though they may not have been aware of it. If you feel that home is the right place to be born, you may also feel it is the right place to die.
If your baby is born alive at home but is clearly not going to live and is unable to benefit from hospital treatment, then you may prefer that his or her short life is spent in your home where you can make the most of the time that you have together. You may prefer that the baby dies there in your arms rather than in a hospital side-room, where you are dependent on the skill of the staff to handle the situation with tact and sympathy.
There are, of course, many staff in hospital with just such skills, but even then death, as so often with birth, may be sanitised and regulated so that a baby can seem to belong more to the hospital than to you, and the opportunity to spend time with your dead child can be limited to what other people feel you can take. Birth and death have today been removed from everyday life so that most people have seen neither — a situation that is far removed from that of people in the past. If your baby is born dead or dies at home, then you can spend as much time as you want looking at it, touching it, holding it, cuddling it and finally saying goodbye to it. You can take photos as you wish and build up some memory of your baby, so that when he or she is no longer there you are not grieving in a vacuum.
Clearly, facing these issues demands a strength and courage that you may feel you do not have. After all, many women having stillborn babies in hospital feel that they cannot bear to look at their child, although they may subsequently regret it. However, as things stand at the moment, the sort of woman who takes the conscious and often difficult steps to ensure that her baby is born at home, who is prepared to take responsibility for her life and for that of her baby, is likely to be the sort of person able to confront the possibility of such a thing occurring.