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Tragic Stillbirth

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"It happened ten years ago and your Dad and I have been able to go back to our jobs and taking care of all you. But we never forgot. She was as much a part of this family as you and Leni and Luna and everyone else. When we lost her, it was one of the lowest points of our lives. And sadly, no amount of time can change that. Even now I think about her, my Leni. Thinking about all the happy moments she didn't get the chance to have still makes me emotional."

A Tragic Stillbirth is a plotline detailing the fallout and heartbreak after a child dies in the womb. For whatever reason, they ended up dying in the birthing process or prior to labor. While a Convenient Miscarriage can cause characters great grief, a stillborn baby is far more likely to be treated on par with the Death of a Child. This is because a tragic pregnancy is considered a stillbirth if the baby dies after 20 weeks of gestation, whereas a miscarriage is earlier.

In historical or pseudohistorical settings, a Tragic Stillbirth puts extra pressure on women who need to produce an heir.

Ghosts of stillborn often appear to haunt their family, especially siblings, in fiction. They're usually Undead Children or even adults, as ghosts of newborns would be seen as too morbid for most viewers.


Compare and contrast to Convenient Miscarriage, Death of a Child, and Law of Inverse Fertility. Can involve Death by Childbirth, though usually the mother survives. See Birth/Death Juxtaposition and Life/Death Juxtaposition.


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     Anime & Manga 
  • After much preparation for the baby, Daisuke's sister ends up having a stillbirth in Bitter Virgin. The story arc came about after the author herself had a stillbirth.
  • Izumi from Fullmetal Alchemist gave birth to a stillborn child prior to the series, whom she tried to bring him to life through alchemy. However, as reviving beings is impossible, she ended up losing her reproductive system due to Equivalent Exchange. That is why she's an Ill Girl who frequently coughs up Blood from the Mouth. In the manga, she ends up healed in the end. In the 2003 anime, the transmutation worked in a way. A few years later Izumi finds a Wild Child who turns out to be a homonculi created from her attempt at reviving her son. Once Wrath regains his memories, he lashes out against Izumi for feeling she abandoned him after she 'failed' to revive him. In this continuity, Izumi also eventually succumbs to her injuries. Wrath didn't forgive Izumi until right before her death, though they end up Together in Death soon afterwards.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Ayaka's little brother was stillborn and it's heavily implied that she projects her feelings for him onto Negi (since he would have been around Negi's age if he was alive). Chapter 14 shows that it's still affecting her, even ten years after the fact (it's even the subject of her Image Song in the first anime).
  • Himitsu no Akko-chan: Akko's full name, Atsuko, comes from her stillborn older sister who was supposed to be named "Atsuko".

     Fan Works 
  • Prerugrats, a fanfiction about the backstories of the cast of Rugrats, says that before Stu and Didi had Tommy, they had a stillborn baby named Spencer. His stillbirth causes the parents grief, especially Didi, but it's only a portion of the plot, the fic isn't a complete and utter Dark Fic although it does have its dark moments.
  • When The Bough Breaks is a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fic where Cadance has miscarriage late into her pregnancy. It deals with her and her husband Shining's feelings surrounding the death. The fic was written before Flurry Heart was revealed, so the foal is not her; it's an OC son.
  • It's revealed in My Sister Leni that Lori had a twin sister that was stillborn. She was named "Leni", which was later given to the next baby. Lori's parents had intended to wait until she was older to tell her, but she found the pregnancy journals in the attic at age ten.
  • Little Fires:
    • Eelfoot was expected to have a large litter of five kits, but only Emberkit was born successfully. The other four were stillbirths. As a result of the tragedy, she coddles her only child.
    • Goosepaw's mother Mousefur gave birth to several stillborns and then died. Goosepaw was the only survivor of the litter. With no father, her brother Beechfur took over as her father figure.
    • It's suspected that ThunderClan has "bad blood" (due to inbreeding), resulting in several sickly kits and stillbirths.
  • The Naruto fic The Losses We Share (and Those We Don't) is about Hanabi and Konohamaru's difficulties having a child. Within the span of three years they have ten miscarriages and a stillbirth. Their marriage becomes strained and the trauma takes a toll on both of them. Eventually, however, Hanabi gives birth to a daughter.
  • Foreigner is an Alternate Universe Fic where a two-year old Katara is captured by the Fire Nation as a child. She is adopted by a couple who had a stillbirth three years prior.

     Film — Live Action 
  • In the directors' cut of The Butterfly Effect, Evan and his mother go to a palm-reader, who states that Evan has no lifeline on his palm and hence shouldn't exist. Evan's mother, upset by this, reveals that before Evan's birth she had two stillbirths, so Evan was her "miracle baby". At the end of the film Evan travels back in time to his own birth and commits suicide in utero. The implication is that his mother's previous children had the same Mental Time Travel ability as Evan and made the same decision to kill themselves.
  • One young woman of the Clan of the Cave Bear goes into labor and delivers a stillborn baby soon after the Clan finds a new home. Ayla witnesses this, and asks the wise Mog-ur why the baby was dead. This is where Ayla learns that the Clan connect living tribe members with deceased ancestors.

  • At the beginning of the fifth book of the Sword of Truth series, a woman from the Mud People tribe gives birth to a dead baby, due to a trio of genocidal demonic spirits on the loose.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has Selyse Baratheon, whose mind is slowly slipping from sanity because of the number of times her children were born dead. Only one survived, but it was a girl, and was struck with greyscale at an early age. In the show, after witnessing her daughter burnt as a sacrifice, she went to the woods and hung herself.
  • The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side: Movie star Marina Gregg suffered several miscarriages. When she finally was able to bring a child to term, her son was born with severe birth defects after she contracted German Measles while pregnant with him. This resulted in her murdering the obsessive fan who had unwittingly infected her.
  • The characters in Warrior Cats have a high chance of stillbirths compared to real cats. This may be Artistic License – Biology or it may be related to their inbreeding.
  • Mentioned several times in The Red Tent. In particular, it happens to Leah, who gives birth prematurely to what would have been Dinah's baby sister. The adult women (who are used to miscarriages and stillbirths) treat it as a normal part of life, but this is Dinah's first real experience with death. They do give the stillborn girl a real burial, however.
  • In Philippa Gregory's The Constant Princess, Catherine of Aragon is violently affected by her first miscarriage, while Henry manages to move on rather quickly. It gets harder as the miscarriages pile up, though. This is a recurring theme in Gregory's books, also seen in The Cousins' War Series and The Other Boleyn Girl.
  • In The Grapes of Wrath, eldest daughter Rose is pregnant for most of the novel, but the baby is stillborn, possibly due to malnutrition as the novel takes place during the height of the Dust Bowl. The novel ends with the family taking refuge in an abandoned barn with a boy and his father who is dying of starvation, and Rose feeds the man with her breast milk.
  • When Bella and Arrow have puppies in Survivor Dogs, one is born stillborn. Arrow "talks" to her in a sad hello/goodbye speech:
    But this Pack won't always be easy. There will be problems, and dangers, and some other dogs will distrust your litter-brothers, even though they've never hurt anyone, just because of who their Father-Dog is. And I'm... glad that you won't have to know what that's like. I wish you had stayed. I wish that you'll know how loved you were. Your Mother-Dog and I are sorry we'll never see you grow. We— we know you would have been a good dog.
  • A backstory point in The Crocodile God. The Filipino sea-god Haik and his mortal wife Mirasol's first daughter is stillborn, due to a Spaniard shooting Mirasol in the stomach after finding out Haik was a native god. Mirasol ends up giving birth to a tiny, dead whale-calf. Haik is especially traumatized because not only is this a personal family loss, it clinches the Death of the Old Gods in the Philippines.


     Video Games 
  • In Beyond: Two Souls, Aiden is revealed to be the ghost of Jodie's stillborn twin brother, who had accidentally strangled himself with his own umbilical cord in their mom's womb. Needless to say, Jodie has never been told she (almost) had a twin.
  • In Bloodborne, Mergo is a stillborn Great One belongs to Yharnam the Pthumerian Queen and is the source of the nightmare. In order to halt the source of the nightmare, you have to slay her, as held by her Wet Nurse.
  • Defied in Crusader Kings 2. The characters fertility is drastically reduced to compensate for the Middle Ages rate of miscariages and stillbirths, since the creators thought that dozens of dead babies would be too depressing for players.
  • In Mass Effect, the Krogans have been afflicted with a disease called the Genophage, which causes 99.99% of their young to be stillborn in order to keep their population growth at pre-industrial revolution levels, with devastating consequences for species-wide morale. The decision to cure the Genophage is a plotline that spans the three games of the original trilogy.

     Visual Novels 
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, Kyrie's son was stillborn and she coincidentally delivered the same day at the same hospital where her lover Rudolf's legal wife was giving birth to their son Battler, causing Kyrie to secretly resent Battler for years for having the position her own son might have had had he lived.
  • In Air, Minagi's little sister Michiru was stillborn, and her mother took it so badly that she erased Minagi from her memory and started calling her by her unborn sister's name.

  • Hyena people in Digger, like hyenas in real life, usually lose their firstborn due to their unusual genitals, and have built mythologies and social coping mechanisms around this fact. However, Ed, the primary hyena in the story, was one of the few to survive, and was thus considered very special by his people. His wife convinced herself that her own firstborn would also survive, and when this did not happen, went mad with grief, and was eventually driven to spousal abuse and accidental infanticide.
  • In Drowtales, Shinae's child was stillborn. Worse, due to the effects of her demonic taint it was born covered in spikes and the father was so horrified he ordered it burned.

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