When I became pregnant one year after the loss of my daughter, a part of me wanted to announce our pregnancy right away, to share this wonderful news with the world. But another part of me didn’t want to risk it, to feel any more vulnerability in this life after loss. Just as I was anxious about people’s reactions when they learned of my daughter’s death, I was apprehensive about how others would respond to the new life growing inside of me.
The pregnant mama after loss is experiencing a multitude of emotions and needs even more support during this time in her life. The following are some ideas on how to support a friend who is pregnant after the loss of a baby.
1.Acknowledge that this is truly remarkable life-changing news.
When I shared the news of my pregnancy after loss with friends, the overwhelming reaction was excitement and joy. But there were times when this excitement and joy was not enough for me. It felt like they were treating my pregnancy like any other pregnancy instead of the truly remarkable life-changing event that it was.
Pause and take a breath as your friend shares this news with you. Let them feel your wonder and awe as you reflect on how challenging such an endeavor must be. Hold space with them and validate their concerns while heralding their courage.
2.Recognize the dual emotions.
When I learned that I was pregnant again, my first reaction was excitement followed closely by disbelief. The days that followed were ones filled with anxiety and fear; it felt like I was holding my breath, waiting for the worst to happen yet again.
Acknowledge these dual emotions of joy and fear; understand that they exist side by side for those in the bereaved community. When they hint at fears or anxieties, do not casually push them aside. This will only serve to further isolate your friend who is trying to live in a world that only has room for happiness and joy in a pregnancy.
3.Don’t mention statistics.
The understanding that the chances of another baby dying are low does not negate the fact that the risk remains. The conditions that ultimately led to my daughter’s death were rare, and yet they happened. So, for me and many of us in the loss community, statistics do not matter. Please refrain from mentioning them because it only serves to invalidate our previous experiences. It separates us further instead of allowing for connection.
4.Ask about the physical and emotional aspects of their pregnancy.
Ask your friend how she is doing physically. But then be sure to ask how she is doing emotionally. In this way, you will be acknowledging how hard their pregnancy must be as well as giving them an opportunity to talk about the reality of pregnancy after loss.
5. Ask how their living child is taking the news.
When you ask if your friend’s living child is excited about being a big sister or brother, add the word “again” at the end (i.e. “Is she excited about being a big sister/brother, again?”). In this way, you are recognizing that your friend’s child already is a big sister/brother to a baby who just happened to die. While their role may look different to the rest of the world, it is a part that they still play.
Most of all, pregnant mamas after loss need you to be there for them during their pregnancies. Treat them with a compassionate heart, while recognizing the courage it took for them to get to where they are in this moment.
Photo by Sara Schmidt