Discovering you’re pregnant can evoke an entire range of emotions: Some are relieved, others scared, and for moms who’ve previously suffered a loss — it can be terrifying.
Being pregnant after experiencing a miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal loss means a lot of wondering and holding your breath. Instead of looking forward to finally seeing your baby at your 12-week ultrasound, you remember the moment the tech told you that your baby wasn’t viable, effectively ensuring that all future appointments would come with anxiety. Instead of being frustrated by every powerful baby kick, panic sets in when your baby doesn’t kick you in the bladder after a bite of chocolate.
Supporting a mother who is pregnant again after loss means understanding their unique situation. Women regularly receive advice and well-wishes during their pregnancy, but even then people don’t always choose their words carefully.
Here are seven well-meaning things you shouldn’t say to a mom who is pregnant again after loss — and what you should say instead.
1. What are you doing differently this time?
While trying to make sense of what happened, why their baby died, and attempting to protect themselves from it happening again, mothers will lay the blame on themselves for their child’s death. The mom guilt is real, and this question is, intentionally or not, implying and reaffirming that there should be blame – and their loss could have been avoided.
Instead of contributing to her guilt, ask how you can better support them this time. Let them know you’re available to listen to their fears and you’re hoping the best for them.
2. It’s going to work out.
The naiveté of the miracle of pregnancy has been broken for those who have experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death. The idea that nothing bad happens after twelve weeks, or that pregnancies lost before that marker are no big deal, became part of the many myths about pregnancy loss proven false to mothers who’ve experienced it. Wondering if or when the worst will happen again is a common worry for anyone who has experienced a child’s death.
Instead of offering hopeful platitudes, let her know that there is support available if her stress gets to be too much and remind her that you’re on her team.
3. You’re overthinking this.
There are a lot of questions a mom may have when she’s pregnant again after a loss, and her mind may run through all the “what ifs” over and over. Instead of wondering which stroller is top-of-the-line, she may think about who she should bring to her next ultrasound with her — just in case. It’s hard to quiet the mind that’s been through so much, and sometimes calming the anxiety and grief means being as prepared as she can be.
Instead of downplaying her anxiety, listen to her fears and shoulder some of it for her. Check in with her and let her know that she has people who care about her, others who understand some of her anxiety, and remind her that she shouldn’t be ashamed of being anxious.
4. You’ve passed the worry mark!
The rule that you’re not supposed to share your pregnancy news until you’ve passed the first trimester can be so harmful. Yes, the risk of miscarriage is largest in those first 12 weeks, but it doesn’t mean that the fear is gone or that you might not need support after that time has passed. And after a loss — no matter which week — there will always be worry.
Instead of perpetuating this idea that there’s a time when pregnancy becomes safe, be there for your friend through the high and low points of pregnancy.
5. I bet you’re so excited!
Pregnancy after a loss comes with a lot of confusing feelings. Yes, there is much excitement, but there is an equal (or sometimes greater) sense of fear after someone has already experienced a loss. When the “easy pregnancy” bubble is shattered, it can be a real challenge to ever see the world again through those rose-colored glasses. Often, the excitement/anxiety feelings shift from day-to-day or moment-to-moment.
Instead of assuming or projecting your feelings on her, give her your listening ear and space to express how she’s actually feeling. Some days she may be really excited, others she may be plagued by fear — all of those range of emotions are common.
6. You’re going to be a MOM!
She is already a mother. She mothered her child by providing a loving “home” in her womb, used her body’s resources to support her baby, and loved her angel baby with all her soul.
Instead of this phrase, remind her that she’s already an incredible mother. Tell her that she’s doing an excellent job being pregnant when you know it’s not easy.
7. This child is meant to be.
One of the most painful phrases that women who have experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal loss can often hear is that it just wasn’t meant to be. It’s incredibly painful for many reasons — because who gets to decide that? A well-loved, much-wanted child is always “meant to be.” The sudden loss doesn’t make it any less so.
Instead, tell her you love her and her child, and you’re surrounding her with all your best wishes.
People always worry about saying the wrong thing when someone needs support. While it’s true that there are some phrases commonly said that might be more hurtful than you intend, saying something is always better than avoiding saying anything at all. When in doubt, just offer to listen.