I haven’t written anything on here for a while. It was always my intention to write regular updates but so much has happened since my last blog, I felt the need to completely shut the world out and attempt to ride it out. The amount of curve balls and unimaginable levels of shit that have been thrown at us is quite frankly getting ridiculous now. From family members suffering severe stoke, health scare’s and then to top it off I’ve just been put at risk of redudancy…. all whilst trying to navigate an endless IVF drugs regime which is sending me batshit crazy and so many other IVF curveballs (I’ll save that shit show for the next blog!)
However, I’m not going to turn this into a pity party, if you’ve read my previous posts you’ll know that not my style! So, in this post, I’m going to focus specifically on something that is a constant at the moment and is hitting me so hard I need to talk about it – pregnancy announcements! Oh, and baby showers, gender reveals and all the rest of the stuff that many blissfully-ignorant people do without a thought for us, the unlucky ones….
The biggest point I want to make before I go into detail on this is that before I experienced loss and infertility, I was utterly clueless on how to approach this subject. Previously, baby loss was not something that had ever touched any of my friends or family (or not that I was aware of). I would have probably been the one who didn’t know the words to say, sent the generic ‘sorry for your loss’ text and then got on with my idyllic life. Until now, I have certainly been guilty of not fully appreciating the mental impact of any kind of loss. The only silver lining in this is that I hope I can now support my friends and family better in whatever tough times they are going through and it’s given me a totally new sense of understanding and compassion, whatever situation people are facing. As always, that support extends to anyone else reading this who wants to reach out to me.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is this is no way a criticism of the people who have done the things I’m about to mention below. I don’t want you to feel guilty or bad about it, because before I went through this, I would probably have done some of them too. And how were you ever meant to know? All I hope is that when people do read this, they will better understand how to respond.
When I used to hear pregnancy announcements, I used to feel so much happiness and excitement. I would immediately start asking about baby names and guess the gender and I would be the first to raise my hand to plan the baby shower. Now, when I hear the ‘news’ all I feel is pain – pain that takes me right back to losing both my pregnancies and everything I long for but cannot reach. It’s a physical pain that makes me feel sick and hyperventilate and an emotional pain at the loss of the person I used to be, who found so much joy in celebrating these moments with friends.
After the TFMR (Termination for Medical Reasons) in my desperate attempt to show some normality, I channelled Shaughna from Love Island 2019. My general response to a pregnancy announcement would be something along the lines of “Congrats hun,”’ often followed by “lovely news” and “really happy for you.”
But as the months went by, something changed. With two pregnancy announcements and two babies due in the same week, I just got tired of my own bullshit and started being honest with people. I told them how difficult it was, I told them I wished I could celebrate and be happy for them but I couldn’t. I told them I needed space while they continued their pregnancy journey. The friends who understood are the ones who I know will still be here when I come up for air. The ones who think I’m being selfish, don’t make any attempt to understand or just didn’t even bother to respond, are not the ones I need right now. Very sadly, I’ve lost count of those who fall into the second category.
So many people have asked me what the ‘right words’ are, what should they say to me when they announce their pregnancy. To be honest, there are no right words; every announcement hurts and nothing makes it easier. But here are a few things that helped me and some absolute no-gos! Please bear in mind that this is my personal experience, so don’t take it as gospel but just as some pointers about what may help and be useful to know.
Always send a text.
Some people may feel differently, but for me, one of the worst things you could do would be to try and call or Facetime, or worse still, meet in person. It may feel impersonal but, after baby loss, the main thing I feel is that I need time to digest information I find upsetting and makes me anxious. I always cry and I need space to be able to do that alone.
Depending on the reaction you get, you may then want to have a call or meet up a few weeks later but just give the person time and let them reach out to you. They may also say they don’t want to meet up as it’s too difficult, respect that but continue to call or text and talk about things that are not pregnancy related.
If they have gone to the effort to explain how they are feeling, you have no idea how much that takes, respect that and show them you understand and support them and that you will still be there when they’re ready.
Don’t say nothing….
…..and then spend nine months avoiding your friend. This is the thing that has hurt me most and that I have experienced a few times now. I feel like people hide in the shadows, avoiding me as if I’m some bad omen and if they contact me, something awful might happen to their baby. I know this sounds extreme, but this is genuinely how it makes me feel. Check in with me, ask what I’m up to. (I do still have a life other than fertility). Just treat me as a person. I’m still here, and although I’m battered and bruised by it all, I’m still me.
Tell your friend early on.
After having your 12-week reassurance scan and your blood test results, for the love of God, tell them after the bloods! You obviously need to tell your close family first, but after that, it would be nice to tell your friend or relative who has experienced loss/infertility. The worst thing is to find out through friends or on social media. But timing is key, tell them early enough so they have time to come to terms with the situation. If you are going to make a social media announcement, give them a heads up so they can choose to avoid this if they wish and don’t have to trawl through the onslaught of congratulations messages and ‘likes’ on Instagram.
Do not tell them “I know this is not the news you want to hear.”
I’ve had this a lot and I know that people feel ‘awkward’ and ‘awful’ telling me. It makes my husband and me sound like a charity case. You do not need to feel awful; this is your journey, not ours, you have nothing to feel awful about. No matter how awkward and how difficult you find telling someone who has experienced loss, just try and put yourself in their shoes. Awkwardness is something we have to navigate every day. We constantly feel like outsiders because we do not have children. I sometimes feel I live in a state of non-stop awkwardness with anything from being brought to tears by hearing a baby cry next door to having to cross the street to avoid a pushchair.
DO NOT put up a scan photo
This is something that before I was even pregnant, I never understood. Why would you want to show your insides to the world? To me, this was always something that was incredibly private, rather than something to celebrate on social media. Each to their own, but as some of my friends were struggling with infertility, this has always been a huge no-go for me.
I also want to give my perspective on how a scan photo makes me personally feel after loss. I appreciate this may not be the same for everyone in my situation, as I suffer from PTSD, but it’s something I think people should be aware of if they have a friend or family member who has experienced it.
When I am caught off guard with a scan picture on Instagram or a group WhatsApp, I instantly tense up. I feel physically sick and immediately mute that person, terrified of what else I will be subjected to in future posts or immediately close my eyes and delete the picture on my phone. I associate these photos with everything I have lost and the gut-wrenching pain of that. I understand that, for the lucky ones, this is a very happy moment to share. At one time I thought I was one of them too, but I still would not have shared this. I have no issues with bump pictures or other ways to announce, but with one in four pregnancies ending in loss and with a strong chance of a least one of your Instagram followers feeling the same as me about seeing a scan photo, maybe just think before you post.
Never question or tell your friend how to feel
A few weeks ago I turned down an invitation to a baby shower and explained very nicely that it was too difficult after what I’d been through. I was then challenged by someone who was going who told me that “I really should be more supportive to the girl and be happy for her” and it was “very disappointing” that I couldn’t do that. My first response was “f**k off,” then “f**k off a bit more” and don’t come back until, God forbid, you have experienced multiple late pregnancy loss – then you can tell me how I should feel. Then I thought about it and didn’t press “send” and tempered my response – because after all she hadn’t been where I had been.
So maybe I should try to explain. If someone who has been through this says they don’t want to do something, they’re actually saying “I’m in so much pain I can’t.” You don’t have to understand that but just respect what they say and respond with something like ‘’I completely understand and I’m always here if you want to talk.” When you’ve been through what I’ve been through, you can pretend as much as you like, but deep-down, pregnancy announcements don’t make you happy. You feel jealously and pain and, as much as you want to be happy, sometimes you just can’t – that’s not because you’re cold-hearted or don’t care, it’s just what grief does
After the baby is born
For me, this is when things get easier. Many women in my situation have only known infertility or pregnancy loss. Somehow for me (and I know I speak for others too) it becomes easier when the baby is born. They become a person and the situation doesn’t carry the same pain associated with being around pregnant people. So, my advice, when your baby is born, is to check in, tell me your baby’s name, send me a picture and let me know how you’re getting on. But please don’t become a stranger.
So, there you have it a whistle-stop tour of how to announce your pregnancy to someone who has experienced loss/Infertility.
If anyone reads this and feels it was helpful, then it would mean a lot to me for you to share and I would love to know your thoughts in comments or on my Instagram @kateshomeloves
Over and out for now. Back to my kale salad, so many meds I’m starting to rattle and godawful beetroot juice!
I totally totally understand this because my own daughter has experienced exactly the same heartbreaking experiences as you. I am still grieving the lost babies she may have had, and I get sick and tired of reading about celebs that have been together five minutes and are pregnant straight away. It makes me seethe with rage on behalf of my daughter. I’ve had to delete them from social media as it breaks my heart to see the smug faces. My daughter is suffering PTSD also and I don’t know how to help her through this, except be there for her. She has been let down so badly due to the pandemic and is only just receiving counselling, which should have been about 8 months ago. I avoid sharing pregnancy announcements as much as possible because it upsets her so much. I just hope that she heals mentally and physically because she’s been through so much sorrow. Thank you for writing your article and making folk aware that heartbreak through baby loss does not just go away, for the parents or grandparents.
This post (and your Tyla article) really resonated with me, thank you for writing this. I had a situation earlier this year where my supposed best friend announced her pregnancy at my birthday party, knowing full well I had just started EMDR to help me process my miscarriage. I still haven’t had the guts to say anything to her because I know it will be met with hostility and it’s just not worth my energy.
I’m so glad someone is writing about this, the more available this kind of advice is for those who wish to seek it, the better. Thank you for everything that you do!