When my first child Ariella Jade was stillborn last January, I knew that I wanted to get pregnant again and have another baby. My arms felt so empty and while no subsequent children could replace Ariella, I believed that having a living baby in my arms would bring me immense healing. And I was right – the birth of my son Levi on January 4 has helped me to heal in ways I didn’t imagine. But my pregnancy with him was without a doubt the most worrying and anxiety filled weeks of my life. You see, it was hard not to expect history to repeat itself and for that pregnancy to also end in loss. The only way I survived those intense 38 weeks was through prayer and the support of my family, medical staff and friends. Here are some ways that you can show a friend L.O.V.E. if you want to support a friend who is pregnant after a loss (please excuse the corny acronym, but it fits!)
Love her other children – I found that after I announced my pregnancy with Levi, people stopped talking about Ariella, which was very hard to deal with. It was as if people thought that my second pregnancy and baby would remove the grief and sadness over the death of my first baby. Perhaps the best example of this is when, upon being told of my pregnancy, someone said “it’s time to be happy now”. I needed people to still love Ariella, which meant still talking about her and acknowledging her ongoing impact on my life. Please, keep mentioning your friend’s deceased child or children; knowing you still love the child will show your friend that you love her.
Offer practical help – pregnancy is physically draining, there’s no doubt about it. But a pregnancy after loss has an added aspect of emotional draining-ness (yes, I did just make up that word!) that can impact on your friend’s ability to do practical things. On top of the morning sickness limiting my ability to get things done, I felt so on edge emotionally that it was hard to go shopping even for basics like groceries – what if I ran into someone who thought it was my first pregnancy? I was physically exhausted from the worry about my pregnancy and was so appreciative of friends who brought food or offered help in other ways.
Validate her feelings and concerns –when your friend voices her concerns, please allow her to be concerned. Don’t try to fix the situation, rather, please acknowledge that your friend’s concerns are valid even if they don’t make sense to you. I remember telling my midwife that I felt relatively confident that things would be ok but until the baby was in my arms, I wouldn’t be completely at ease. And do you know what? She agreed with me! She said that even the medical staff feel the same slight uncertainty and hesitation about pregnancies after loss, even those that are medically simple and straightforward. I cannot describe the relief I felt when my midwife and doctor said they felt the same as I did. I felt validated instead of silly for being concerned. It is also likely that your friend will not have the same excitement that she has had about other pregnancies. In fact, you may be more excited than she is! It’s not because she doesn’t love her growing baby, it’s simply because her excitement is tainted by worry. Don’t make her feel guilty for this, instead try to understand why she feels how she does. Your friend is going to have more concerns than in her previous pregnancies, which leads me to my final point.
Encourage her – due to the increase in concerns, she will likely need extra encouragement. There is no point in telling a baby loss mum that “it will be ok this time” as there is no way you know this for sure. She knows more than most that there is no guarantee of a living baby at the end of her pregnancy and hearing “it will be ok” really isn’t a comfort! If she says she is concerned because she hasn’t felt as many movements that day, let her know that it’s ok to be concerned and encourage her to get checked by her midwife if it will put her mind at ease. Encourage her to take whatever steps she needs to cope with the pregnancy and remind her that she is doing a good job. Even if you don’t think she is doing extremely well, keep in mind that it’s a brave and even risky decision to have another baby after the death of a child, so even getting out of bed each day can be an achievement.
There you have it – four ways that you can show L.O.V.E. to a friend experiencing a pregnancy after loss. I hope you find this helpful as you think about ways to reach out to your friend.