Navigating a Compassionate Pregnancy

by Melinda Peterson

A new pregnancy is a carefree time for most people; yet it can trigger some complicated feelings in friends or family who have lost a baby and/or have a diagnosis of infertility. Here is some information to help you navigate the relationship compassionately throughout your pregnancy.

Be aware. Awareness is the first step toward having a compassionate pregnancy. Actively consider what your loss friend or family member is going through and consider how you can be there for her.

Don’t isolate further by hiding important information. Pregnancy loss is isolating. It is unrecognized as true grief by society. It can make the mother feel very alone, and feelings of sadness compound this feeling. One of the ways a newly pregnant mom isolates friends and family is by hiding important information, like the pregnancy itself or birth. Often the pregnant mom believes this is somehow protecting the person; however, detaching from a loss mom by being secretive about happy news is very hurtful. If your friend or family member hears the information last or through someone else, simply because you are too “scared” to tell her, it can do damage to the relationship. Be careful to avoid language like, “I’m scared to tell you, but I’m pregnant.” Think about how that would feel if someone said that to you. Use the communication technique most familiar in your relationship, such as text, phone call, lunch date, or social media private message.   

Include the loss mom on events - let her decide. Invite her to events such as showers or birthday parties, as you would previously. She may or may not attend. Put it in her power to decide rather than isolating her further. 

Check-in. Ask her if you are sharing too much or too little of your pregnancy details. Ask her whether she’d prefer to know important details such as gender now or wait until the baby is born. Every loss mom is different in what she can handle, and by asking, you are telling her that her feelings matter to you. Lead conversation using other topics you love. For example, if you love to practice yoga, tell her about something funny that happened in yoga class. If she brings up your pregnancy by asking, for example, what modifications you are using, it is then okay to address the question directly with information about your pregnancy.   

Treat her past pregnancy as relevant. Some loss mamas are willing to share about their pregnancies and some cannot. If she does share, laugh or cry right along with her. Take advice from her just as you would any other pregnant mom. 

Don’t try to “fix” infertility. If she is going through a diagnosis of infertility: listen, listen, listen. Do not try to “fix” with suggestions such as a specialist doctor or adoption. Let her take the lead in telling you, and remind her that you are available to listen. Tell her that you will always be there for her, regardless of future circumstances.    

Social media. Remember that anything "liked" on social media is repeated on your friend or family member's news feed. To protect herself, she may need to skip from "liking" your pregnancy posts, or may need to hide them all together. She can still be supportive other ways.

 Acknowledge and celebrate her baby. Put yourself in her shoes. Just as you are actively connecting with the baby through kicks, ultrasound images, and hope for the future, so did she. Ask to see photos or memorabilia of her baby. Send a card on her baby’s birthdate. Don’t be afraid that you might trigger her further; it really means a lot to a mama that her baby is recognized. Put it in her power to decide what she can and cannot handle.