This weeks blog is from return guest writer Aisha.
Aisha is a certificated Coach and the founder of mindbodyrevival_coach. She's a co-author of ‘We Are One In Eight’; has written numerous blogs and spoken at global events and on several podcasts about pregnancy loss, living with endometriosis and being a non-parent.
You can also connect with Aisha via her Instagram mindbodyrevival_coach.
Announcing you’re pregnant should be a joyous moment and, for most people, it is. But, for those of us who’ve spent years trying, becoming and staying pregnant can be a living nightmare.
I don’t know what it feels like to be ‘happy and pregnant’. Each of my pregnancies was swathed in problems. Blood tests, invasive scans, injections, medication, pain, bleeding and continuous trips to the hospital took their toll on me – physically, mentally and emotionally.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. The purpose of this month is to bring our community together and create a deeper understanding of those grieving a loss. Unfortunately, much like me, not everyone who is pregnant stays pregnant, has a live birth or becomes pregnant again.
One in four will lose a baby during pregnancy, delivery or infancy. So why can it feel like we’re the only ones experiencing heartache and devastation? (Stats from Star Legacy Foundation)
This year @pinkelephantssupport started a brilliant campaign to create awareness about what not to say.
Using the hashtag ‘AtLeast’, they want to do away with ‘at least’ statements when speaking to someone who has experienced loss.
Although these words are well intended by loved ones, hearing statements like “At Least it was early” carries a great deal of emotional weight, especially when you’ve been childless for many years.
“At Least you got pregnant!” is another common remark and the last words anyone grieving wants to hear. Being pregnant doesn’t compensate for losing a baby and it certainly doesn’t factor in the physical anguish which is overshadowed by the emotional turmoil most of the time.
Some folks have waited years to welcome a big fat positive, and comments like this can leave them feeling as though their loss was insignificant.
Where Are Our Stories?
When searching online, I found that there were only a handful of blogs about childlessness after pregnancy and infant loss. It left me thinking, where do those without children land when they don’t have a ‘rainbow baby’ (a term frequently used for a baby born after loss)?
There are countless people who most certainly won’t ever ‘have another one’, and I wonder where their stories are this month.
There’s a tremendous amount of support and awareness about pregnancy after loss (rightly so) with numerous events, meet-ups and Instagram lives dedicated to honouring their grief and pain. It would be wonderful if we could have similar resources for those who are childless after loss.
I wanted to amplify the voices of non-parents this month – here’s what three people said about their experiences after pregnancy and infant loss:
“This was my 6th and final IVF cycle because we ran out of funds. Hearing, “it’ll happen when you least expect” after my loss, when it hadn’t happened for 9 years with medical intervention, is so hurtful and shows a complete lack of understanding for our situation – I’m infertile. I’m beginning a life without children because I’ve exhausted all options.”
“I was ‘lucky’ to get pregnant, and then I miscarried. Not being able to have another baby doesn’t mean I didn’t want one, for some of us, our bodies just won’t do it. I have endometriosis, embracing childlessness wasn’t a choice.”
“My son was two weeks old when he passed away and a year later my partner and I broke up. It was the worst time of my life. I’m single and haven’t met anyone else. I’m no longer in my fertile years. Circumstance got me here and now I’m living a childfree life.”
There are multiple reasons why people are childless after pregnancy and infant loss and it certainly doesn’t mean ‘they wanted a baby any less’.
I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of well-intentioned, insensitive comments.
So, I have created a list of top tips below to give guidance on how to support someone embracing a life without children after loss.
My Top Tips for Showing Support
Speak kindly – “I love you and I’m proud of you”, “you have not failed”, “you have the right to be upset”, “I’m here to listen”, “I’m so sorry about your situation”, “I can give you space when needed”.
Literally ask – “What’s the best way to support you?”
Actively listen – Really listen, without judgement, offering unsolicited advice or platitudes – these are all extremely unhelpful.
Sit with the person in the ache – People don’t always have capacity to engage in conversation after loss, but knowing you’re there (even sitting in silence) can make all the difference.
Don’t try to ‘fix’ it – This is where most supporters ‘slip up’. Acknowledgement, validation and empathy are extremely important. Avoid generic statements such as, “Don’t give up hope” and “Keep trying” which don’t take into account a person’s circumstance or fertility which may determine their childless situation. This is way beyond a person’s control and it can’t be ‘fixed’ by wishing it away, manifesting or trying harder!
Don’t suggest alternatives – For instance, saying “Just adopt” is a huge no-no! It’s hurtful and thoughtless. Adoption is complex, it isn’t a substitute or a quick fix for childlessness and it deserves space for its own merits. Don’t insist someone explores other paths to parenthood when they’re embracing life without children, respect their boundaries and support their decision to stop. Remind them they’re loved, whatever the outcome.
Don’t underestimate a person’s grief – There’s no timeline on grief and everyone grieves differently. A person’s loss matters whether it was yesterday or years ago. It’s not easy being a non-parent in a pronatalist society, be mindful of this by cultivating an inclusive culture, whether it’s at gatherings or during conversations.
Last year, I shared my personal story in ‘We Are One in Eight’. Eighteen authors, including me, collectively wrote about our experiences – my chapter explores pain, grief and finding happiness when embracing a life without children after pregnancy losses.
All the proceeds from our book go to various charities, including my chosen charity, Tommy’s.
The International Wave of Light
Join ‘The International Wave of Light’ on 15th October at 7.00 pm. There are many organisations providing virtual support. Myself and thousands of others will be honouring all of our babies who have gone too soon.