11 Things NOT to Say to the Mama Expecting Again after a Loss

pregnantshilloette11. “Is this your first?” You don’t know what their past pregnancy history is and in the case of the loss mom the answer is no. There could have been multiple miscarriages, stillbirths, abortions, terminations for medical reasons, and yes, even children that have died. Just don’t ask this question.

2. “How many kids do you already have?” Again, don’t ask this. From a pregnancy loss mom, this question is mind boggling and painful to answer to someone who doesn’t know you well it could really be challenging to answer for the mom expecting again after a loss. Here’s what happens in her mind, “Do I say one? But then I have to tell this stranger that my first child died. That might get awkward. Or do I none? But then I would be dishonoring my child’s memory by not mentioning her. I really wish they wouldn’t have asked.”

3. “Do you want a girl or a boy?” A healthy, living breathing child is all I really want. Besides, this gets complicated (just like everything does when it comes to pregnancy after loss). For instance if I lost a girl, I might want another girl to help fill all of my dreams I had while expecting a girl or the thought of having another girl might make me grief stricken and fill with panic and then maybe I would want a boy. Or if I lost a boy maybe I don’t want another boy because I don’t want to even ponder the idea that another boy could come into my life and I might lose him too. Like I said, it’s a complicated question.

4. “Are you excited?” Yes. I’m excited, and scared, and terrified, and fearful, and confused. My whole life is about to change (hopefully for the better) but it is okay if I’m not always excited. It’s a lot to process and sometimes to be honest, I’m just terrified that this child might die to and honestly I’m just trying to make it through each millisecond of each minute, of each hour, of each day.

5. “Stay positive, it will all work out.” Again, I know I should stay positive, but pregnancy is hard and I can feel how I want and I can tell you from personal experience, sometimes things don’t “all work out.”

6. “You’re out of the danger zone.” Meaning you have made it through the first trimester. All of pregnancy is scary especially now when you know what can go wrong. You have heard all the stories now that you are part of the loss community and there is no “safe zone.” There are so many milestones, steps, and places to get to. It all seems scary and like a “danger zone.”

7. “Maybe you’ll have better luck this time.” Losses don’t happen to people because some people are ‘luckier’ than others. This is just rude. Please don’t say it. Also, if your friends spouse died and got engaged again you wouldn’t say, “Maybe you’ll have better luck this time.” Yeah, sounds absurd right.

8. “You’re getting a perfect replacement.” Ouch! No child can replace the one that died. I really don’t have more words to say to this because it’s just so wrong to say.

9. “Well, you know there was probably something wrong with your last baby. This one will be different.” You don’t know if there was something wrong or not. Unfortunately, the truth is that healthy babies die too. Oh, and even if something was wrong with my child, it doesn’t make losing them easier.

10. “Are you doing anything differently this time?” Which implies that my baby’s death was somehow my fault? Again, don’t say this. The death of my baby wasn’t my fault. We don’t need any added mommy guilt during a stressful time like PAL.

11. “Are you excited to become a mom?” I’m already a mom! Did you forget? Also, another version of this question not to say, “Now you’ll be a real mom.” (Cringe) These words hurt.

To read Lindsey Henke’s companion piece to this article, see 12 Things to Say to the Mom Pregnant after a Loss.

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About the Author:

Lindsey Henke
Lindsey Henke is the founder and Executive Director of Pregnancy After Loss Support, writer, clinical social worker, wife, and most importantly a mother to two beautiful daughters and one sweet-cheeked baby boy. Tragically, her oldest daughter, Nora was stillborn after a healthy full-term pregnancy in December of 2012. Since then, she has turned to writing on her blog, Still Breathing. Lindsey was featured as Pregnancy and Newborn Magazine’s Knocked Up Blogger during her pregnancy with her second daughter, Zoe, who was born healthy and alive in March of 2014. Her writing about life after loss has been featured on Still Standing Magazine, Listen to Your Mother, Scary Mommy, Healthline, Postpartum Progress, and The New York Times. Lindsey can be reached by email.

29 Comments

  1. megan July 23, 2014 at 3:25 am - Reply

    The one I hated was “Well, everything is going okay this time, so you don’t have to worry.” My pregnancy with Alexander was absolutely perfect until week 38.5 when he didn’t have a heartbeat. I know have a healthy 22 month old rainbow and am pregnant with rainbow number two due in early Feb, but all my fears of loss have come back.

  2. Allie July 24, 2014 at 5:26 am - Reply

    #5 really hits home with me. “Stay positive” is what everyone always tells me. I can’t stand that phrase. I was “positive” with my last pregnancy, which I lost. Telling me to stay positive is unrealistic. It’s like telling me to forget the fact that things CAN go wrong, to forget the fact that I lost my last baby, to pretend it never happened, erase the loss from my memory, as if staying positive is the only sure way to avoid another loss, as if I wasn’t “positive” enough last time. Don’t tell me to “stay positive!” Unfortunately, I can’t always be positive, because unfortunately, what happened to me in September will always be in the back of my head. There aren’t always answers when you lose a baby…”why”, “what happened”, “will it happen again?” How can a mother who has lost her baby ever truly “stay positive” when there’s never a definite promise that it won’t ever happen again?

  3. Ek July 25, 2014 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    I haven’t suffered the loss of a infant, but I have a close friend who recently did. It would be helpful to me to have a list of things TO say to her when the time comes and she is pregnant again. I feel such an incredible sadness for her and I can only imagine the pain is a million times harder for her.

  4. Alicia January 21, 2015 at 5:41 pm - Reply

    Oh my gosh! This was written FOR ME! I had two miscarriages before my daughter, who is almost four, was born. In 2014 I had three more miscarriages with no medical explanation as to why. Yesterday I went for my first ultrasound and am happy to report that I am exactly six weeks pregnant with baby #7. 7. 7! It baffles my mind that I’ve even made it this far without losing my mind, and especially my faith in Jesus. But here I am, celebrating this brand new life that’s growing, and I’m casting all my doubts and fears aside. I’m embracing the symptoms that I’m feeling and delighting in the fact that most food, and toothpaste, pet food, perfume, hair spray, whatever, is turning my stomach inside out. I refuse to live in fear, and it’s so so so hard. I especially love the line from above: “I’m just terrified that this child might die to and honestly I’m just trying to make it through each millisecond of each minute, of each hour, of each day.” THANK YOU for this article. I’ve printed it, I’ve shared it, I’ve saved it to my hard drive. Thank you.

  5. laura January 27, 2015 at 4:27 am - Reply

    I have lost 5 babies before I had my daughter in 2014. And what me hard is the twins I was supposed to have who passed away at 22 weeks….I heard every one of these comments while pregnant with my daughter. Another comment I hated the most was “well at least you get to keep practicing.” do you honestly think that is comforting…???? Now with my sixth pregnancy, I feel guilty. I have a perfectly healthy, beautiful little girl….I’m being greedy wanting another.

  6. Mandy February 2, 2015 at 11:21 pm - Reply

    This makes me feel so much better! People say these sort of things to me all the time, I am constantly worried about losing my current baby, and lack of showing like other people, lack of not feeling kicks, etc have me in a constant worry… and people are constantly telling me not to worry, that its normal to be different. But I can’t help but worry! I know I will worry too once the baby is born, but I just want to get past this phase first! I really want to enjoy every second of being pregnant, but the thought of losing this child too is constantly in the back of my mind, and I am 18 weeks.

  7. GByun February 23, 2015 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    I think this is a really important issue and appreciate you posting. Maybe you could write a sister post about what IS good to say or ask. As someone who has suffered with fertility issues and is pregnant (finally) I really appreciate when people ask how I’m feeling. I have more then a few friends who have suffered loss, our fertility stance though similar, I often feel at a loss for the right kind of questions to show them love and interest without crossing boundaries since I just haven’t been there.

    • Audry December 14, 2015 at 2:05 pm - Reply

      Yes! I had the same thought!

  8. Claire Churcher March 26, 2015 at 9:42 am - Reply

    I lost my baby Marlowe at 41 weeks in Nov 2013. I am now pregnant with my little rainbow. At work someone told me not to get to carried away as sometimes people lose their babys between 0-20 weeks, explaining she didn’t want me to get too upset should the worse happen. Really I lost mine at 41 weeks, thanks for the negativity.

  9. Melissa Kelley April 8, 2015 at 2:14 am - Reply

    The comment that annoyed me the most was the father’s sister saying it was God’s plan. First of all you can’t assume that everyone believes the same thing. Second of all my son died because a doctor in the ER didn’t check my cervix when I was there for vaginal bleeding or the insufficient cervix could have been helped with an emergent cerclage. Someone’s ignorance is no holy plan.

    • Lauren February 9, 2017 at 3:00 pm - Reply

      We lost our son to this same issue that went unnoticed by our ob in november of 2016. Im so sorry for your loss! I hope you know it wasn’t God’s plan for bad things to happen, but that He wasn’t unaware of it happening either.

  10. Tracey Seth April 13, 2015 at 4:49 am - Reply

    I lost my 6th child, 3 days after he was born due to a undetected heart defect. I had 5 children before him who were significantly older than him, with the next youngest being 12 years old.

    God bless these people who say such ignorant and foolish things. They have no idea what they are doing or saying and say these things because ignorance is truly bliss. They have never had a loss like ours and so they have absolutely no idea what to say or do and try their best and say stupid things anyway.

    I just had to forgive them and decided early on to be very honest and kindly put such remarks to rest.

    Thing is that they WANT to comfort….they WANT to do something to “fix” it for us, yet it never occurs to them that admitting they have no idea what to do or say, is perfectly fine. I couldn’t be too harsh with people who meant well, even though they entirely missed the mark. Especially when I became pregnant with my daughter after losing my son, only to find out 26 weeks in, that she was also going to have a birth defect. Thankfully, I don’t remember anyone making any remarks that were so stupid and thoughtless that they still ring in my ears. ( That girl is fine now, BTW. When she was 6 months old, I cried with relief because I finally felt like I would get to “keep” her.)

    It’s been 8 years since I lost that boy.

    I recently read an article about how many mother experience Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome after loss and even a NICU stay for their babies. It crossed so many T’s and dotted so many i’s for me, that even after this long, I feel like I can finally put to rest some of the trauma I experienced after the loss and then having a child with a significant birth defect afterwards.

    I would suggest, that for some of you ladies who have experienced in particular, a number of losses and added trauma on top of a loss, that perhaps seeking from help for PTSD may be beneficial.. I had one more child after my daughter with the birth defect was born and while my pregnancy was perfectly normal, I was not. Just the task of finding and OB and bring the pregnancy to term was incredibly stressful and wearing on me and had I clued in that what I was experiencing was PTSD, I might have been able to navigate through a bit better with some help.

  11. Rouble April 25, 2015 at 7:19 pm - Reply

    #1 & # 10.. Very very annoying.. I had 3 M/C and my 4 th one is now in my arms, 9 months old. Needless to say it was a terrifying journey full of sorrows , despair, sadness and these comments never let me get over the grief but always compounded my fears. I have come across some more nastier ones like ” what took you so long”, are you getting you and your husband checked, and one coworker did not want to share that she was having her fourth kid saying that i would have gotten upset.

  12. sonja July 2, 2015 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    Thank u !!
    people dont realize how hurtful they can be,
    reading that made me cry I think I’ve been through all those senarios.

  13. Claude-anne December 8, 2015 at 9:23 am - Reply

    hi, i had a miss-miscarriage so i lost the baby at 7 weeks but i did not know till 12 weeks. Now only a few months after i am pregnant again… I have never been more excited but When i told close friends and family they all have the same reaction well It Is really early and It could happened again… Like i do not know this… Whenever i go pee i expect to start bleeding. I go see the doctor for any abnormal sign. I just wish people would be excited so i could be less worried. This is my experience.

  14. Audry December 14, 2015 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    Ok, this is certainly helpful, but where is the list of things you CAN say to a mom who is PAL?

  15. Tara Bennett Kilian
    Tara Bennett Kilian December 14, 2015 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    Here is Lindsey’s PALS original piece “12 Things to Say to the Mom Pregnant Again after a Loss.” It’s a great follow up to this article and those who are wondering what they SHOULD say. 🙂

    https://pregnancyafterlosssupport.com/say-mom-pregnant-loss/

  16. Mommaof3 December 15, 2015 at 9:46 pm - Reply

    Are you ever out of the danger zone? Is there a zone? I mean i was 16 weeks with twin loss i was “out of the danger zone” but i worry about my 20 month old everyday because he is a daredevil and will do just about anything. But dont moms always worry about there kids? Isn’t that our job?

    • Shannon December 19, 2015 at 11:05 pm - Reply

      No there is never a safe zone in or out of pregnancy. I lost my son for unknown reasons 10 days before his due date. I’ve met many parents who’ve lost children from newborn to 40+ years. So no as humans there is no safe zone.

  17. Kris January 27, 2016 at 2:50 am - Reply

    Lost my girl at 22 weeks due to a rare chromosomal deletion (chance 1:4000), now 38 weeks pregnant with our rainbow boy. I heard most of these and don’t quite to know how to respond when someone tells me everything will be ok. I also hate hearing: “You shouldn’t worry to much because it is not good for the baby you’re carrying”. As if I am not strong enough to put my worries away….

  18. N February 27, 2016 at 1:18 pm - Reply

    Please repost the articles on what to say when someone asks “is this your first child.” I can’t seem to find them.

  19. Kristin April 22, 2016 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    Amen. Also, no one should comment negatively on your physical appearance when pregnant especially when pregnant after a loss. I had someone tell me my face looks fuller which threw me into crisis mode because my first baby died at 31 weeks after being in the NICU for three days because I had severe pre-eclampsia and generalized swelling, including my face.
    Please don’t ever say “you look small for ___ months/weeks.” That is never a good thing. Again, with my first because of the pre-eclampsia my baby was smaller for her gestational age.
    Please only say clearly positive, encouraging things about physical appearance, if anything is to be said at all.

  20. Sarah May 9, 2016 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    I am 6 weeks pregnant after a miscarriage in January. When I told a friend I was expecting again she replied “Jyst make sure you rest this time” which made me feel like she thinks (a) the miscarriage was partly my fault and (b) I can simply avoid it happening again by putting my feet up, which I know isn’t true!! Maybe irrational/overreacting but this is such difficult time at the moment. Keep thinking I’ll feel better after an early scan but I think I’ll be worried sick until the baby is born really.

  21. Anya May 31, 2016 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    May 27th at 8:30am I naturally miscarried, I had a scheduled D&C for the same afternoon after finding out 2 weeks prior that the pregnancy was no longer viable. Which crushed my husband and I . It was my first pregnancy and very much wanted and prayed for. I called my mother, while holding my precious child in my hand. She said,” Well at least you don’t have to have surgery, and you have the day off. So what are you going to do with the rest of your day off?” Like nothing eventful had just happened. Like lunch plans with a friend fell through.
    I am going to grieve, I am going to bury my child. That is what I am going to do. I am going to cry, be sad, and angry that you my own mother cannot understand that I lost my child. Not a gold fish that you flush down the toilet, and go to the store and buy a new one. This PAIN is not comparable to a pet fish! This was my CHILD!

  22. 21 mom of 3 ??? June 2, 2016 at 12:26 am - Reply

    I NEVER thought that I would be 1 of 4 women not in a million years it can happen to ANYONE at ANY POINT. It is a miserable depressed road that i wouldnt wish on my worst enemy it is literally the hardest thing I have EVER had to go through.

  23. Bri October 13, 2016 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    One of the worst things for me hearing after a loss is “maybe you weren’t ready” are we ever really ready? Is there ever a “perfect” time to have a baby? It’s life, it is never perfect no matter how bad we want it to be. Just don’t say it!

  24. SELİN October 20, 2016 at 3:31 am - Reply

    I heard all of these sentences, and correct it was hurting:(

  25. Carene December 22, 2016 at 9:23 pm - Reply

    I am currently going through my second miscarriage and I can relate to every one of these comments. All were said to me at some point. The thing is too, when you have people in your life who refuse to acknowledge that your child was a living breathing being. I had family members that said to me, “well, you weren’t that far along, so at least it was not really a baby”. Like, what? What was I pregnant with then. Just because my miscarriages happened earlier in my pregnancies does not mean that my children don’t matter. I was also questioned whether my postpartum was a diagnosis or just an assumption I made, because God forbid my loss actually counts given that, “my child was only an embryo”. How could I possibly be experiencing loss at such an extreme level? Those have been the worst comments for me and the tremendous ignorance I have encountered. People need to research and need to understand that loss is loss. Don’t undermine a person’s feelings and don’t make them feel crazy. Especially with postpartum, that is a dangerous situation. And really, that persons child just died inside their body and they had to expel that child in the most horrendous way. It’s traumatic and awful. Think about what is happening to them, it is real and life altering. Basically, think before you speak and try to understand what is happening to that person on every level.

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