My Birth Story

birth story

Here is the birth story of my daughter, Wren. It’s a bit long so get comfy before you start to read! Go ahead and grab your popcorn, I’ll wait. (Warning: I try to keep the story positive but there is talk about blood, pain, and some complications for both me and my baby.)

The beginning

I was tired of being pregnant. It was mid-August so it was hot and humid. It was a normal Tuesday evening at the end of my 38th week of pregnancy. I was feeling really tired so I went to bed early. Around 10:45 I woke to a strong, different feeling in my belly. “Was that a contraction?” I wondered, but I went back to sleep. I had noticed more discharge in the previous days (my mucus plug) and when I used the toilet I noticed some dark blood (bloody show). I had another contraction and woke my husband after 1 am. We got up and were too excited to go back to sleep! Was this really happening? I showered, cleaned, and snacked before eventually going back to sleep.

When I woke up in the morning, I was definitely sure I was in labor. I was craving bagels, so we went to get bagels and smoothies. I was having steady contractions and remember needing to hold onto the booth while waiting for our food. My husband decided to work from home and I napped, packed our bags, and tried to keep myself fed. My contractions varied in intensity and were pretty sporadic with timing. We started to get discouraged as the day went on – my husband even told a coworker that he would probably be in the next day when he logged off of work. My water hadn’t broken and there was no clear contraction pattern, but we began timing contractions using an app as they seemed to be getting stronger and more intense. The contractions would be an hour apart, then 20 minutes, then 4 hours.

We decided to walk around Lake Harriet to provide a distraction and hopefully get things moving. On the way there, things seemed to begin picking up. At this point, it was 6 pm, and walking must have done the trick because by the time we were halfway around the lake, my contractions were between 2-10 minutes apart lasting from 10-30 seconds. Still sporadic, but getting intense enough that I had to hold onto benches and trees. Towards the end of our walk back to the car I was feeling the need to vocalize through some of the contractions and just wanted to go home. (I bet I was getting some interesting looks on our walk at the lake, holding onto trees and moaning through my contractions!)

On our ride home, my contractions got more intense and frequent, and I was vocalizing through all of them. I also started to realize that I was experiencing back labor, and I wasn’t too thrilled about it! We decided to call the midwives at the Minnesota Birth Center when we got home. My midwife suggested I eat, take a bath, nap, and try some Spinning Babies movements. We did pelvic tilts and forward-leaning inversions, to ease my back pain and help baby get into an optimal position. They were not comfortable and I didn’t make it through all of the suggested movements, but they definitely worked because by the next hour my contractions were consistently 3.5 to 4 minutes apart. I tried to rest and took another bath and a shower. We eventually decided to head to the birth center around 11:30, just over 24 hours after my first contraction.

At the birth center

We got to the birth center at exactly midnight. I remember looking at the clock when we got out of the car and it hit me that it was the day we would meet our baby! That was one of the moments that has always stuck with me from my birth experience. Once we were at the birth center my midwife, Kaitlyn, checked my cervix and told me that I was dilated to 5-6 centimeters and 100% effaced. This was great news! I remember being really worried about ruining the beautiful white sheets, which is hilarious because birth is what they do. (And bleach is a thing.) Since I was Group B Strep positive, I needed to receive IV antibiotics so we got those going. I was having contractions every 1.5 to 2 minutes and thankfully was able to sleep in between. I never would have believed that I would be able to sleep in labor!

I was able to enjoy the birth tub while we had the IV running, which was incredibly comforting and soothing. I drank water, coconut water, and bottled smoothies. Using the toilet was extremely uncomfortable due to the pressure on my tailbone, and I spent a lot of time holding onto the towel bars in the bathroom. They’re pretty sturdy! Kaitlyn checked me again and I was at 8 cm. We discussed breaking my waters but I wanted to avoid any interventions so we decided to wait. About 10-15 minutes later, I felt a pop and a gush while laying on my side and knew my water had broken on its own.

My contractions definitely got stronger, more intense, and closer together. I got back in the tub and things started to get REAL. The contractions were on top of each other, back to back, and I wasn’t getting a break. I was very vocal, moaning and screaming through the contractions. This is clearly when I hit transition – it was the peak of strength in my contractions. I remember yelling “no no no” and telling everyone that I couldn’t do it. Back labor is intense, and coupled with baby’s head moving down, the pressure felt like too much. I didn’t want to drink, I didn’t want anyone to touch me. I started feeling like I needed to poop and I was terrified. The contractions were radiating from my back to my front, and it was really intense. I just wanted to be done.

I tried to listen to the midwife and birth assistant when they told me to push, but it was too intense. I was hyperventilating. My body was pushing on its own and I was fighting it because I was tired, overwhelmed, in pain, and scared. I got out of the tub and they got me an oxygen mask, then talked me through pushing to get my baby out. She was having some troubles keeping her heart rate up and I remember the birth assistant telling me to breathe oxygen down to my baby. That helped me focus on breathing vs completely losing control. I continued to push, screaming and crying.

After what felt like forever, but was really only about 30 minutes, I heard the words “there’s her head!” and my husband told me what he could see her hair. I pushed a few times and her head was out. Everyone got very serious and started talking very quickly, and I was told that we needed to get my baby out now. It turns out that she was pretty blue and her cord was wrapped around her neck. I could feel her shoulders and it was so intense that I didn’t want to push anymore. But two pushes later, she was born at 4:34 am.

They got her cord unwrapped and suctioned her mouth and nose so she could breathe. They gave her my oxygen mask and rubbed her. Finally, she started to cry. My husband cried and she was placed on my chest. We were bundled up with blankets and laid there for the next 1.5 hours. She finally started to “pink up” and slowly looked less purple. My husband cut the cord, and I eventually delivered my placenta. They were concerned about my bleeding and thought I might have a cervical laceration. There was a piece of tissue in my uterus from the amniotic sac, plus Wren was grunting and not keeping her oxygen levels up. So they called an ambulance to transfer both of us to the hospital. Thus, we both got to have our first ambulance ride at 6 am on August 14, 2014.

Hospital transfer

At the hospital, I had a D&C where they removed 12 cm of tissue from my uterus. Wren was taken to the special care nursery where she received an x-ray and antibiotics for fluid in her lungs. It could’ve been pneumonia but they don’t really want to biopsy a newborn’s lungs so she got IV antibiotics instead. I was finally able to go hold her and nurse her at 12:30, 8 hours after she was born. She latched on immediately and stared up at me with so much love in her eyes, and I cried. After all the drama, chaos, and exhaustion, I was finally able to hold my baby and stare in her eyes, and all the love and adoration that I didn’t feel that morning came flooding to me.

I was admitted that night and trudged from my room to hers every 2 hours to nurse and snuggle. She stayed another 3 days in the special care nursery after I was discharged, so my husband and I slept together on the tiny couch in her room. I was exhausted, hormonal, and emotional. As I talked about here, I felt so guilty. Her birth ultimately did not go as planned and was traumatic, even though the care we received was incredible. My midwife was with me during the surgery and came to check in on me the next day. My husband was very supportive. The nurses in the special care nursery were amazing. But it was a rough start to life with our new baby.

After my experience, I began to understand why support is so crucial during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Would having a doula have changed anything that happened during our experience? No, I’m sure it would have ended up being the same. But I really do believe that the way I felt would be different. I wouldn’t have been alone in the recovery room for 6 hours. My husband wouldn’t have had to choose to leave me or our daughter alone. I would have had an extra voice in the room that could’ve possibly broken through the terrifying thoughts and overwhelm in my head. I would not have felt so alone when we left the hospital and had to go back to “real life.”

This is why I believe doula support is important, and this is why I doula. Because of my experience, I hope to help others avoid feeling helpless and alone. I was a birth doula intern at the Minnesota Birth Center in 2018-2019 because I believe the care they provide for birthing people and families is incredible and I loved my experience supporting families there!

birth story

Doula du Nord at the Twin Cities Birth and Baby Expo!

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve been accepted to have a table at the 2019 Twin Cities Birth and Baby Expo!
This is a great event for anyone who is pregnant, has kids, or is planning to have a baby. And it’s family-friendly too! I hope to see you there.

birth and baby expo

Details:

When?

November 2, 2019
9:30 am to 3 pm

Where?

Capitol Hill Magnet School
Saint Paul, MN

What?

A wonderful event featuring local businesses related to pregnancy, birth, and parenting as well as kid-friendly activities (face painting, storytime, and more!) and presentations/workshops.

Have questions about the expo? Contact me!

 

8 Common Breastfeeding Myths

With so much information floating around the internet about breastfeeding, it can be hard to know what is true and what is a myth. I’ll break down eight of the most common breastfeeding myths so you can tell fact from fiction! Keep reading for the bonus myth at the end.

It’s normal for breastfeeding to hurt.

This is a very popular myth. There are even ideas out there that you should “toughen up” your nipples during pregnancy to prepare for breastfeeding. Rubbing your nipples with sandpaper is NOT necessary… really, please don’t do that!

Pain while breastfeeding may be common, but that doesn’t make it normal. It can be a new, sometimes uncomfortable feeling as you and your body adjusts to nursing (or pumping for) your new baby, but it shouldn’t be painful. If you’re experiencing pain while breastfeeding your baby, you might need some troubleshooting to make it more comfortable. And if you ever experience toe-curling, intense pain, please talk to an IBCLC or your medical provider!

You can’t eat onions (or garlic, broccoli, chocolate,etc…) while breastfeeding.

People say that you have to eat a bland diet while you’re breastfeeding. No onions, garlic, spicy food, chocolate, broccoli… But the truth is, breastmilk is made from your blood, not your stomach contents. And besides, your baby already got a taste of the foods you eat regularly in utero through the amniotic fluid. Science even says that your baby may like foods more that they taste through breast milk!

In some cases, babies have an allergy or intolerance to something in breast milk, such as dairy, soy, or wheat. If you suspect your baby isn’t reacting well to something in your milk, consult your medical provider and consider keeping track of your diet and baby’s symptoms.

Breastfeeding is “all or nothing.”

This myth is absolutely NOT true. Breastfeeding is an amazing thing and any amount that your baby receives is beneficial. But it is fine if you need or want to give your baby formula, supplement with donor milk, or pump and give your breast milk in bottles. It’s also okay if you breastfeed for a while and then stop – even one teaspoon of colostrum is shown to have benefits for babies. You are doing a great job, regardless. Breastfeeding does NOT have to be all or nothing.

Only people with large breasts can breastfeed.

Good news – breast size doesn’t affect whether or not you can breastfeed! Milk production is not based on the size of the breasts. Someone with an A cup can produce as much milk as someone with a DD cup. Having smaller breasts doesn’t mean you will not be able to make “enough” milk… and having larger breasts is not a guarantee that you will be an overproducer or make “too much” milk.

You can’t continue to breastfeed your baby if you go back to work/school.

You can absolutely continue to breastfeed if you’re planning to return to work, start a new job, go to school, or otherwise be away from your baby! Many parents pump and provide breast milk for their babies when they are apart. Some parents feed their baby with donor milk, formula, previously pumped milk, or a combination. Pumping to provide enough milk for your baby during the times you’re not together can be a lot of work, but people do it every day!

You shouldn’t breastfeed in public.

Personally, I think this is the silliest myth of the bunch. Do people think babies just don’t get hungry outside of their home?! Babies need to eat, just the same as everyone else. Don’t be afraid to feed your baby in public!

How you feed your baby in public is really up to you – it’s a personal preference. Some people prefer to find a private space, such as a nursing room or the car. (Don’t assume you just have to do it in the bathroom – there are better options!) Others prefer to use a lightweight blanket or nursing cover/scarf. Sometimes people buy clothes designed for breastfeeding that provide easy access and generally keep it somewhat covered. Another option is to use the “two shirt method” of having one shirt underneath and pulling the other up to give baby access to the breast, leaving your breast mostly covered. And others are totally fine breastfeeding with no cover at all. There are some people who prefer to give baby a bottle in public so they don’t have to deal with breastfeeding.

All of these options – and any others that you come up with – are totally valid, and totally okay. Do what you’re comfortable with and need to do to make sure your baby is fed and happy!

You can’t breastfeed your baby if you take medications.

The majority of medications are safe for breastfeeding. There are some that are contraindicated, but if your plan is to breastfeed, be sure to talk to a medical professional or IBCLC about any medications you’re taking. LactMed (website & app) and Infant Risk (website, app, & hotline) are great options for learning about how medications interact with breastfeeding.

You should only breastfeed your baby until… (enter milestone here.)

Everybody has an opinion about breastfeeding and is more than willing to offer it up. Some people say that you should only breastfeed your baby until they can talk, until they eat “real” foods, until they can walk, until their first birthday…and the list goes on.

The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends “exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.”

What do I think? I think that breastfeeding is a relationship between you and your child. You should breastfeed for as long as it is mutually beneficial. Sometimes that simply means providing colostrum for your baby for the first hour after birth. It could mean breastfeeding until your baby turns one. Or it may mean breastfeeding into toddlerhood and beyond. It is a decision for you to make, and nobody else.

Bonus myth: You’re a bad parent if you don’t breastfeed.

I know sometimes it feels like you can’t do anything right, especially if you can’t or don’t breastfeed your baby. There’s a lot of shaming out there. But it’s not true. You’re a great parent, no matter how you feed your baby.

What do you think of these breastfeeding myths?
Contact me if you have questions!

New Services! Tuck-In and Evening Support

I’m so excited to announce that I’m offering two NEW postpartum services!

I have been thinking of more ways I can support families during the postpartum time. These seemed like a great way to offer more support to families during potentially stressful times. Both of the new services are designed to relieve your stress and helpyour home run more smoothly.

Tuck-in services provide an extra set of hands to help everyone get settled after the birth.

Whether you’re coming home from the birth center or hospital, or your homebirth team is leaving, those first few hours after can be rough. There’s often a lot of commotion and uncertainty. Your whole world just changed and now you are expected to carry on as you did before the birth, just with a new tiny human.

Tuck-in services are meant to bridge that gap and let you settle in more slowly. I will make sure your home is tidy, dishes are clean, and the laundry is running. I’ll feed you and change the sheets on your bed. I will answer your questions about recovery, breastfeeding, and newborn care as you make yourself at home with your newest family member. I’ll take the dog outside, hold the baby so you can take a shower or bath, and let you have a nap.

Tuck-in services are $150 for 4 hours and are available now!

Evening support provides occasional help with dinner, bath, and bedtime routines to take away the headache and give parents a break.

Those few hours before bed are often a challenge. There’s often a transition home from work, school, or childcare… not to mention homework, meal prep, and the baby’s witching hour! Let me provide an extra hand to give you a break. I’ll prepare/serve a meal (and clean up after!), make sure kids are bathed, and help with the bedtime routine. You’ll get to sit down and take a break and enjoy your meal without rushing around serving everyone else. You can also enjoy some one-on-one time with your partner and baby.

Evening support is $100 for 4 hours or $60 for 2 hours and is available now!

Questions? Want to book?
Contact me!

Feature Friday – Raven Ivory, Photography + Films

Hello and welcome!

I’m excited to announce a new weekly feature on my blog and social media! Each Friday I will feature a different product, service, event, or business. I will try to mix it up but will mainly focus on the topics of pregnancy, birth, postpartum, breastfeeding, and family.  Read more

I Didn’t Love My Baby Right Away… And That’s Okay

baby

We’ve all seen the photo – you have, haven’t you? – of the parent holding their new baby in their arms, breathless with joy, tears in their eyes. We’ve heard the story – surely you know the one – of the moment when their newborn child was placed on their skin and all they could feel was an overwhelming sense of love. That’s how birth goes, right? That all-consuming, overwhelming, indescribable sense of immediate joy, love, and connection.

But what if that’s not how it goes?

My daughter’s birth did not go how I expected. She wasn’t in the “optimal” position, even after completing exercises. I felt each surge so intensely in my back – and it was not fun. My childhood/past traumas came out during the later stages of her birth and I was completely blindsided. I had my husband and incredible midwife to support me but I was lost. I felt out of control. It felt like I was floating in darkness, fear, and pain, and I couldn’t figure out how to get out. There’s a lot about my daughter’s birth that I don’t remember. I’ve since learned that trauma survivors can dissociate during childbirth, which is likely what happened to me.

By the time she was born, I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and totally DONE with the whole experience.
When she was born, I felt relief that she was here and I didn’t have to go through anything else. I felt wonder at what I had just done, and that it didn’t actually kill me, even though I was sure that it would.
She had some minor complications, so I felt worry and concern for her. But when I think back on those first few moments, what I remember feeling most is this: guilt and shame.

“What is wrong with me?!” I wondered. “Why do I feel like this?”

We both had to transfer to the hospital (from a birth center) and spend a few days there. On our second night there, at one of the middle of the night feedings, I finally broke down in sobs as I confessed my guilt and shame to my husband. “Why don’t I love my baby?” I cried. “I was supposed to love her as soon as she came out. But I didn’t. I’m a horrible mother.” We talked it through and I was finally able to release some of that guilt, shame, and fear that I had been feeling since she was born.

I was relieved that my husband didn’t think I was terrible. He thought I was sleep deprived, exhausted, and had been through a traumatic, intense experience. He didn’t blame me or look down on me. But still – I didn’t feel the way that I had been made to believe that I SHOULD feel. By the next day, I was already able to feel more attached and connected to her, and by the time we went home on day five I was feeling those joyful, loving feelings. For me, it took a few days and some time to process what had happened. It wasn’t immediate – and that is okay.

It’s okay if you don’t feel that immediate rush of love towards your baby.

There are so many ways you may feel after giving birth – and they are ALL okay. There is not one way that you should feel. Birth can be overwhelming and intense, and it can be easy for all of the feelings to get muddled together. It’s okay to not even know how you feel. You can still love and connect with your baby! There is nothing wrong with you.

I hope that reading this can help you prepare for birth, feel understood and respected if you experienced something similar, or help you support someone you know during or after their birth. I would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below or contact me here.

(If you feel that you struggle to have a connection with your baby or child and it’s affecting your life or relationship, please discuss it with your doctor or midwife. They are there to support you.)

BRAIN – The Best Acronym for Making Informed Choices!

brain

The BRAIN acronym

There are times when choices or situations come up that we might night know how to approach. We don’t always know the right answer, and making a decision can feel overwhelming. If you take the time to look at your options and ask some intentional questions, you can make an informed choice! This is a great acronym for any time you need to make a choice, but I’m introducing it to you today as it can be especially helpful during your pregnancy, postpartum, and birthing time. If you’re faced with a decision that has you feeling unsure, overwhelmed, confused… first, take a second to pause for a deep breath.
Then, use your B.R.A.I.N:

1) What are the benefits? If you decide to do the procedure, have the test, make the choice… what are the advantages? Why should you choose to say yes? What are the pros of this choice? How will it positive impact yourself, your baby, and/or your labor?

2) What are the risks? The opposite of the above question – what can happen? What are the disadvantages or the cons? How will it negatively impact yourself, your baby, and/or your labor?

3) Are there any alternatives? What other options do you have? Is there a similar test or procedure? Are there other choices that could have similar results?

4) What does your intuition say? Listen to your gut. What is it telling you? How does your partner or support person feel? Does this choice fit in with your values? Does it make sense for you?

5) What if you do nothing or you say NO? What will happen if you decide not to do it, or if you decide to wait? Can it be delayed? Can you take some time to think about it and talk it over with your partner or support person?

Contact me to learn more about how I support families during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum!

What to Eat and Drink During Labor

Eating during labor is really important! A steady intake of calories can help you keep your energy levels up, nourish your body, and help you stay hydrated. Eating during labor can help you be comfortable and prevent nausea. Here are some tips and options for what to eat and drink during labor.

Feed yourself the way you would feed a toddler.

Some of my favorite snacks for labor are “toddler snacks.” They’re portable, quick, and easy to eat. Applesauce pouches, crackers, fruit, trail mix, juice, popsicles, and granola bars are all great options! Honey sticks are one of my FAVORITE things for labor – they give a quick burst of sugar and are super easy to eat. And delicious! Kids love them too.

Hit up your local REI or another outdoor recreation store.

Another great way to find snacks is to hit up your local REI store and browse through their snack section! They have lots of snacks for people who like to backpack, bike, run, or hike. Again, pouches are quick and easy to eat. There are many different varieties available so try a few out and find your favorite! Granola bars, snack bars, jerky, electrolyte mix… the options are countless!

Remember the protein!

Protein packs a powerful punch and can help you stay full and refuel your muscles during labor. These options will vary according to your diet, but meat sticks or jerky, string cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, hardboiled eggs, hummus, and protein drinks or bars are all great options!

Mix up your drink choices!

Water is obviously a great choice (our bodies are up to 60% water, after all!) and I encourage all birthing people to drink as much water as they can. But there are other ways to stay hydrated! You can add fruit, herbs, and vegetables to your water –  I love to add citrus like lemon and lime, cucumber, berries, watermelon, rosemary, mint, etc. Other great drink options are coconut water, smoothies (bottled or homemade), broth, and electrolyte drinks such as Gatorade, Nuun, Powerade, Smart Water, etc. You can even find recipes to make your own “labor aid!”

Eat smaller meals (or snacks) more often.

Sometimes you won’t feel super hungry during labor, especially in the later stages, but it’s still important to eat! This is why I suggest people keep small, quick meal or snack options on hand. All of the ideas mentioned above are great, but you can think about other things you might want to eat during your birthing time!

Make sure to eat during early labor!

You might be too excited and distracted to eat when you’re in early labor – this is really happening! You’ll be meeting your baby soon! – but having a hearty meal before your labor gets intense is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Early labor is a great time to have a bigger meal. Eat whatever you feel you can handle and want! We went out for bagels and a smoothie when I was in early labor and it was a great breakfast. You’ll thank yourself later for nourishing your body!

Make your own meal plan for labor!

There are so many great options for food to eat during labor. These are just some ideas to start – take these choices and add to them! Some other great options are oatmeal, sandwiches, soup, leftovers, breakfast foods, and whatever YOU are craving!

Remember food for your partner/support people, and postpartum too!

While you’re planning and making a list, be sure to add your partner or support people’s favorite foods and snacks too. Just maybe avoid anything super fragrant, or bring extra mints! Be sure to think about what you’ll want to eat postpartum as well. Many of the above options are great for postpartum but it can be wonderful to treat yourself after all of your hard work. You deserve it!

View my blog about the best snacks to eat while breastfeeding!

Heartburn During Pregnancy

heartburn

Many people experience heartburn during pregnancy. Sometimes it’s simply unavoidable due to hormones and your growing uterus, but it can be worth it to see what gives you relief! Here are some things you can try to help you be more comfortable. (Disclaimer: I’m not trained to offer medical advice, diagnose, or treat anything. I’m simply offering suggestions that have worked for me and others. Talk with your medical provider and follow their recommendations.)

Avoid triggers.
Some common triggers of heartburn are tomatoes, citrus, juice, spicy foods, chocolate, dairy, sugar, greasy/fatty foods, and caffeine. Maybe you can start a food journal to keep track of what you’re eating and how it correlates to heartburn. You don’t have to completely overhaul your diet, but it’s good to be mindful and pay attention!

Eat smaller meals.

Try to eat small, frequent meals and/or snacks during the day instead of 3 big meals. And avoid eating in the few hours before you go to bed. Laying down soon after you eat can cause stomach acid to leak into your esophagus and lead to heartburn.

Wear loose-fitting clothes.

Tight clothes can put pressure on your abdomen and cause heartburn. Loose-fitting clothes are less restrictive.

Talk to your doctor about OTC remedies.

There are many things you can try that don’t require a prescription, but you should still okay them with your doctor. These include Tums, Maalox, papaya enzymes (my favorite!), and digestive bitters. Some people swear by drinking apple cider vinegar, pickle juice, or baking soda water. Try some different options out and see what works for you!

Talk to your doctor about prescription options.

Sometimes a prescription can be most helpful if you’re experiencing chronic or more than occasional heartburn.

Did you experience heartburn during pregnancy? What worked best for you?

Contact me to learn more about my services.

How to Support a Loved One Through Infertility Or Loss

How to Support a Loved One Through Infertility or Loss

We all want to be helpful and supportive to our friends and family when they are hurt or grieving, but we often don’t know what to say or how to help. Here are some tips to offer support and hold space for a loved one who is experiencing infertility or loss.

Listen.

The most helpful thing we can do to help others, in general, is to truly listen to them. Invite them to share, and simply listen. We don’t need to try to fix or solve anything – because usually, we can’t. Just sitting there and listening without judgment will be incredibly helpful. Our loved ones will likely have many thoughts and emotions that they haven’t been able to share with most people in their lives, and being free to process those with you is one of the best things you can do for them.

Don’t make it about you.

Although you may also be hurting, ignore your desire to try to relate their situation to yourself. While it might be true that you have been through something similar, or you are also grieving their loss, or whatever it may be… at this time, you need to hold the space for your loved one to process. This might mean finding another person to talk with about your feelings.

But don’t be afraid to show emotion.

Someone going through infertility or loss may feel like everyone around them is avoiding expressing feelings about their situation. Often we feel like we can’t cry, or express our sadness, about a loved one’s situation. But it can actually be helpful to that person if we let them know that they aren’t alone, and this is affecting us as well.

Avoid platitudes and triggering language.

Saying things like “it just wasn’t meant to be,” or “you can always try again,” and “it was God’s plan” can be extremely hurtful and minimize your loved one’s feelings and experiences. While most people have good intentions, phrases similar to those above can cause more harm than good. If you feel like you just need to say something, you can remind the person that you’re there for them or ask what they need most that day.

Don’t be afraid to talk about it.

You might feel as though you should avoid talking about your loved one’s loss or infertility, or that bringing it up will cause them pain. But the truth is that, as mentioned above, these situations can often be incredibly isolating and make the person experiencing it feel alone. Talking about it, asking how they’re doing, saying the baby’s name in case of a loss, remembering dates that are important to them… all of these things can help that person understand that you’re there to support them.

Ask what would be helpful.

Everyone is different, so everyone experiences things differently. What helped you or another loved one might be hurtful, or at least not helpful, in this specific situation. Being willing to say “how can I help you most right now?” is a wonderful way to meet that person where they’re at and support them in an individual way. Knowing that someone is willing to help you how you need it most can be incredibly powerful.

Be sensitive.

Sometimes people don’t want to talk about what’s going on in their lives. It might be too painful, or they might not be ready to share. Or they might withdraw and need space. It is helpful if you can try to understand that they are hurting, and that looks different for everyone. If you are sharing happy news about your own pregnancy, be extra sensitive with them – tell them before you announce it to a large group or post on social media, tell them in private or over phone/text/email so they can excuse themselves from the conversation if needed. Know that they may need to distance themselves from you while they sort through their feelings about this, which is totally normal.

Supporting someone through infertility or loss can be difficult and emotional. You’re doing a great job by being there for them and trying to do your best.