'I've had four pregnancies in two years and no babies. Here's what not to say to me.'

This post deals with miscarriage and pregnancy loss, and could be triggering for some readers.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

I have been pregnant four times in the past two years. 

My husband and I decided to start trying for a family three years ago. My first pregnancy was ectopic and required surgical management and the removal of one of my fallopian tubes. The second and third pregnancies were short-lived and miscarried. At this point, my GP and the early pregnancy clinic started to hint towards IVF, but I was convinced that having had my fair share of bad luck, our fourth pregnancy would stick. Ha... Cue my second ectopic pregnancy that was so large I had emergency surgery (again) because of the risk of the tube rupturing. 

Watch: A tribute to the babies we've lost and the significance of remembering their names. Post continues after video.

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So now I am sans fallopian tubes and sans babies. Officially infertile and unable to fall pregnant naturally. When I share this with people, it makes them deeply uncomfortable. I’ve heard it said before that pregnancy loss is the perfect Venn diagram of what makes people feel awkward: periods, sex and death. The same goes for infertility.

And as a result of this awkwardness, people are... completely and utterly hopeless and say the most unhelpful things.

Cue some of the conversations I have had recently:

"Well, at least you won't have to worry about contraception anymore"... Ummm. Yes. Except we were trying to have a baby, so we weren't really that worried about contraception, anyway?

And a very dear, perfectly fertile relative who has several children said to me, "Well you'll just do IVF then". Let's just... Stop. Right. There. There is no "just" doing IVF. It is a brutal, physical, mentally and emotionally draining process that doesn't actually guarantee a baby at the end of it. So for someone who had never had to consider IVF for themselves to so flippantly tell me I'd "just" do IVF. 

It was quite confronting. I have found that as soon as I mention IVF, people have a need to share positive IVF stories. And don't get me wrong, I'm really glad that your friend's cousin's neighbour had a successful IVF journey. But that really doesn't mean anything for my own journey and whilst you sharing that success story makes you feel like you're providing solutions and helping me... It isn't.


A colleague who I hadn’t seen for a few months, looked directly at my stomach and said "darl, you look good, you haven't put any weight on since I was away!" Ahh... Yes, correct... In fact, I had surgery and am grieving and haven't really had much of an appetite. Not that I was planning to share any of that with this nosy colleague, until they had the audacity to follow me out of the office and say, "so, are you pregnant yet?" To which I shortly replied, "No. I'm infertile". Not my usual conflict-averse communication style, but a very efficient way to shut down that conversation, or so I thought. But no, they then proceeded to tell me about more various IVF success stories.

And then the lady I met the other day who was trying to make polite small talk and asked if I had children. I replied "no" and she then said "oh you're so lucky... The freedom!" I smiled along and quickly changed the subject to the school holiday activities they had been doing, but the word "freedom" stuck with me. I recognise that having children is a big commitment and you do lose a lot of the "freedoms" that come with not having dependants. But to tell me I'm lucky... When in actual fact my fertility journey has been spectacularly unlucky and all-consuming for the past three years... I'm not feeling overly "lucky" regarding my childless and infertile state. Of course, her comments weren't said with any malice, it was simply ignorance for someone who can't imagine any difficulties falling pregnant. 

See what I mean? Inappropriate, hopeless and unaware. Yet in the moment, people are so desperate to say something, to try to fix things or provide some sort of solution. But rather than blurting out the first thing that comes to mind, I encourage you to please take a moment and gather your thoughts.

The friends, family and colleagues who are close enough to have been told about our situation have been largely supportive, and for that I am so grateful. I appreciate the vulnerability people have shown when they have acknowledged the awkwardness and not knowing what to say. The truth is, there is no "right" thing to say - but when there is that recognition between both parties, it allows for freedom to move forward. It has meant so much to me when my losses have been acknowledged and validated with a thoughtful gesture or carefully spoken words by my close friends and family.

Image: Supplied.


But then there are the people who know. And who you know, know. Who choose to not say anything. To not acknowledge your loss. Or even worse, they avoid you after your loss – perhaps they are worried they will say the wrong thing or that seeing their baby will be triggering for you, and so they disconnect from you? It isn't done to be nasty or hurtful, but let me assure you - it hurts. The lack of acknowledgement of something that is so huge and formative in my life hurts deeply. It doesn't have to be a big sit-down conversation - but a text message, a card, a gentle word or a hug to acknowledge what has happened can make a huge difference. And do it soon, because the longer you leave it, the more damage it does.

I suppose what I am trying to say is: be sensitive. Be thoughtful. Be kind, think about others. Yes, infertility is awkward. But believe me, it's awkward enough for the people who are actually going through infertility, without dealing with your awkwardness about infertility. Don't try to fix it with solutions, because despite your best intentions, there is nothing you can say or do that is going to fix it. Where there has been loss, if you are in a privileged enough position to be aware of that loss - acknowledge it. The baby didn't make it earth side, but it doesn't mean they weren't wanted or loved.

And for goodness' sake. Don't ask anyone if they are pregnant, ever! Or make questioning comments about "you'll be next?", or someone’s physical appearance. 

Listen to No Filter where Dr. Anne Coffey shares her personal experience with miscarriage and her advice on how to get the support you need during this difficult time. Post continues after podcast.

You have no idea of anyone's circumstances - trying to conceive, recent loss, infertility, IVF, waiting for the adoption process to finally progress, or something else. This sounds horribly direct, but you need to stop being rude and nosy - if and when there is something that you need to be updated on, you'll be told.

And to my fellow infertile sisters and women trying to conceive - I see you and I feel for you. Here's hoping for happier times in the near future.

If this has raised any issues for you or if you would like to speak with someone, please contact the Sands Australia 24-hour support line on 1300 072 637. 

You can download Never Forgotten: Stories of love, loss and healing after miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal death for free here.

Join the community of women, men and families who have lost a child in our private Facebook group.

Feature Image: Getty.