What not to say to someone who’s trying to have a baby

what not to say to someone trying to have a baby fertility infertility

By Andrea Zanetich

This article is sponsored by MSD {a pharmaceutical company}

You know your friend is trying to have a baby. You want to say the right thing. You want to show that you’re there for them. But it’s such a delicate topic that you’re scared to bring it up in case you say the wrong thing and make them feel like crap. Sound familiar?

I asked a few of my buddies who’ve spent years at the receiving end of well-meaning yet often bumbling efforts from friends and acquaintances to share their advice:

What should we say to a friend who is desperate for a baby, but is having trouble conceiving?

What shouldn’t we say?

Or should we just shut our gobs and avoid the topic all together?

As you can imagine, not everyone had the same opinions. Susan* who’s in her 20s and tried for three years before having her son said “Don’t bring it up unless I bring it up. You never know, I might be having a really hard day, where it was all I could do to get out of bed, let alone workshop my issues.”

While Rachel, 43, who tried unsuccessfully who have a second child over a period of five years begged to differ:

“I think bringing it up is a good thing. You can always gauge whether or not someone wants to talk about it, and the thought of someone struggling on their own is harrowing.”

 

The emotional rollercoaster

Understanding the emotional impact of trying to fall pregnant is imperative for all women (and men) who’re wanting to provide support.

I felt hopeful, desperate, teary, sad, isolated and overwhelmingly angry and sometimes all in one day” confided Rachel. “I couldn’t stand looking at pregnant people, started crying all the time about the slightest thing. I also felt my reactions to things in life were irrational. I felt an enormous sense of loss, felt frustrated that I couldn’t talk to anyone, perhaps for fear of becoming emotional and teary.

It’s really hard people asking if you’re ok. And when I told people bad news from yet another treatment I felt like there was something wrong with me.” said Susan.

It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever been through – not knowing if you’ll ever fall pregnant. And you wonder how many times you can endure the pain. It really beats you up inside.”

I spent a lot of time by myself, some days I didn’t want to get out of bed.”

 

But if the topic is open for discussion, here’s 11 things you can pretty much be guaranteed that they don’t want to hear – followed by 5 things that’ll be received like that verbal warm hug you’re aiming for.

 

“I’m so exhausted from being up all night with the baby.”

“Don’t moan to me about your sleep deprivation, or anything to do with your kids.” stated Susan. “I’m well aware of the complications that come with having babies, and I’d give my left arm to be a sleep-deprived zombie with a baby.”

 

 

“I’m sure it will happen soon”

“Actually it might not” stated Rachel, who went on to offer a more helpful alternative: “this must be really harrowing for you, how are you holding up?”

 

 

 “I’m pregnant and it was such a surprise – I’m not sure what to do!”

“Pregnancy is a miracle” said Susan with tears welling in her eyes as she spoke. “People should feel blessed.”

 

 

“You’re a career woman, I guess that’s why you don’t have kids.”

“Yes, I love my job, but you don’t know my situation so don’t assume” said Jo, a successful business woman in her 30’s who’s been trying to conceive for years. “And besides, being successful in a career and having children is not a mutually exclusive proposition.”

 

 

“Well at least you have one child already.”

Rachel, who has a 7 year old child, and has tried for years to have a second said “This was the main comment people made to me and although trying to help, it always made me clam up and feel that lonely, misunderstood or ungrateful for what I have.”

 

 

“My friend tried for months, and just when she stopped trying, she fell pregnant.”

“Please, just shut up!” said Jo bluntly. “There are medical issues that women and men face, beyond our control. They are complicated and the emotions associated with them are intense. I’m a little tired of being told to stop trying and see what happens.”

 

 

“I wish you would confide in me. Have I done something wrong?”

“Don’t be hurt or angry at friends for not telling you their struggles,” advised Rachel “They might not know how to bring it up, be in a really sad place, having relationship problems, or like me, feel that they are going to sob and never stop each time it is brought up. There’s a host of reasons why people don’t talk to you about it. Never take it personally.”

 

 

“Have you tried acupuncture / relaxation techniques / doing a handstand after sex?”

“Keep the suggestions to yourself as chances are they’ve already tried pretty much everything they know about. Old wives tales included!” exclaimed Jo.

 

 

“Did you hear about Kathy? She just had a gorgeous little baby girl!”

“It feels like everyone else around you seems to be falling pregnant. You go to the shopping centre and all you see around you is pregnant women. It’s devastating. I just didn’t want to hear anything baby related.”

 

 

“Things happen for a reason.”

“I understand this is an attempt at being sympathetic, but to me it’s dismissive and implies I shouldn’t be exploring all of the options available to me – of which there are many” said Rachel.

 

 

“Why haven’t you had a baby?”

“Such a dumb question to ask anyone, ever.” stated Susan.

 

5 things to say to someone who's trying to have a baby infertility that'll really help

Instead, with the caveat that whatever you say or do, it’s essential that it’s brewed from the best intentions, steeped in kindness, and with a spoonful of thoughtfulness carefully stirred through it, here’s 5 things you can say & do that will really help someone who’s trying to have a baby.

 

1. Listen

Just listen to me.” offered Susan, nodding her head resolutely. “It’s that simple.”

 

2. Be there

Let people know you are there for them, and if they do open up to you give it your full attention.

The first time I spoke to a girlfriend about it, she told me not to blame myself. At that time, I hadn’t realized just how much that was burdening on me and that helped me a lot” explained Jo.

And Rachel agreed, sharing “I really leaned on my female friends for support and understanding. There is something nurturing about talking women to women issues.”

 

3. Change the topic

If conversations turn toward pregnancy or kids, subtly switch subjects. “I didn’t want to hear anything baby-related, it hurt so much.” said Susan. “Instead” she suggested, “bring up something else altogether to get my mind off the subject and distract me.

 

4. Share

If you’re going through similar challenges, or have first-hand experience with infertility bring it up, and share your story. “I really wish someone had done this with me, I would’ve found it so helpful” confided Rachel, who continued “Any knowledge and understanding shared between women is wonderful as it lessens the feeling of isolation.”

 

 5. Educate yourself

Currently 1 in 6 couples** will experience difficulty in trying to get pregnant, so it’s likely you’ll encounter the situation at some stage.

  • Read up on fertility options on sites like The Start of Something Small to educate yourself, which will in turn make you more empathetic.

 

  • Understand the relationship between age and fertility.

Fertility begins to decline significantly for women in their mid-thirties, but issues are not only limited to that older demographic.

As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to visit a GP for a referral to a fertility specialist if you are:

  • Over 35 and have been trying to fall pregnant for over 6 months
  • Under 35 and have been trying to fall pregnant for over 12 months
  • Recognise that fertility issues are shared equally amongst men and women, and guys need support too.

We discovered that my husband has deformities in his sperm, and a low sperm count, which effectively means there is slim to no chance of us ever falling pregnant naturally. It’s a really tough blow for a man” shared Jo, who also said it’d not occurred to either of them that the issue could be with him: “If there is one thing I’d do differently now, several years into trying to have children, it’d be having him tested earlier.”

The more we can bring conversations about fertility into the open, and increase our own education and understanding, the more we can rally together.”

As Rachel shared “I hope that in time women and men learn to be more open and are able to have frank discussions about fertility issues as it helps to feel that you are not alone. I really wish this was the case when I embarked on my journey!!!”

 

A huge thankyou to my dear friends who bravely shared their difficult journeys with me and the readers of Fox in Flats. You are so generous and amazing. Big hugs to you. x A

 

Over the next few weeks we’ll continue our series on fertility.

Coming up: Women in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s share what they wish they knew before trying to have children.

 

 

 

What’s the worst thing someone’s said to you when you were trying to get pregnant?

And what was the most helpful thing anyone’s said or done?

 

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*The names in this article are changed

**Fertility Society of Australia

 MSD does not endorse, nor is it responsible for any comments placed on this web page

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Comments

  • http://twitter.com/LipstickCake Lipstick & Cake

    If I have one more person say to me “it’s probably not happening because you’re stressed” or “it will happen when you stop stressing about it” then I swear I’ll lose it!
    Find me one woman who’s trying to conceive and not stressing, even a little, about it.
    My husband and I are about to celebrate our second wedding anniversary and I guess all of our friends and family assume there should be a baby on the way. I don’t mind people asking and I’m more than happy to tell people that it’s taking a little longer than expected but I am getting a little tired of having them tell me what we’re doing wrong. I know they’re trying to help but trust me, we know about or have tried all of their suggestions and more… and that ‘stress’ comment kills me!
    Thanks for sharing, these are great tips. x

    • FoxInFlats

      Beautiful Steph, Ugh how frustrating! You’re not alone. Not at all. Big hugs xA

  • http://www.threequartersfull.com/ Three Quarters Full

    We’ve been cycling for 8 years, spent more money than I care to think about and have one gorgeous boy – just over a year ago we decided that our journey was over and it was time to concentrate on having a family of three. It hasn’t been easy, the absolute worst thing said to me was “The world is over populated anyway, more families should stay at one.” I know she was probably trying to make me feel better about my decision but instead it just made the heartbreak and guilt that I feel seem small and petty (and caused me to write a ranty post about what I really think when people give ‘helpful’ advice).

    I get that generally it comes from a place of good, that people are faced with a shitty situation and get foot in mouth trying to make it better but it doesn’t help. if you haven’t lived it, it’s hard to truly understand. I always tell people that all I really want to hear is “I’m sorry, that’s a shitty situation to be in and I wish things were different for you”… and give me a hug because I probably need one.

    • FoxInFlats

      Oh Kyla, your story sounds so similar to my friend Rachel :(

      That’s great advice. Big hug from me x A

  • http://emhawker.blogspot.com/ Emily

    Great piece. I have to agree most strongly with the ‘At least you already have one child’. Instead of cheering me up, this made me feel almost selfish for wanting another. Just another bad emotion to heap on top of the others!
    Will be sharing this piece on facebook. Thanks.

    • FoxInFlats

      Thankyou Emily. I think the more we can share this info around, the better for everyone. It’s such a delicate topic and we all just want to be good to each other. Sometimes we just don’t know the words. xA

      Andrea Zanetich, Editor, Fox in Flats

      Tel: 0414 185 502 | PO Box 278, Seaforth 2092 NSW Australia http://www.FoxInFlats.com.au

      2011 Star Beauty Journalism Awards. Finalist, Best Beauty Blog.

      All information in this email is confidential.
      The latest on Fox in Flats: What not to say to someone who’s trying to have a baby
      Subject: [foxinflats] Re: What not to say to someone who’s trying to have a baby

  • LisaOc

    Thank you so much for this article. My husband and I struggled for years with IVF. I can relate to hearing all of the ‘not to say’ comments above. I even lost a long time friendship over her complete and utter blasé approach to my predicament. It’s an issue close to me.

    • FoxInFlats

      Am so sorry to hear about your frustration – and especially the friendship! I think it becomes very apparent who genuine friends are when we’re struggling. Even in they dont know what to say, you can still tell if someone could care less. Hugs to you Lisa x

  • Katerina

    Thank you SO much for this artical, it made me realise my feelings are completely normal. And I had a bit of a giggle too!! All true, everyone should be made to read this :)

    • FoxInFlats

      Yes, it’s so normal! And the more we can share stories like these around, the easier it will be for everyone. xA

  • Lou

    Great post is my life right now. Another no no is when you miscarry early on and friends, say well at least you weren’t to attached. Sorry once you have a positive result you are attached especially when you have fertitly issues on top.

    • FoxInFlats

      Oh Lou, That must be so amazingly hard. One of my friends who I interviewed for the article has been through that too :( Big Hugs xxx A

  • Marie

    Great post!! I wish I had read this years ago. Sadly I’m probably guilty of saying a few of the no nos. I’ve been blessed with fertility but have also suffered many miscarriages (5) and had a friend drop in on a day I was miscarry ing, I was lying on the couch feeling sorry for myself, just told her I wasn’t 100% when she said, jeez, you’re not pregnant are you?!! (I had 2 kids at the time), it was such a horrible thing to say. If I was pregnant, why was that so ba being in that state just made me feel so sad.

    • FoxInFlats

      Hi Marie, Yes, I wish I had this list too! We all want to say and do the right things but sometimes it’s hard to know. Am sorry to hear about your miscarriages – that must have been such an emotional (and physical) roller coaster for you. Hugs x A

  • http://www.facebook.com/heynutmeg Meg Martin

    “Thank You” for sharing this. I went through four years and experienced losing 4 tiny babies before I had surgery to correct what was wrong in my body and I have been able to have one gorgeous little girl. The doctors said I may not be able to have another, so I honestly try to push that way out of my mind, but she’s almost 3 and I know I want her to have a sibling, especially since I was the oldest of 8 kids and I love my siblings to death. I have heard my share of what wasn’t meant to be cruel, but they were comments that cut me so, so deep, for years!

    • FoxInFlats

      Hi Meg, Wow I’m sorry to hear of the difficult complications you’ve had – that must have been heartwrenching! I know exactly what you mean about comments cutting deep – not sure that the old ‘stick and stones’ thing is true in this instance. x A

  • http://www.bellamumma.com bellaMUMMA

    Great post! : )

    • FoxInFlats

      Thanks Nicki ! X

  • Kirsty

    Such an important conversation to have. Thank you for posting it here as often this chat only happens on ‘infertility websites’.
    I have premature menopause at 32 and IVF isn’t an option for us. We only found out about my menopause after 2 years of trying and it’s been very difficult watching our friends have families. It’s been a particularly lonely experience as no one I know has my condition and those who have had fertility problems now have babies through IVF.
    The worst thing people have said are random strangers asking if I have kids and when I say “No” they say “Oh, not yet” plus friends saying “Oh well you can always adopt” (like its easiest thing in the world) or “I know you were meant to be a mother” (maybe I won’t be and now that’s even worse) or “You will always be involved in the lives of your friends and family’s children” (not a comforting consolation prize).
    But we have the most amazing support network and we are so loved. The best things for me have been 1. Friends saying “I am sorry this is happening to you” 2. Giving me fun things to look to like lunches, picnics, birthdays and holidays 3. Being sensitive when talking about babies in particular.
    :-)

    • FoxInFlats

      Dear Kirsty, Thankyou for sharing your story, and I too am so sorry that this is happening for you. Really love the tips you shared too. x A

  • Lornie

    Such a great post to share, I think most people know of someone in this situation and it can be hard to know what to say or do. We had 3 miscarriages before the little one I’m carrying just now and had heard a lot of these from close and well meaning friends.

    People don’t set out to upset you, but it’s not easy to say the right thing and sometimes people won’t talk about it with you at all for fear of saying the wrong thing.

    • FoxInFlats

      Absolutely Lornie, And myself included. I think you are spot on – people do want to say the right thing but are unsure. Am sorry to hear about your miscarriages. :( xA

      Andrea Zanetich, Editor, Fox in Flats

      Tel: 0414 185 502 | PO Box 278, Seaforth 2092 NSW Australia http://www.FoxInFlats.com.au

      2011 Star Beauty Journalism Awards. Finalist, Best Beauty Blog.

      All information in this email is confidential.
      The latest on Fox in Flats: What not to say to someone who’s trying to have a baby
      Subject: [foxinflats] Re: What not to say to someone who’s trying to have a baby

  • RoseyGal

    Thanks for this reminder, I’m trying to be there for my best friends and his wife at the moment as they are having trouble conceiving, so I’ll keep these in mind!
    The worst thing that was said (or happened) to me when I’d been trying for baby number 2 for 13 months was that a good friend of ours (with 2 children already) fell pregnant BY ACCIDENT and was having a major fallout with her husband because he DEFINITELY did not want any more children. I wound up counselling them both through it, amid comments of ‘why do I fall pregnant so easily’ and ‘I don’t WANT another baby’. It was pretty miserable, but they weren’t to know, as I hadn’t been talking to people about it. I guess I was lucky because I did fall pregnant a month later, and my daughter was born within a week of my friends formerly ‘unwanted’ baby so the story has a happy ending. They’ll both be five at the end of next month. :)

    • FoxInFlats

      Oh love a happy ending – but that must have been so hard to go through! xA

      Andrea Zanetich, Editor, Fox in Flats

      Tel: 0414 185 502 | PO Box 278, Seaforth 2092 NSW Australia http://www.FoxInFlats.com.au

      2011 Star Beauty Journalism Awards. Finalist, Best Beauty Blog.

      All information in this email is confidential.
      The latest on Fox in Flats: What not to say to someone who’s trying to have a baby
      Subject: [foxinflats] Re: What not to say to someone who’s trying to have a baby

  • Faye aka BeingMum&OtherStories

    Such a good blog :-) thanks! I have another one for you that links in with your upcoming blogs – ‘What not to say to the harried mother of a toddler’. I blogged about it this week http://www.fayejenner.com :-) and linked to yours too as it was so pertinent. Have a great week. Fx

    • FoxInFlats

      Hi Faye – I tried to find the post but couldnt locate it – could you share the actual link? Cheers, A

    • Name

      I feel that this comment is rather insensitive, considering the blog post it “relates” to. I don’t see why this could not have been emailed directly or posted elsewhere.

  • Sally

    Great post and thank you for putting it out there – this isn’t something that’s discussed probably as often as it should when we consider the increase in infertility we’re seeing these days.
    I struggled with infertility, was prescribed the wrong drugs (a waste and rollercoaster of 6 months given my condition), and IVF finally worked. Whilst going through this, there were days when I was ok talking about it and days when I wasn’t. People are coming from a good place when they try to offer a supportive or sympathetic comment – for me, it was up to me how I received it and quite honestly it depended on the day!
    Personally, I found the most difficult part was being around friends who didn’t shut up about their kids when we were out for a catch up dinner or drinks. I considered it a bit of time out for everyone, and quite frankly I didn’t want to live and breathe their kids when I was struggling myself.
    One friend in particular told me she was pregnant by saying “he only has to look at me and I get pregnant”. I felt paralyzsed with sadness and disbelief that she could be so insensitive.
    Good luck to all out there. It’s a difficult road, and maybe these little forums and posts can alleviate what can be an incredibly lonely time.
    Xx

    • FoxInFlats

      Hi Sally, I’m so sorry to hear of your difficult and frustrating journey :(
      I agree, people are coming from a good place, but foot in mouth disease is rampant. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of talking about kids in that context, and in retrospect did it to try to ‘normalise’ the situation. But now having written this and spoken in such depth to my friends, and reading the comments here it has made me realise mistakes I’ve made. Hopefully this post will help others too. x A

  • Donna Webeck

    This is so helpful as I have a friend going through this and I’ve struggled to say and do the right thing. Many thanks to all for sharing x

    • FoxInFlats

      Pleasure Donna. I feel the same way – empowered to know what to say, and how to be a better friend. xA

  • http://twitter.com/eatplaybond Erin Smith

    Great read Andrea. We had I would say an average wait in falling pregant with both children but the unknown can mess with your head so quickly. I had a disappointing false positive before falling with our second baby and that same month my best friend told me of her third surprise pregnancy. She had known what had happened but was not as sensitive as I needed at the time. Telling anyone how easily you fall pregnant is not wise, you just never know what they are dealing with.

    • FoxInFlats

      Hi Erin, that must have been so hard for you :( Great advice – thankyou. A

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  • Pingback: Fox In Flats | How long did it take you to fall pregnant? | Navigating Motherhood in Style.

  • Rachel

    Thanks for this great post! I have a history of endometrosis and was planning on trying for a baby after our wedding in December 2010. But fate had other things planned and less than 3 months before the wedding I had a serious car accident. So now over 2.5 yrs later and at 31 we are finally able to start trying. I found it really hard when my family and friends were having babies and we weren’t allowed due to my injuries. I struggled. Now I’m the last one of my friends to have a baby but I’ve learnt to look at things differently. To be happy for my friends and family and know that things will eventually work out for us. I’ve also learnt the hard way what friends to keep close and who will have a sympathetic ear when I need it. I love the list of things not to say I’ve heard them all and it’s so true! Thanks again and good luck for all who are trying for a baby too.

    • FoxInFlats

      Thanks for sharing your story Rachel. Yes I think in times of hardship we know who our true friends are, which is a real gift.

  • Pingback: Fox In Flats | Top 13 of 2013 (so far…) | Navigating Motherhood in Style.

  • TLH

    The worst thing my ex bff said to me, “all of your problems would go away if you would just get pregnant….”. The ONE person who I trusted with everything and knows all of my struggles….which is why we are no longer friends. Brutal, insensitive and demoralizing.

    • FoxInFlats

      OUCH!!!

  • Jana Jordan

    Thank you for writing this, Andrea. I went through all of the above conversations with many people in the 3 years of trying to conceive our now 18 month old daughter and I wish I could have directed my well-meaning family and friends to your article.
    Along with the direct questions of “are you pregnant yet”, asked each time I saw people, the pity on people’s faces did not help to keep me positive. I was lucky, my daughter was a miracle, my doctors were surprised after my chances of 11% to conceive, but there is no guarantee that I will be that lucky or blessed again.
    I hope that people who read your article share it with others, if only to bring awareness to those of us who aren’t lucky enough to just fall pregnant easily.
    Jana. X

    • FoxInFlats

      Hi Jana, Oh it’s such a rollercoaster huh?! I’m sorry you had to go through all of that, that must have been so difficult for you. But what a miracle! Amazing. So happy for you. And yes, I do hope the article helps people in a small way. x A

  • SuePeden

    Saying the wrong thing – ha! Two of my children had life shortening conditions and I could fill a book on the thoughtless things people said when they were alive and when they died (aged 14 and 19). Having said that, I know I was very lucky to have had them at all so I am very sympathetic to the women here. But for the wrong comments – I realise it is as much to do with my mood – the same comment one day may be welcomed and the next have me seething. I know they’re all went meant – but that doesn’t always help. motherwhoworks.blogspot.com

    • FoxInFlats

      Hi Sue, Oh I am so sorry to hear of your heartbreaking loss. I just read parts of your blog, and about beautiful George and Jaz. Heartbreaking. Huge hugs to you and your family. I do hope you didn’t give away those fabulous blue loafers though. What great taste your son has in shoes! x Andrea

      • SuePeden

        Thanks Andrea. And rest assured – I still have the blue loafers! MWWx

        • FoxInFlats

          I’ve been thinking about you all day. Hugs xxxx

  • Erin

    Recently i embarked on an egg donation journey for a family member. I struggled through the physical and mental side effects of the daily injections, procedure and ensuing recovery but found, through other women, how many others had their own fertility journey and it brought me closer to the strong women in my life and possibly to a new baby for my egg recipient. I feel blessed to be a healthy fertile woman and changed forever toward those with fertility issues. Lean on each other always ladies x

    • FoxInFlats

      Wow, what an amazing gift you are giving Erin! You are so right – leaning on each other is so important. xA

  • Elisabeth Weaver

    I have a “friend” that dropped off the face off the earth after her second was born, but every damn time she saw me for a year before that, she greeted me with “So are you pregnant yet?” Ugh.

  • Will Augustina
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