Ways to Help a Pregnant Friend
At first glance, this post may seem self-interested, as I am currently just 6 days away from an induction. However, being pregnant for the fifth time, and having many friends who are pregnant, or have just delivered, led me to want to write this. No matter how many times you have gone through pregnancy yourself, we so often forget just how hard of a process it can be. We can so easily wallow in our own pain and discomfort during our own pregnancy, but when it is someone else, we don’t always stop to think about THEIR pain and discomfort. We can even think things like, “Well they aren’t even sick, and I managed and was sick the whole time,” or, “This is their first pregnancy, so they will be fine. They don’t have other kids to care for, so they don’t need any help.” I wish we as women and as mothers could turn off those judgmental thoughts we sometimes get, and realize we could be so much stronger if we came together and supported one another. Towards that end, I have a list of some things to do/ not to do for your pregnant friends.
Things NOT to do:
1. Do NOT tell a pregnant friend horrific labor stories. I had a few friends who scared me so badly during my first pregnancy, and I found that my fears and anxieties that stemmed from their stories were MUCH worse than what actually happened. So please, if you really want to talk about some of the complications or pains that can happen during labor, share them with someone who is not about to experience labor themselves!
I would like to add that it is NOT necessary to share all of your pregnancy woes when a pregnant friend shares with you. If a pregnant friend mentions she is having morning sickness, you don’t need to describe your own run-ins with the toilet. Similarly, no one wants to hear about the protein in your urine, the horrors of gestational diabetes, or how restless leg syndrome destroyed your sleep. Let the pregnant friend just experience this time of her life as it comes, without having a bunch of fears and worries about new symptoms and possible complications coming her way. (Talk about those things with someone who is done having kids if you enjoy talking about them!)
2. Sort of along these lines is this (which I actually think applies to something you shouldn’t do to ANYONE, but really not to moms). Do NOT offer unsolicited advice. I have never met anyone who enjoys it. I think sometimes older mothers, or mothers who have been through pregnancy and motherhood multiple times like to share their experiences and ideas. The trouble with this is that people have just as strong opinions about parenting as they do about religion and politics. Sometimes advice even when offered with good intentions can come off as “preachy”, and/or make the mother feel badly about a choice she has already made/plans to make. So, unless you are sure you are offering your take on a very neutral topic, I would perhaps opt to not share unless asked.
(I am starting a new series soon, dealing with giving mothers permission to make their own choices! Stay tuned, and realize for now that you don’t need your friends’ approval for your choices about feeding, sleeping, diapering, etc. Do what works for YOU!)
3. Do NOT rub their belly without asking. I’d almost say don’t even ask…If you do ask, and the girl is one who truly doesn’t like to be touched, you’ve now put her in an awkward position where she almost has to say yes, or appear rude. Some women simply don’t care to be touched, and find having their belly rubbed to be invasive. I personally, am typically only comfortable with this if the person touching me is someone I am close to.
(And, as an addendum, you have every right to ask someone outright not to touch you. I had a very scraggly looking older gentleman at a Wal-Mart (wearing an “I heart goats” shirt), start to approach me with his hand sticking out towards my stomach. It is your right to politely say, “No thanks,” or to quickly walk away!)
4. Do NOT make certain comments: A friend of mine who JUST had her baby posted about this on facebook last week, and I understood exactly what she was talking about. Again, with good intentions, sometimes people say things without turning their filter on. Comments such as, “Wow, you look like you’re going to pop!” or, “You’re HUGE!”, or , “Ya got twins in there or something?” can sometimes irritate an already tired and hormonal pregnant woman, who is also probably dealing with some body image issues. Just some food for thought…
Things TO do:
1. Offer to prepare a meal: This is something we often think of after a woman has had her baby (and trust me, that is a HUGE blessing too!) However, lots of women have a very hard time during their pregnancy, and a meal from a friend would be a very meaningful gesture. I know that with my first pregnancy, I was so sick that all I could do was lay on the couch and try not to puke. The sight and smell of food made me sick, and I wasn’t able to prepare dinner for my husband very often. If someone had offered to bring us a meal, I would have rested a bit easier, and felt better knowing he had something to eat other than a peanut butter sandwich (again!) Even for women who aren’t sick, an evening where she didn’t have to cook for her family would be a welcomed break. Pregnancy can really tire a woman out, and any little gesture would be appreciated.
2. Offer to watch their other children: If a pregnant woman you know has other children at home ( especially that aren’t in school), offer to take them for the day, for a few hours, or for an evening. When you are pregnant with your first child, you have the option to go to bed at 6, to lay on the couch after work, to sit and read all evening, etc…When you are pregnant and have children, your world doesn’t get to stop just because you are pregnant. I don’t know any pregnant lady with children that would turn down the opportunity to have a few hours alone..
3. Offer to rub their back – (As a caveat, I would say to ask first, as I have a few friends who really don’t like to be touched), but 90% of pregnant women will happily accept a massage! Recently, a friend of mine simply reached over and rubbed my back during our MOPS group, and wow….it was heavenly! It was only for a few minutes, but I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that gesture.
4. Support their decisions, whether you agree with them or not : A pregnant lady has enough to deal with, without having to have an argument with a friend over a parenting decision. I really do think that talking about parenting can be uglier than discussing politics. So, no matter where you stand on organic/non-organic, breast-feeding/bottle-feeding, co-sleeping/crib sleeping, nurture/cry it out, sleep training/baby’s schedule, just smile and support your friend. I don’t agree with everything my friends do, and I know they don’t all agree with me either. What really makes a friendship special is when two friends can just appreciate that their friend is doing what works for THEM. I feel so much love when a friend simply offers their support.
Love your pregnant friends. Tell them they are beautiful (even if they are puffy and swollen). If they are stubborn and don’t accept help, do it anyways. Smile, support, and be their shoulder to cry on, ear to vent to, and arms to fall into when they are just too tired to keep going. Trust me, for those of you who already do these things, we pregnant ladies are truly grateful!