How to support a pregnant friend
You’ve celebrated every milestone in life together and been each other’s champion. You’ve probably given her partner the “take care of her OR you’ll answer to me” lecture too. And now that she is pregnant and ready to give you an adorable niece or nephew, you want to be supportive and helpful. Right?
To be honest, the best way you can help her would be by experiencing all the changes her body will go through during pregnancy and perhaps even take over labour pains. But since that isn’t possible, do the next best thing by being available for her as and when she needs you.
Here are some ways to help your pregnant best friend…
- Visit or call frequently
Everyone loves company, especially a pregnant woman whose activities and excursions may be limited. Take time out to call your girl or visit her for some fun conversations. Make an effort to talk about things other than her health and the baby. Since you know her well, you’ll know when the conversation needs to be led by you and when she should be allowed to ramble away. Note: Make sure all the visiting and calling is done keeping in mind the mother’s health.
- Be emotionally available
Remember what happens to you during those 3-4 days of PMS? Those crazy mood swings, cravings and that physical soreness? Now imagine that happening to you for nine whole months! That is the side effect of pregnancy. Be prepared to put your emotions on the back burner and allow your pregnant friend to express hers without feeling judged. As her best friend you will likely be the one, she’ll turn towards to talk about all the strange things she’ll learn daily. From confidence issues regarding her body to hunger pangs or random baby details, be a good listener.
- Accompany her for doctor visits, classes
A pregnant couple will try their level best to schedule doctor visits or shopping expeditions to suit both their times. But we are all aware of the pressures of a work life. Offer to accompany the pregnant woman to an appointment or go shopping with them if/when the partner is unable to turn up. The company of a friend is at times more comforting than that of a partner.
- Indulge her
And while you are out and about for the doctor visit, why not schedule in a pampering session at the salon or spa for a pedicure/manicure? The pregnant woman’s legs are carrying double the weight and need some tender loving. There’s also that little concern of not being able to see her feet over the growing bump. Try to indulge her taste cravings with a meal at her favourite food joint or accompany her as she shops for maternity clothes. Do as many of the fun things you did together before.
- Involve her in social gatherings
Pregnancy does not always mean being bedridden – unless the doctor says so – nor does it mean that the expectant mother has to be under house arrest! You simply need to be a little sensitive to the expectant mother’s needs; pregnancy is definitely not reason enough to ostracise someone from social gatherings as is often seen. Ensure your friend circle does not ignore her when planning social gatherings. Good company and conversations are what she needs at the time when hormones are playing ping-pong with her mood.
- Connect with mothers/pregnant women
Whether in the same city or not, if you are not a mother, you are likely to feel lost when your girl starts talking about certain issues. How about using social media to help her connect with groups of expecting mothers? Or perhaps get her in touch with another friend in her city who is a mother or is expecting herself? Help her built a reliable support system.
- Boost her confidence
She is probably feeling unwell through the day, struggling with mood swings and may be concerned about her physical appearance too. Boost her confidence with genuine compliments like “you are glowing” or “you look great” to make her feel better. Give her the reminder that she is a beautiful human being and her child will be lucky to have a mother like her!
- Plan a baby shower
Every country has its version of the baby shower and in most cases, the rituals have been combined with the more Westernised way of celebrations. If your friend does not have elders around to plan this shower, why don’t you take up the responsibility? Organise a traditional baby shower or take a step further and organise a grown-up version of the pyjama party with all the female friends for one last night of baby-free fun.
- Help her hunt for baby names
Picking names for the baby is part fun and part annoying owing the amount of research that is done and the constant flow of suggestions from family and friends. Volunteer your services to come up names, keep track of the more interesting suggestions and then help your friend and her partner shortlist them. Provided they want your help.
- Find a task for yourself
Since you are aware of your friends’ preferences, why not volunteer to do a task. Rather than ask her to tell you what she needs help with, tell her that you will “Come in on Saturdays after work to help with the housework” or “send food every Thursday for the first month”.
For the friend who is also a mother, here are some things to remember…
- Exercise caution when sharing experiences
Yes, you are experienced and experience should be shared. But let’s exercising caution whilst talking about the ‘horror’ stories, shall we? Refrain from colouring your friend's pregnancy with experiences that may or may not have been very comfortable. Not every pregnancy is the same. If your friend is fortunate to be enjoying a trouble-free gestation period, rather than comparing it with your pregnancy that may have been riddled with issues, congratulate her and boost her morale. If being positive is not your forte, stay away! Found people in your friend circle who are adding to the pregnant woman’s anxiety with scary pregnancy stories? Have a word with them in private.
- Balance the advising
Honesty is the best policy but find a balance for the same. Giving your pregnant friend a heads-up about the lesser-known and discussed aspects of pregnancy, childbirth, infant caring is a great idea. But it depends on the friend’s personality – she could be the kind who prefers to know every single detail or someone who wants to remain blissfully ignorant. You know your friend the best so let that knowledge help decide how many of those pregnancy and motherhood tips you should be sharing.
- Hand over those baby clothes
You’ve probably worn each other’s clothes so there is absolutely no reason why your children shouldn’t share clothes. If you’ve saved your infant’s clothes, consider handing them to the expectant mother. This gesture would be appreciated in more ways than one – raising a child is expensive and navigating the world of baby items can be stressful. Used clothes will help cut down cost and will be one less thing for the mother to tackle. Share other baby paraphernalia along with advice.
- Maternity bag help
It doesn’t matter how old your child is, every mother remembers that hospital ride and stay. Use that experience to help the expectant mother put together the crucial hospital stay bag. From listing the essentials to helping her source the items, give as much as you can. You can also read up the checklist for a maternity bag.
For all the support and love one may want to give the expectant mother, there are certain behaviours that fall under the ‘don’t’ category…
- Don’t share scary stories/ videos
Why would you want to scare a pregnant woman with horrifying videos and stories? Imagine this, if you are down with a cold and a ‘well-wisher’ starts talking about this random individual who thought he/she had a summer cold that later turned out to be cancer. Scary? Moral of the story – no scary stories or videos.
- Don't be judgemental or condescending
Don’t be the person who passes unhelpful and condescending comments based on your personal experiences or what you may have heard. Statements like “wait until the baby comes home!” or “forget being able to sleep!” and “look how small/big you are” are not reassuring. Nor are comments about food choices, their hospital choices, household management decisions and whether she is being careful enough. Trust your friend, her partner and doctor to make educated and informed choices.
- Don't comment on her size
Yes, it is the first thing you would notice about a pregnant woman. That does not require you to pass a comment though. Body shaming is a strict NO at any time, pregnant or not.
- Don’t comment on the child’s looks
You can forgive a child for an innocent observation like “the baby is wrinkled”. The child is unaware that a new-born does not look like the ones seen in baby product commercials. But the same acceptance cannot be extended to an adult. Refrain from commenting on the new-born baby’s appearance, its complexion or resemblance to a family member.
- Don't expect to be entertained
You may be dying to see the new-born baby and cuddle it. But before you do that, give a thought to the new parents and your expectations. Will you be inconveniencing the parents and their attempts to settle into a new routine? Will you be expecting them to sit and chat with you? Do you expect them to entertain you? The answer should be no! Connect with the new parents before you land at their doorstep to socialise.