I’m at the age when most of my friends have decided it’s time to grow their families. There have been dinners where pregnancies are announced, and baby showers, and afternoons spent folding teeny-tiny clothing.
And then there have been messages saying, “I’ve miscarried” and phone calls telling me to please pray because a pregnancy is complicated and worst of all invitations to funerals of babies who failed to live more than a few hours.
I can find plenty of information on the internet about how to support grieving moms and dads, but not so much on how to help friends who are just going through a complicated pregnancy or have the worry of congenital disorders stealing joy from the experience.
Having never been pregnant myself, I spoke to a couple of moms who have had difficult pregnancies and made notes of how to help.
Meals: I often think of taking the family meals in the weeks after birth but meals in the weeks leading up to the birth can be just as helpful and relieve the stress of shopping and preparing meals.
Massages: Safe-touch is one of the best ways to help mom and baby increase their serotonin levels. Vouchers for pedicures or preggy massages can help mom feel better and help her health.
Presence: Create opportunities to just hang out with them. Be real, ask them how they really are, but don’t push the issue and be guided by their response.
Support their decisions: Difficult pregnancies often mean the couple is required to make complicated decisions. Support what they decide and don’t offer advice unless they ask you for it. If you don’t know what to say, try and introduce them to people who have been through a similar situation.
Be excited with them: Just because the pregnancy isn’t going smoothly doesn’t mean this child won’t bring joy. Don’t be scared to ask questions about the pregnancy or dream with them about their future child. Don’t make every conversation about the complications.
Babysit: If they already have kids take them off the parents hands for a night or even a couple of hours.
Gifts of beauty: When my husband had cancer a friend gave me a flowering cactus with a note that said, “Hope and beauty still exist in the midst of hard things.” I still hold on to that tangible symbol.
If you’re the boss: Tell them to head home an hour earlier on Friday. Remember, not only are they going through the normal ups and downs of pregnancy, but also that they have added emotional stress.
Grieve with them: If they lose their child find a way to celebrate their child’s life with your friend. Use the baby’s name (if you know it), ask to look at pictures if they took any and consider giving them a gift to remember. One person received a necklace with the birthstone of the month they lost their baby and says it was so healing to know that others were celebrating and grieving their baby with them.