For first-time mothers, knowing what they need precisely in terms of support can be a challenge. So here are some ways you can support your friend.
I was pregnant in the summer of 2020. If you remember, it was the summer of lockdowns and limited human contact. It was the corona summer. For the most part, my pregnancy was smooth. Of course, I learned many new things and feelings too. But the one thing I never imagined I would need to know was my needs from my friendships during pregnancy.
Imagine you have lived your life knowing what you need or at least having an idea. Then suddenly, you are in the middle of the beautiful miracle that is growing a baby. Then you realize you need your friends, but you need them differently. This scenario was my reality.
At the height of the pandemic, people kept to themselves because the pandemic was still new, and we all didn’t quite grasp the impact it would have on our lives. Then as time progressed, we kept to ourselves, first to follow the rules and secondly to try and remain as healthy as possible. Therefore, I spent my first trimester learning when to share the news with friends and my workplace, and such. And I was learning all these in seclusion because of the lockdowns. So, before you realize you are already in your second trimester, you have found a way to figure out things by yourself.
Of course, I wasn’t the only one in this situation. As I joined online platforms of pregnant women, it was clear that navigating friendships was a hot-button issue.
So how do you support someone that doesn’t know what they need from you?
Talk to them honestly and frequently
I felt like I talked to my friends. But there were things I couldn’t ask friends that were already mothers. Things like how they decided to share their news or settled on a name or even something as simple and dynamic as they processed the many emotional changes.
The topics you can talk about with your friend are dependent on the kind of relationship you have. But don’t be offended if they don’t come asking you for advice. There were many times I tried communicating with my friends; however, there was no breakthrough.
Now, of course, we were all navigating the new normal the pandemic brought. We were all figuring out how to live with limited physical contact. And here I was additionally learning new ways my body could feel and stretch. I was so emotionally tired that I learned not to talk. However, I had friends who kept talking to me. Friends who, even when I couldn’t respond quickly, still checked in on me. And in reverse, I found it easier to talk candidly to those that shared their personal experiences with me.
Some topics you can talk about are your experience at the hospital. Do try and stick to the facts. Don’t be a fear-monger or a shamer. You can also talk about how many clothes you needed for your newborn. I went to the hospital with a size 50 outfit, and my child came home in size 56 clothes because he was long. I had done my research, but it would have been fantastic to share this with someone. Next, you can talk about any pregnancy symptoms, mainly to do with hormonal change. On some days, I struggled with motivating myself and was worried about what was happening. But then those periods would pass, and all would be well again. Finally, you can talk about things you did to prepare for postpartum life.
There are so many things one can discuss. So if you want to support your pregnant friend, talk to them and have empathy that they are going through a significant transition in their lives. If you are already a mother, then respectfully share your experiences with them. There is no need to let your friend go through something avoidable just because you didn’t share. So again, talk RESPECTFULLY to your pregnant friends.
Listen (or read) keenly
When people talk, listen completely. Unfortunately, most people don’t Listen.
Listening is an art. When supporting your pregnant friend, do try to listen keenly or read their messages keenly. That way, you will help them the way they need instead of thinking they don’t need you at all.
Offer and persist
I did not know what I needed from my friends. The reason I didn’t realize was that I had never been in the position before. I didn’t know that I would need to get a car seatbelt extender, for example. Or that I would have days when I would feel overwhelmed by German bureaucracy. I didn’t know that I would become anxious about a daycare spot while only 20 weeks pregnant because childcare places are so few.
So it was reassuring when some friends offered to share their bureaucracy checklist with me. Or when another friend said I should change my insurance to ensure I am taken care of when I go on maternity leave.
So as a friend, you can offer your knowledge, provide your time and your presence. And don’t be discouraged that they didn’t take your offer the first time. Instead, be persistent in loving up on them and showing them grace.
These are the three main things that friends can do to support a pregnant friend who will become a first-time mother. Of course, I have to say; only you can gauge how much of yourself you can give to your friends. Only you know how your friend will react. But I believe you can apply these three things to anyone you consider a friend. Hopefully, you also meet the same treatment from them. Because just because your friend is pregnant doesn’t mean that they are emotionally incapable, but sometimes they may need a bit more kindness.