Every expectant parent wishes for two seemingly simple things: an easy pregnancy and a healthy child at the end of it. But what happens when you’re suddenly faced with a slew of complications? How do you deal with the possibility that your baby might come too soon, or get sick, or is sick already? No one wants their pregnancy to fall under the category of “high-risk”, but according to the University of California San Francisco, 6-8% of all pregnancies are labeled as such. Reasons for being categorized as having a high-risk pregnancy vary and include everything from health problems in the mother (diabetes, autoimmune disease, PCOS, and previous miscarriages or pre-term labor, among other conditions), to lifestyle (alcohol, cigarette, and/or drug use), to age (being over 35 for your first pregnancy), and pregnancy-related issues such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes.
For my second pregnancy, I was immediately labeled high-risk due to the loss of my daughter after I went into pre-term labor at 22 weeks. While I was excited at the prospect of having another baby, I was also beyond stressed at the thought of another premature birth, and worse, at another loss. Being high-risk for me meant getting weekly ultrasounds and weekly hormone shots, eventually getting a cervical cerclage, and being monitored constantly. For a time, it also meant being on bed rest. It was an especially difficult time, and one which many high-risk mamas can relate to.
If you know a someone that is currently experiencing a high-risk pregnancy (whether it’s your spouse or your best friend or your sibling or your in-law), there are plenty of ways to be there for them, to show support, to lighten the burden of their difficult experience just a little bit.
Like Adele, Say “Hello” (And If You Bring Adele With You, No One Would Be Sad About That Either)
Having a high-risk pregnancy sometimes means being unable to do things you normally would, like go to work, go to school, or even leave your bed. It can get exceptionally lonely, and it’s even worse because we spend all that alone time thinking (read: worrying) about our babies ("Are they OK in there? Did they move enough today? Am I drinking enough water?") Start out with sending a simple text message or make a brief phone call just to see how your pregnant friend is doing. They might cut it short, or they might end up wanting to talk for hours. They’re going through some majorly scary shit though, so by all means, step up and listen.
“How Are You Feeling Today?”
After your initial hello, definitely ask them how they’re feeling, how they’re doing, how they’re dealing. Chances are they are dying to unload all the stress in their brain out on to someone else. And if they end up forgetting to ask how you are doing, remember that we often get “pregnancy brain”, so just volunteer the info. Seriously, we will be happy to hear about how others are doing. Makes us forget all our seemingly gigantic problems for at least a little while.
“How Was Your Last Appointment?”
High-risk parents' lives often revolve around appointments. Did they go see their OB yet? How about their maternal-fetal medicine specialist or any other health specialists they might need to see? Did they get an ultrasound? Was everything OK? They probably want to share this info off the bat but might refrain for fear of boring you. Ask them anyway. (And also be very willing to hear and respect if they say "I don't really want to talk about it." Beyond that, look for less direct clues that they don't really want to talk about it. You want to seem present and available to hear about what's going on with their health — not entitled to know.)
Ask About The Baby
All parents want to talk about their kids. In the case of someone going through a high-risk pregnancy, talking to them more about their baby than their pregnancy can really do a lot to help shake them out of their medical tedium and overthinking, and give them a chance to be excited, like any expecting parent should get to be. Before they're born, after they’re born — always. So ask them how the baby is doing. Have they been kicking a lot lately? Have you come up with any names? All things baby, baby.
“Want Some Company?”
Because many high-risk parents can’t really go out and socialize (for one, they’re pregnant so it's possible that their former haunts like smoky bars or dance clubs are out, and for another, they may be bed ridden or limited in how long they can stand/walk), they often appreciate a visit from a friendly face. If you're able to, volunteer to come by and maybe watch a few episodes of a show of their choice (Gilmore Girls? X-Files? Sons of Anarchy? Bring it. Bring all of it.) with them. Sometimes talking really feels too much like more thinking, and your pregnant loved one's brain might just be... over it. Sitting together and zoning out and laughing together is sometimes the more appreciated thing of all.
“Can I Bring Anything Over To You?”
If your friend accepts a visit, ask if you can bring them something: a special meal from the outside world, or magazines if they feel like pretending it's 1994 and the Internet doesn't exist, or hell, even some toiletries they haven’t gotten around to buying lately. If they don’t want company, message them another day and say you’re in the neighborhood and wanted to just drop something off real quick. Make them a small gift basket and surprise them with it. Our hormones will probably have us crying if you do, but it’s totally because we love you.
Offer To Clean Up A Bit
Just like errands might take a back seat during a high-risk pregnancy, household chores might also fall lower on the list of priorities. If you want to be an awesome friend, (gently) ask if they want a little help around the house. Or if you’re already on bestie status, you can always just get up to “use the bathroom” for a minute and load their dishwasher instead. (If you're super close with someone, their high-risk pregnancy is the time to take advantage of the awesome lack of boundaries between you and just be there for them in all the ways; If you're not super close with them, being there for them by gently pushing boundaries — gently — might be the thing that makes you super close.) They might feel a tad embarrassed, but mostly, they’ll feel relief at one less tiresome thing they need to do.
Ask If They Need Help Preparing For The Baby
If you’re already helping out with a baby shower, great. If you’re not (and you think maybe your friend would like one, or would like help planning their own), offer your services. And this isn’t limited to showers: Preparing for a baby also means buying supplies (stocking up on diapers and baby clothes, buying a crib or bassinet, etc.), putting together furniture, and baby proofing the house. Expectant parents can use all the help they can get.
Offer To Babysit Their Other Kids
Does your pregnant friend already have other kids (or pets) that need taking care of? Are they too exhausted to do much more than turn on the TV and pop in some microwaveable foods to keep the pack going? Offer to come by and lend a hand with the littles, or maybe even offer to take them out to the park or just around the neighborhood. It’ll give your friend some alone time to wind down, and maybe even take a nice, relaxing bath.
Give Updates On Your Other Friends/Relatives
The high-risk parent tends to be hyper-focused on themselves and their child. To be fair, this is probably what they should be doing. But it doesn't mean they're psyched about the attention it's taking away from the other people in their lives. And hell, even if they don't care about other people (other people are the worst, am I right?), they definitely care about gossip. Give them some updates on what’s going on among your circle of friends. It's a very worthwhile service.
Offer Positive, Uplifting Words
When your high-risk friend reveals just how freaked out they are (as they most likely will, because they most likely are), stay as positive as possible in your language. It doesn't mean you should discount their understandable not-so-positive feelings. Don't do that. Let them be scared, and pissed, and frustrated, and tired. But you be all the things that balance that: positive, encouraged, as thoroughly, unflappably convinced of their ability to get through this pregnancy and come out with a healthy baby as they are doubtful of it.
Images: phalinn/Flickr (1); Giphy (11)