As a visibly pregnant woman, I’ve noticed some clear trends in the small talk I have with friends, family, and even strangers. There’s typically polite chatter about when I’m due (soon), how I’m feeling (big), if my partner and I know the sex of the baby (yes, a girl), and if we have a name ready (yep, but we’re not sharing it yet). However, now that my due date is just around the corner, I’ve got a bit more perspective on what would be even more helpful than polite platitudes, however well intentioned they may be. In fact, I think it can be boiled down to one simple question to ask a woman before her due date:
“What do you need to feel more ready?”
There are countless things that I can think of that friends or loved ones, or yep, even acquaintances or strangers could do to help, if given the opportunity.
At this point in my pregnancy, when I can count the weeks until I meet my daughter on one hand, and when each twinge in my stomach or cramp in my side makes me pause and gasp while I ask myself, "Is this it?" I can admit that, yes, I'm mostly ready for my impending labor and delivery. The baby clothes are washed and folded in the dresser, the crib is correctly assembled, and the changing table is in place (although, we should probably stock up on diapers, now that I think about it). Our son understands, as much as possible, that the baby in mom’s tummy will be a part of our family soon, and the grandparents are all ready and waiting for their phones to ring.
However, I still don’t think I’ll ever be completely ready. There’s an element of unknown when it comes to birthing and meeting a new baby that, no matter how many checklists I complete, or books that I read, or courses I attend at our local hospital, I simply won’t know until it happens. Even though I've done it before, every birth, and every baby is different. I can only mentally prepare so much.
Plus, there are always more house projects to get out of the way and chores to accomplish, especially when I know I'm going to be totally and completely distracted, overwhelmed, and exhausted for weeks, if not months, in the very near future. I'm beginning to accept the fact that I may not get around to scrubbing the kitchen floor before this baby arrives (unless my nesting instincts are about to go off the charts), and that's something I'll just have to live with.
That said, there are countless things that I can think of that friends, loved ones, and even acquaintances and strangers could do to help, if given the opportunity.
For example, my spouse could help dig out boxes of our son’s old toys from the garage, and remind me how awesome I did during my first labor and delivery (even if “awesome” isn’t the word he’d use, it’s the one I need to hear right now). He could also make sure our good camera is charged and not still full of pictures from that previous birth, and also make absolutely sure there are a significant amount of snacks ready to go in our hospital bag.
However, I still don’t think I’ll ever be completely ready. There’s an element of unknown when it comes to birthing and meeting a new baby that, no matter how many checklists I complete, or books that I read, or courses I attend at our local hospital, I simply won’t know until it happens.
My parents could reassure me that their car is fully gassed and their own bags are packed for whenever that "it's go time" call comes their way.
My best mom friends could remind me of all those simple hacks that I’m probably forgetting, like having plastic utensils and paper plates on hand to decrease the amount of dirty dishes my partner and I would have to tackle, and pre-loading apps on my phone to help me remember feedings, diapers, naps, and whatever else I’ll be tracking in a few short weeks.
Acquaintances, and even strangers, could simply refrain from telling me horror stories about women they know who’ve almost died during labor. I seem to be a magnet for these kinds of tales when I'm late into my pregnancy, and they’re not exactly helpful. Even if everything turned out OK, I don’t need the visuals, Erin. I just don’t.
Deep down I know that, ultimately, readiness is merely a state of mind and my body will handle things whether or not we have enough size one diapers stashed in the changing table, or any lasagnas in the freezer at home
And, seriously, anyone who’s more skilled in the kitchen than I am could bring a meal for our freezer. I know that’s a tall order, but if we’re being honest here, that would indeed help me feel more ready. My partner and I (and our soon-to-be family of four) would probably benefit from scheduling a house cleaner, too, because dusting and vacuuming are about to slip way down on the priority list.
Logically I know there’s nothing really stopping me from straight-up asking for this support myself, and I probably will be making a few requests in the coming weeks. However, the day-to-day routine of a very pregnant woman (who works and already has a toddler) doesn’t always lend itself to advocating for oneself. I can only imagine how moms with more kids, or tighter schedules or more deadlines than I have, might be feeling. Sometimes, we need to be reminded to ask for what we need.
Instead of asking about due dates or birth plans, simply ask what you can do to help a pregnant woman feel more prepared to do something truly incredible.
Deep down I know that, ultimately, readiness is merely a state of mind and my body will handle things whether or not we have enough size one diapers stashed in the changing table, or any lasagnas in the freezer at home. I know that yes, of course, bringing this baby safely into the world is indeed my biggest priority, especially over clean floors and stocked hospital bags and curated snack stashes.
However, having the reassurance and support and extra things checked off the to-do list can certainly make the whole process feel slightly less overwhelming. The most important thing that any woman needs, pregnant or not and bringing a new baby into the world or not, is support. So, instead of asking about due dates or birth plans, simply ask what you can do to help a pregnant woman feel more prepared to do something truly incredible.