Friday, May 24, 2013

How to Be a Friend to Someone With a High-Risk Pregnancy

Chances are you know someone who has or is currently going through a high-risk pregnancy. Pregnancies get classified as high-risk for a multitude of reasons, including, multiples, history of miscarriages, genetic issues, and mother's health. Our pregnancy was classified as high-risk due to me carrying quadruplets.

I learned very quickly that all of the social screens that people normally have go straight out the window in a situation like mine. In their defense, I wouldn't have known what to say to me either. Where do you even start when you have a friend who is dealing with a pregnancy so high-risk, that there is a very real possibility she could lose her baby or babies? It's hard to know what to say, so I hope I can shed some light on what us high-risk mommies like to hear...and what we'd prefer you keep to yourself.

Avoid Extremes.
Just in case you get distracted before you finish reading this post, let's start with the most important one.

There are two sides to this: The first is that some people feel like they need to tell the mommy-to-be that everything is going to turn out fine and great. While that is extremely positive, it's not necessarily true. She knows it. You know it. We all know it. Remaining positive about advances in medicine and being available to help is awesome, but there is no need to harp on the rainbows and sunshine which may not be heading her direction.

The other side is that some people try to offer death support while the baby is still living. Bless their hearts. *sigh* Y'all, I can't express to you enough how unhelpful this is in a high-risk situation. While a comment like this often comes from the best of intentions, it is like taking a knife and running it through the mommy's heart. From personal experience, I can vouch that any mommy in a high-risk pregnancy knows that there is a chance her baby won't make it. One of the first things a doctor does is sit down with the parents of the child and give them all of the statistics of why the baby WON'T make it. That's par for the course. And if the baby passes, then those same doctors will direct the mommy to some resources to get her started. At that point, then it is okay to gently pass on your own resources. But not before then. Please don't be misguided into thinking that it's helpful to offer them before something tragic happens.

No Extra Touching.
What is it about pregnant women and the need for the world to touch them? It's kind of funny really...unless you are the one being touched. On top of that, I've found that having a high-risk pregnancy makes you even more high-risk for unsolicited touching. Do you have a mommy friend who is going through a tough pregnancy? Please don't touch her stomach. Or face. Or hair. Or rub her back. Or any of that, unless you know her well enough to know her preferences. When I was pregnant, I was okay with foot rubs, but would go all ninja on a person if they tried to touch my face. Why? Because I didn't want to catch germs, get sick, and put my high-risk pregnancy at more...erm...high risk. Even if you personally loved being touched while carrying a child, it is much more polite to give the mother-to-be some space. And if you are absolutely dying to give her a back rub, just ask first!

Don't Bring Up the High Risk Situation Every Single Time
So your friend just found out that her pregnancy isn't going to be the perfect one represented in movies. She definitely needs your support, but not necessarily your verbal support every time you see her. The best way I have to describe a high-risk pregnancy is like walking around with a time bomb in your stomach. The doctors have given you the statistics, you know what you are supposed to do, and you also know that even if you do everything right, it still might not go your way. Things can change in an instant, and life will never be the same again. She is always aware of what she is carrying even if she has a smile plastered on her face.

A good friend helps a mom going through a high-risk pregnancy forget what is looming over her, even if it's just for 30 minutes. She will still know you care if you don't dwell on the pregnancy every single time you see her.

Treat the Mommy like a normal person.
This can as easily be true for all mommies regardless of how scary or routine their pregnancy is. Just because a friend gets pregnant does not mean that she is no longer herself. She still has the same likes and dislikes (unless we are talking about which case, I can't help you.) Treat her like a normal person.

My favorite story from my pregnancy happened during one of our doctor's visits. I was probably about 10 weeks pregnant with quadruplets, and my husband asked the high-risk doctor for a handicap parking sticker for the car. When the doctor asked why, my husband responded that I was pregnant with quadruplets. The doctor, who obviously knew the situation, looked at me, looked back at my husband, and then said, "But she isn't disabled. She's just pregnant."

But You REALLY Want to Help
There is a fine line between helping and overwhelming. Odds are that your friend won't want to directly ask you for help (that's a whole other blog post right there!). The easiest way to start helping is to offer to do something specifically. Saying, "Do you need help with anything?" is extremely vague and they won't know if you really mean it. Saying, "Can I pick up your laundry, wash it, and return it this week?" or "Can I bring you a hot meal on Monday?" is much more effective. You are letting them know that you've already thought about it and are very willing to do that particular task. It takes some of the stress off of the mom when she knows that you asked to mop her floor!

Prayers not Pity.
There is a big difference between pity and sympathy. Pity is when you just feel bad for someone. It's the idea, "Oh, I can't believe that happened to her." Sympathy is when you understand another person's feelings on a deep level and strive to stand with them through what they are dealing with. It's when your heart breaks as their heart breaks and you actively look for ways in which to ease their burden at personal cost (financially, physically, emotionally) to yourself.

As a mom who has dealt with a high-risk pregnancy, I can promise you that we can read a pity-filled face a mile away. Please, don't pity a mom who is struggling. It does nothing for her and honestly minimizes the often too short time that she gets to spend with her baby. She doesn't regret the pregnancy, because she would die in a instant if she could guarantee safe passage for her child.

Instead, pray without ceasing for strength for her, safety for her baby, and a better understanding of what she is going through. If you are weighted down with prayers for her and her family, then you are showing sympathy which IS helpful.

And finally, I really appreciate you caring enough about your friend to WANT to know the best way to help her handle her pregnancy. On her behalf, thank you!


  1. Great post Rebecca! My pregnancy was high risk for very different reasons, but I experienced many of the same problems that you described. I hope people take it to heart.

  2. I agree, this is a great post. Even by well meaning people, I heard my share of comments, from insensitive to down right crazy (such as the response to my need for weekly ultrasounds, someone commented that "doctor's are too safe now a days".... and sadly just a month or so later, I lost the baby just a few months before my due date. Thanks for writing this great blog!

    1. Oh no! I'm so sorry to hear that. I don't think there is a "too safe" when it comes to pregnancy. I wish your friends had been more sensitive. Hopefully they are in the future.

  3. This is great, Rebecca! I really do think most people are well-meaning and this post can help us to be more sensitive. Very helpful tips here!

  4. Let me add: comments about the wisdom of future pregnancies need to be kept to yourself. I had two high risk pregnancies and I was amazed at comments about why I shouldn't think about doing it again.... ugh! That's a conversation for the woman, her doctor, and her husband, nobody else!

    1. Indeed! I think people think they are being helpful. Sometimes the most helpful thing a friend can do is just listen.

  5. I think the handicap parking sticker is a guy thing. My husband asked for one after they told me not to be on my feet very long when they said I had preeclampsia with the twins. They did not give us one either ;)

    1. Lol! So glad I'm not the only mother-to-be that had to listen to that question. Love our guys though! They just wanted to protect us!

  6. I spent a very long time in bed and had some challenges too. I am SO glad you shared this, people I think want to help and just don't know how

  7. OK, so my sister-in-law has recently found out that her baby has a severe congenital heart defect. Baby will be fine as long as he's in the womb, but as soon as he's born he will be facing multiple surgeries and eventually a heart transplant and be at constant risk of stroke or heart failure. SO, I have no idea what to do about her baby shower. I know she still wants one, but being a mother myself I can not for the life of me contemplate having clothes, toys, etc. for a baby that has died. But I want her and baby to feel loved and celebrated, I need advice please


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