Those who are regular readers of my blog, know that each year I write a special blog for Roe V Wade's Anniversary. Previous blogs are The Perfect Boy and 52 Million Kids Who Can't Change the World. This year I've decided to write from my own personal experiences and hurts from 17 years ago when I was pregnant with Grace. I want to give advice on how to care for a friend facing an unplanned pregnancy and what not to do. So here is my advice....
HOW TO CARE FOR A FRIEND FACING AN UNPLANNED PREGNANCY
Its been 17 years, but I can still be brought to tears by the good and bad memories of how friends and family cared for me during my unplanned pregnancy with my oldest daughter Grace. I have always been a strong, independent person, but facing a pregnancy as a single person brought out crippling fears and irrational concerns. To realize that I was about to be ultimately responsible for feeding, nurturing, supervising, financial supporting another person was overwhelming. To realize that person would depend on me for their every need 24 hours a day/7days a week for several years was exhausting. To know that I would mold this person's self-esteem, character and world views was humbling. After all what made me qualified, and knowing that I could harm this child if I wasn't perfect...and who can be...was frightening. Plus the stresses that I was adding on myself by feeling that I had already messed up...the timing wasn't right, the relationship wasn't right....I had barely started the parenting journey and I couldn't help but feel that I had already failed in several areas. Yet I hid these feeling and fears. My emotions were a field of landmines and few people knew.
Here are a few suggestions for how to help a friend in a situation like I faced and for how not to help.
|One of my favorite memories, being invited|
out to the theatre at 7 months pregnant.
Don't make jokes about my past failures. My least favorite, "You can't even keep the plant in your office alive."
Don't comment or ask me about the birth father or our relationship. If the mother wants you to know, she'll tell you and some days she may not even know where that relationship is or isn't going. My least favorite, "I thought he really loved you. Where is he now?" I felt like I had been kicked in the chest twice; once by the birth father and now by this friend.
Don't ask me how I'm going to do "it". My list of "it" is longer than yours. You may be thinking of affording child care. I may be thinking of affording to finish school, the cost of diapers, the lack of sleep and the child care! If you know of resources that might lighten the load I'm carrying, don't tell me about it over dinner where the reminder of stress can ruin the enjoyment of eating out with a friend. Please get me a brochure or send me a web site link, but let me digest the options in my own time, privately.
Some please DO's:
Tell me I'm going to be a great mom and why. Be genuine. I'm your friend and surely I have one redeeming quality that you would want in a parent. Let me know that my new small family will be awesome because I am awesome.
Remind me that I make good choices. Remind me that pregnancy can be unplanned and a surprise, but a baby is never a mistake.
Call me, email me, write me and remind me frequently that you care about me and want me to take the best care of me and my baby. If you are the type that likes such things, offer to attend those awkward prenatal classes and mom-to-be fairs with me. If those aren't your cup of tea, invite me on a walk or a picnic, or bring me a healthy snack basket with yogurt and fresh fruits.
Ask me about when my next doctor visit is and check on me after that appointment. Let me know that you're thinking and/or praying for me.
Send a practical gift after the baby is here. Moms (and dads, if they are involved) facing unplanned pregnancies are usually tight on funds. Gift cards, diapers, and cash are all very usable. An infant can live a good life with a few outfits, but life without diapers, laundry soap, and quarters for the laundromat can quickly become overwhelming.
The best gift may be your time. Offer to help write thank you notes, pickup/wash laundry, make dinner, drop by a frozen meal, clean house or babysit. Please don't just do this once after the baby is born. Remember, as a single mom, I just started a long marathon and I'll appreciate your help as much or more when my infant becomes a toddler.
If my child is being adopted, then help me fill my days in the months after the adoption. Remember me with a note or small gift in my child's honor on their birthday and a quick note of support on Mother's Day will mean so much. You won't be reminding me because I'll always remember, but I will feel loved because you remember too.