The whole process of pregnancy is rough. The morning sickness, trying to control weight gain, saving enough money, learning to give yourself extra space for your tummy, oh my goodness the labor pains! It’s a lot to deal with. When that pregnancy is unexpected, it’s even more difficult to deal with. Figuring out whether or not to parent, telling the father, telling family, scrambling to get everything in order.
If you know someone going through an unplanned pregnancy, you can be of great help.
There’s always more room for support! But it can be challenging to know how to approach the subject and not feel like you’re getting in the way. Especially if you’ve never been pregnant (not to mention placed a child), just knowing the right things to say can seem overwhelming. Fret not! Here are some basics to help you help them!
One of the easiest things you can do to support your pregnant friend is to listen. It might seem cliché, but it’s very helpful. There are a million and one thoughts constantly swirling around and they need an outlet. They might not always be coherent or make a lot of sense, but this is a new and burdensome experience; they just need to let it out.
Offer advice with love.
Along those same lines, while you do your best to hear what they mean (not just what they say), feel free to give advice when it’s asked for! That in mind, please try not to control their situation. They should do what they feel is best. If you’re close with them, I’m sure they’ll consider your opinion, but please don’t try to sway them one way or another; this is their child. If you feel their decisions are morally wrong, voice your opinion, but don’t force them. If you become uncomfortable with their choices, you can kindly let them know and remove yourself from the situation.
That leads into the next suggestion: Set healthy boundaries, but try to be there when others aren’t. Only do what you’re comfortable with, but if you can be there for her when others aren’t, that will speak volumes. It can be something as simple as going to a doctor’s appointment with her when no one else can go, or something more enduring like having her stay at your home if the child’s father or her family don’t support her decisions. Never do anything you don’t feel comfortable with, but if you’re willing to help, it will be appreciated.
As you do your best to be supportive, please don’t sugarcoat things; be realistic about what every option could mean for her and the baby. Don’t give a false sense of security that can lead to irrational or unhealthy decisions. Every choice she makes will have an effect on her child, so she does need to understand the weight of her situation so she can make the best choices for her and her baby. With that in mind, please don’t make promises to help in ways that are outlandish and unsustainable. It’s not necessarily your job to fix her problems. It’s just helpful to assist her through them.
Just be there.
As you try to walk beside her through this overwhelming time, please don’t feel the need to “share her pain,” or go through something that “felt the same way,” or to even understand; just standing by her can be enough. This is a very personal experience and can’t easily be compared to someone else’s circumstances, especially when in the midst of it. It’s my humble opinion that trying to make parallels in these cases will do much more harm than good. She doesn’t want to hear that others have done the same thing and things turned out fine. She doesn’t want to have her choice to place compared to someone having to give their cat away because they moved. And she doesn’t want to have her experience “outdone” by someone else’s “harder challenges.” The life experiences of others don’t change hers.
Ultimately, let her do what she feels is right. Lend her a helping hand when possible, be a shoulder to cry on, let her bend your ear when she has a lot on her chest, try to do what others won’t, do your best to make sure she’s being safe, but please let the decisions be hers and hers alone. If she wants ice cream for dinner, don’t stop her. If she goes back and forth about placing and parenting, let her. If she says she doesn’t want help, keep your distance while doing little things to show her you’re always there. In most cases, she will eventually do what she thinks is best, and that’s all anyone can ask for. And I’m sure that’s all she can ask of you, too: to do your best.