How to deal with a pregnant/new parent friend
At this point, now that I have a 1 month old, I think I’m qualified to explain what to do and NOT do with someone expecting, or who just had, a kid. Some ranting ensues:
- Don’t send them negative media. Sending articles about why it’s better to be childless, or how bad for the planet a baby is, how much babies cost, or anything like that is just plain rude. If you had just bought a home, and I gleefully sent you websites that said “Only idiots buy houses”, I would be a jerk for raining on your parade. Maybe I’m ok with living in an apartment or condo forever, but you made your choice to purchase a house. I should be happy for you, or at the very least, keep my damn mouth shut since it’s too late to change anything now.
- Don’t ask about parenting decisions. “What if he wants to go to [name expensive college]?” “What age will you get him a cell phone?” How about you let me worry about birthing the kid before I concern myself with any of that crap? Do I really need to decide those things right now? I mean, I have a few years before he can even make sentences. I don’t think we need to decide Harvard or Yale until he’s at least 5.
- Don’t ask “Are you getting rid of your pets?” No. Why the hell would I? On the off-chance that my baby Nacho might be allergic? When you adopt a pet (and all of ours are rescues) you make a commitment to house that animal for its whole life. Obviously if one of the cats was to try and hurt Nacho, we would adopt it out, but let’s cross that bridge when we get to it. And why is that a question people ask? Also, don’t say “Once you have a baby, your dog will just be your dog, not a baby”. RUDE.
- Don’t bring up possible medical problems. “What if he has [name horrible incurable disease/disability]?” Any expectant parent is ALREADY worrying about that stuff. Don’t bring it up. This is just another way to crap on my joy. Remember, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
- Don’t bring up tragedies. “Did you hear about that newborn that [insert horrible tragedy, i.e. ‘died in a fire’, ‘got eaten by tigers’]? What would you do if that happened?” Again, I am already worried about all of that. I don’t need you reminding me that horrible things happen. If you have no other point of reference to discuss children other than child slavery, just talk about something else entirely. Just because I’m gestating doesn’t mean my brain died. I still listen to NPR and read books. We can talk about North Korea or Game of Thrones; take your pick.
- Don’t gloat. You can drink alcohol and eat sushi, go to the gym, and sleep in. Good for you. I KNOWINGLY made a different choice. Hell, I had a kid so I have an excuse not to go to the gym. It’s much more understandable than “I was leveling up my mage in Skyrim”.
- Don’t concern yourself with my diet or medical needs. If you are not MY OBGYN or pediatrician I don’t need to hear your opinion you read online once, or that thing your grandma told you. Saying “Should you be eating that?” or “That’s bad for the baby” should be grounds for public caning. Unless you see a pregnant woman doing something blatantly dangerous, like smoking or stunt driving, keep your mouth shut. Even if you are a qualified medical professional, you are not MY qualified medical professional.
- Don’t share your parenting or pregnancy horror stories. You have 3 kids and want me to be prepared for the bad things: “Just wait until he has explosive diarrhea!”, “You’re going to have to do something with all those books, or else he’ll ruin them all”, “Say goodbye to your boobs!” (<—actual quote), or “Little Johnny threw up on our wedding album on purpose, then burned my wedding dress in the yard!” I get it, you’ve been in the trenches before me, and you want me to be prepared, but there are so few opportunities in life to be joyful. Unless your story is hilarious, at least ask if I want to hear it.
All of these boil down to “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”. And yes, all of these happened to me.
- Don’t touch a pregnant woman without her permission. If your best friend is pregnant, it’s probably fine to rub her belly. Stranger in the grocery store? Not so much. I don’t care how delighted you are, and how excited you are by the miracle of life. Would you walk up to a non-pregnant random stranger and rub their belly? No (or you should stop, please). She still deserves her personal bubble of space. I was very lucky not to experience this. I think it’s because I have a naturally forbidding face, which is good because I am VERY protective of my bubble. I hate places like concerts, festivals, or popular discotheques (that’s where the cool kids hang out, right? Right??) because of all the sweaty people pressed up against me. Blurg. Keep in mind, pregnant people are people, too. This goes for new babies also. First, WASH YOUR HANDS. Then say to the new parent “I just washed my hands, can I hold the baby?”
- Don’t buy giant items or noisy toys. Stick to the baby registry, or else say “My friend’s baby love such-and-such, would you like one?” or “Do you have room for a rocking chair?” And whatever you buy, get a gift receipt if you can, and tape it to the item! It’s always possible to get duplicates, even with gift registries, so make returns as easy as possible.
Ok, enough negativity. What should you do?
- Do bring food. Especially something I can just microwave and stuff in my face. It’s a good idea to text or message ahead of time to ask about food preferences, allergies, and freezer capacity. When the baby is brand new, lots of people are probably bringing food over, so bringing something that is frozen or can be frozen can be a big help. That way the new parents have food a couple weeks from now, also, and don’t have to worry about eating everything before it goes bad. Baked goods are great, but abundant, so bringing a casserole or soup can be helpful. I ate SO MANY Christmas cookies this year! You could even bring some basic groceries, like paper towels and toilet paper. You know they’ll get used, and it might save a trip to the store.
- Offer to help, but offer something specific. What are you good at or willing to do? It’s much easier if you say something concrete like, “I can mow your lawn Saturday morning, does that work for you?”, “I can’t cook, so let me come mop your floors”, “Can I come play with your baby while you take a shower?”, or “I’m going to the store, what can I bring you?” rather than “Do you need anything?” I may have a totally different idea of what I’d like you to do versus what you’re willing to do. For pregnant ladies, try to think of something they can’t do themselves, like lifting heavy things, or reaching things that are very high up or low down.
- Be unobtrusive. Send a text or email rather than calling if you can, because you never know when they might have just gotten a colicky baby to fall asleep, or have finally fallen asleep themselves, or are at a doctor’s appointment. Offer to drop off food instead of visiting, and if you do visit, keep it short. The new parents might protest, but if they’re yawning, you get out of there.
- Tell them they look good. If a woman is hugely pregnant or just had a baby, you tell her she looks great (but don’t use the word “glowing”). Tell new parents their baby is adorable. Reality does not matter, just say something nice.
We are so fortunate to have so many fantastic friends and family members that did so much for us. Sara of the Long Red Hair brought us a ton of food, about half of it already labeled and frozen. My sister, Beans, did an awesome photo shoot of my new little family. Lots of people brought food and gifts.
My brain twin Kornberg went above and beyond when I got pregnant. First. she volunteered to pick up Flapjack and dog sit while we were in the hospital, something it hadn’t even occurred to me to think about. When I went into labor, I sent her a text so she knew to get Flapjack. While Hubby and I were at the hospital, she changed the cat boxes, took out the trash, and did the dishes. While I was in labor, she sent me funny stuff on Facebook to distract me. When we came home from the hospital and she brought Flapjack home, she brought us a homemade casserole, listened to me blabber on about my precious, adorable baby, and only stayed a couple hours. Of course, being my brain twin is a special bond, and it was all incredibly thoughtful and helpful.
Now us breeders are not off the hook for appropriate behavior. See part 2 here.