Your best friend is having a baby! News that is sure to give you all the feels...excitement, happiness, maybe a bit of fear that things are going to change big time also in your relationship or even jealousy if you have been hoping to become a mum yourself for some time. What is certain is that this is an incredible time of change for your friend, physically, emotionally and having a supportive girlfriend by your side can make a tremendous difference. We all want to be a good friend but when it comes to having babies our own emotions or experience can have a heavy influence and create unwanted tension or misconceptions. So what can you do for your friend who is having a baby?
1. Hold back on your own story or emotions around pregnancy, birth and beyond.
Let's kick off with the most powerful one: We all have our own emotions, thoughts, stories, concepts, ideas and maybe trauma when it comes to pregnancy and birth. How often do you hear someone talk about birth in a negative way? Share a 'horror story' of a birth that went on forever and was nothing but pain? Or this one: 'Just take the drugs and you'll be fine!' Ask yourself what you want for your friend and how you can positively support her in the experience: Words are incredibly powerful and can make you feel disempowered and scared before the journey has even begun. So, choose your words wisely, let HER set the tone she is aiming for in her preparation for birth and beyond. And if you have had a difficult birth experience yourself acknowledge that this was YOUR experience and your friend is entitled to create her own story. It is totally ok if she asks you questions on your birth to say 'As you know my experience wasn't easy or what I hoped for but I believe you can have a much more positive experience and I want to support you in whichever way I can.' Your pregnant friend is not the person to process your OWN birth stuff with.
2. This is her journey, not yours.
It kind of ties in with the first one but because it's the foundation in positively supporting a pregnant friend I'll make it extra clear: This is not your journey but it is hers. These are her decisions, thoughts, choices and the journey she is ready for at this time in her life. If you are asked you can offer an opinion or advice but always be thoughtful around your wording and otherwise hold back on giving advice. We are bombarded with well intended 'advice' from everyone around us including random people at the supermarket when pregnant and it can be incredibly powerful to be that friend where she feels no judgment, is safe to express her choices without being shot down and, most of all, be that someone who mainly listens rather than talks.
3. Encourage her to connect with the transformational power of birth
Wow, that's a mouthful, hey? Let me explain what I mean by that as it is the foundation to how we approach our pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Having a baby and birth is a transformative time in a woman's life like no other. I have not met a woman who has forgotten about her birth, the emotional experience stays with us forever. Most women will tell you there is a clear 'before and after' in their lives when it comes to becoming a mother. And when we acknowledge that what we are about to do for our lives is BIG, like really big, we need to take it seriously and realise that our decisions, choices, our approach and preparation is powerful. Giving birth is an incredible opportunity of self growth for a woman if she doesn't shy away from its power! So what can you as a girlfriend do to support your friend on this path? Encourage her to learn as much as she can about pregnancy and giving birth (aka taking responsbility), that her care provider is aligned with her approach to birthing (check birth stats!), remain open minded and asking questions, getting support (a doula!), speak positively about the process of birth and trusting her body. Or you simply say 'This is an incredible time in your life and if there's one thing I'd wish for you then it is to make your choices not from a place of fear but trust.' The rest is up to her (going back to #2...).
4. Celebrate the mother
We have the tradition to organise babyshowers for our friends and I've been privileged to have been invited to a few. I've noticed in recent years that they can take on the character of almost small wedding receptions with absolutely breathtaking food displays and cupcakes with decorations that could win competitions. Beautiful gifts that are all for the baby leaving the expecting mother with 38 muslin wraps and 74 bibs. Lots of women gathering all sharing the excitement of the soon to arrive baby but not a lot of acknowledgment or meaningful attention towards the woman and the journey that lies ahead of her. Imagine how powerful, how encouraging it would be for your pregnant friend to hear, feel and see the combined female connection of all the women in her lives during her babyshower! What can you all do for HER? How can you make her feel like the birthing goddess she is? What encouragement can you all give her for her birth? Use a babyshower as an opportunity to make her feel the most held she has ever been by all of her girls as she transitions from maiden to mother!
5. Protect and support her early postpartum
The early days at home with a new baby are full on and an experience that changes your life on all levels. Never in your life have you had to focus on something or someone for 24 hours without a break. What does your friend need? Rest, food, space, love. What can you do for her to facilitate those things? Can you offer to take her firstborn for a couple of hours? Hold back on your understandable desire to meet her new baby and not ask to visit but wait for her to offer? And when you do visit not ask to hold her baby but see if she is ready to pass him over and offer a cuddle? I work with many newborn mothers who reluctantly hand over their baby to lots of visitors, not because they feel it's what their baby needs but they feel pressured or expected to. During a visit offer to fold some clothes or quickly tidy the kitchen? Can you bring a meal, set up a mealtrain with friends or, even better, give her the gift of a postpartum meal service for the first week at home? (What do you think your friend would say to this gift at her babyshower from all of her friends?) Anything that will allow her to physically and emotionally recover is helpful without putting pressure on her. Offer to listen if she wants to talk about her birth but don't say too much other than how amazing she has been. It's early days and they often feel quite raw, it is a time to be held and hugged but not essentially process what has just happened.
There is a lot more I could say about how as women we can support other women in our lives in the time of pregnancy, birth and also motherhood but I hope these 5 tips help you to understand what is needed from us as friends and being the amazing girlfriend you want to be. If you'd like to learn more about the idea of a postpartum meal service as a babyshower gift you can read more here or get in touch with me! I absolutely love bringing nurturing and delicious food into the homes of newborn families.