Supporting A Friend With A Worrisome Pregnancy

Hi Mamas,

We have recently made friends with some wonderful neighbors, and very much enjoy spending time with them. Our children play together marvelously, and we hope to have a lasting friendship with this family.

Recently, the wife, who is pregnant, confided to me that the coming baby carries several “soft markers” for Down syndrome or chromosomal defect. I admire this couple for their commitment to this child, and would like to be supportive without being intrusive or putting my foot in my mouth, and considerate of their feelings. Of course, they will not know the status of the baby’s health until the birth, but it is coming soon, and I’d truly appreciate some advice. Rachel recently wrote a “What not to say” piece, and aside from that, is there anything else I should know or which would be beneficial in this possible situation?

Signed,

Wanting to be a Compassionate Friend

Dear Compassionate Friend,

You are already miles ahead of many people in the sensitivity department so I have no fears that you will put your foot in your mouth, regardless of the outcome of the pregnancy. But your question is a good one. Most of us wonder how to act and be supportive when it looks like there may be significant problems with a friend’s pregnancy. We want to be helpful and kind but aren’t really sure what that might look like, given the situation.

The best approach in a situation like this is to simply take your cues from them. The couple you describe has decided to go ahead with the pregnancy even though they know there may be problems. They are hoping for the best and I think it’s a good idea to mirror that attitude. There may be others around them who are shaking their heads and questioning the wisdom of their decision but you don’t need to be one of them.

The reality is that nobody knows what the outcome of this, or any, pregnancy will be. Life is funny that way. Sometimes the things that seem most solid and predictable are the same things that crumble and fall apart right before our astonished eyes. We never know what will happen in life and we really have no control over most of it, although we love to imagine that we do.

So if they want to talk about their worries, lend an ear and let them talk without imposing any fears of your own. If they are feeling happy and excited about the upcoming birth, join them in their happiness and let them chatter on about all they look forward to without feeling like they have to tamp down their enthusiasm and joy.

Just be the friend who stands by and supports them in whatever it is they are feeling at the time. And try to treat this pregnancy as you would any other one. Do ask how it’s going and whether they have the crib put together, etc. Tell your friend she looks beautiful and is glowing. Say and do all the normal things you would have if you didn’t know the secret concerns.

If you take this approach your friends will be able to relax more and just be with what is. Once the baby arrives, continue on this path. Don’t avoid them if the news is bad. Celebrate the little one as he is and be there to help out as needed.

Each child is unique and a gift and this child’s parents need friends around who understand that, regardless of whether their child is born with medical abnormalities or not. You sound like just such a person. Lucky for them that they found you and will have you in their corner!

**HEY MAMAS OUT THERE! WE’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU, TOO! SEND US YOUR QUESTIONS AND WE’LL SEE WHAT WE CAN DO TO HELP YOU OUT! GO TO “ASK THE MAMAS” OR CLICK ON THE LINK (ASK US A QUESTION) AT THE TOP OF OUR HOME PAGE AND WE’LL DO THE REST.

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.


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