A year ago, when my husband and I started talking about trying to get pregnant again, I never imagined I’d be nine months pregnant at the spike of a global pandemic. Following stay-at-home orders — and all that goes with it — isn’t ever easy with kids, and for me it’s especially challenging as I enter my final weeks of pregnancy. So many friends and family have asked how they can support me while respecting social distancing. Here’s what I’ve been telling them (and what they’ve already been doing because they are rockstars):
1. Call me up and ask me how I am. I’m not okay. I’m lucky to be able to follow stay-at-home orders. Like many of us, I am home all day, every day with two other kids under five. And my husband. And the world’s most annoying dog. I juggle working from home, cleaning the house, pretending my kids have done anything academic, and trying to maintain normalcy in the least normal experience I’ve ever seen. All this while growing a human being and worrying about his survival. You can’t fix this, but you can ask me how I am doing and listen to my fears and concerns. Let me vent, without telling me it’ll make for a fun story later.
2. Check in with me before heading to the grocery or drugstore. Going to the store runs so many risks and unknowns—do I really have to sanitize our groceries? Will other people respect my six foot radius? Yes, we’re having groceries delivered to our home once a week, but needs often come up in between deliveries. I’ve had friends grab everything from antacids to a bunch of bananas for me. A simple “I’m running to the store, what can I pick up for you?” alleviates so much of my anxiety.
3. Set up a Meal Train to help out postpartum. Pre-Covid, my plan was to get together with friends for a fun night where we’d cook together a stockpile of make-ahead meals that could easily feed my family after the baby was born. It was meant to be a fun, social event. Now that we’re missing it, I’m grateful to know that friends and family can just leave meals on the porch for those early days when no one in our household will be doing any cooking. I plan on also using these meal drop offs as a way for people to “meet” our little guy through a glass storm door.
4. Offer to be THE PERSON. Asking for help is uncomfortable for me (and for so many of us) under normal circumstances. And right now I’m aware that some of my friends have been furloughed or lost their jobs. Others are working from home full time while managing their kids’ schooling. The last thing I want to do is ask more of anyone who feels like they don’t have anything left to give. So I was relieved when a friend took it upon herself to designate herself as my person. She’ll organize the meal train, she hosted my baby shower, and she’s just generally going to serve as point person — so I don’t have to sweat it out about asking for help. If you can, be that person for someone.
5. Peek the baby aisle whenever you get the chance. I have avoided trips to the store, leaving me at the mercy of the grocery store pick-up gods. Sometimes I can get my favorite bread, sometimes I am grateful to get any bread, and sometimes bread has to wait until my next pick-up. Finding newborn essentials—diapers, wipes, formula—has been incredibly hit or miss. Having friends who are willing to check in with me and quickly check the baby aisle and then drop items off on my porch helps me feel like I am prepared for that first month with my newborn.
6. Drop off activities for the siblings. If you’re already considering buying gifts for the baby, a thoughtful add-on could be small activities for the siblings. Before all this, I was worried about my very busy five-year-old and three-year-old being bored all summer, so I created summer schedules. Well, those schedules are now moot. Since no one can take my older kids out on fun adventures, it helps if you can bring the adventures to them. Leave old puzzles or coloring supplies on the porch, offer to read to them over Zoom, buy sidewalk chalk and bubbles, or sign them up for a monthly subscription box.
These times are so hard for everyone; they can feel especially challenging for those pregnant mamas who couldn’t have imagined months ago their whole pregnancies would be drastically different — and scarier — than we had imagined. Helping your pregnant friend may look different now than what you had envisioned, but believe me, there are still plenty of creative, thoughtful ways to absolutely show up for her.