by Erin Bockstael
Becoming a caregiver of a vulnerable little human – by birth, fostering, or adoption – can really turn a person’s world upside down. When that person is your good friend, the changes parenting brings can ripple into your life. You don’t spend time together the way you used to! Maybe you’re wondering, “How can I help my pal?”
Lighten the load.
Caring for a baby can make it hard for new parents to get stuff done or even just care for themselves. Practical help – holding or walking baby so your friend can shower or rest, bringing food, doing chores – can really make their day go more smoothly.
Feed the beast.
Continuing the species is some serious work for the body! If your friend grew a baby in their body and is now figuring out how to make milk and get it into that baby, they might need extra food energy. Getting groceries and prepping food will be helpful and appreciated. Simply handing your friend a snack while they deal with a feeding, sleeping, or fussy baby can be an important act of care.
In my early parenting days, a friend dropped off some delicious mini muffins in the middle of the night. In my famished, exhausted, sore-nippled state, I cried and then sent her some mushy love texts.
Allow the overshare.
Be a listening ear. At times, it might seem overwhelming to hear about their struggles, but remember:
- You don’t have to solve the problem, just listen.
- “That sounds intense.” “You’ve got a lot going on.” “You are doing great.” can be helpful things to hear.
Know that there may be tears, and strong feelings expressed – you might even hear about people’s bodily fluids, nipples or genitals! It can be uncomfortable to see your friend in distress, but your presence and kindness in those moments can help.
Remind them they aren’t alone.
We don’t always have the time or energy in our own lives to do all we’d like to for our friends, and that’s okay. Some days, it’s all we can do to take care of ourselves.
Connecting in small ways – a quick text or message to let them know you’re thinking of them – will help them feel supported and keep your friendship strong in this transitional time in your lives.
Take care of yourself too!
We all need to take care of ourselves so we can take care of others. As you encourage your friend to take care of themselves, reflect on how you are doing and how to meet your own needs.
Erin Bockstael is the Maternal Health and Wellness Educator at Women’s Health Clinic. For more information about our maternal health and wellness services, visit www.womenshealthclinic.org or visit our Maternal Health and Wellness Facebook page here.