Gifting a pregnant friend
December 13, 2004 12:32 PM   Subscribe

I've just learned that one of my closest friends is pregnant. Since the circumstances surrounding this are a bit unusual, I'm turning to my AskMe comrades for ideas...[mi]

(A bit of background info: she’s 29, first pregnancy.)

This was absolutely a surprise for her, and while it isn't something she wasn't thinking about in the abstract, the reality is something else again. She and the father are planning on getting married sometime next month ("while I can still fit in my grandma's wedding dress"), though the details remain sketchy. She's unemployed, has been for some time, and her unemployment is nearly tapped out. In addition to this, she’s also facing the hurdle of giving up all of her favorite (and frequent) vices cold turkey—cigarettes, weed, liquor, caffeine, etc. Her family can’t be counted on for support—they’re both mentally unstable and geographically distant. I'm not sure about his family, though they are local, and part of the greater Russian community in these parts.

Obviously what I can do to help my friend is limited, but I figured I’d start by finding her an excellent Christmas gift. My original plan of giving a nice flask filled with some homemade liqueur is definitely out…and now I’m scrambling for a substitute. Maybe a nesting teapot/cup with some assortment of detox/morning sickness teas? Or something to encourage her forays into non-deep-fried cooking?

(Also: Looking ahead, would it be terribly gauche to diplomatically offer to help de-shotgun the wedding? I’m a graphic designer by trade and a budding chef in my spare time--I’ve even done a wedding cake, though at the time it nearly killed me--so I’ve got the skills to back that up. She’s a dear and wonderful friend who has been living a series of bad breaks for nearly as long as I’ve known her…and since I know this is about as far from her ideal wedding as you can get, it seems like it’s the decent thing to do. But hey, I could always be on crack.)
posted by Vervain to Shopping (23 answers total)
By "de-shotgun," what do you mean? Getting her un-pregnant??
posted by tristeza at 12:39 PM on December 13, 2004

I would definitely offer to your chef services. Maybe you could even design simple invites for her. Is it even possible that you host a small after-ceremony get together at your home? She probably is feeling too overwhelmed to try to plan anything herself and maybe she's a bit too sheepish to ask for help. I think that your friend will really appreciate your offer to do this for her. And I just want to say that you are a good friend.
posted by Juicylicious at 12:44 PM on December 13, 2004

helping out with a cake sounds like the best wedding gift you could give her, offer all sorts of help in that area as she's going on that first trimester hormonal/tired rollercoaster now and would probably just adore you for the help.

Cookingstuff might be a good idea, it's a present for her that will last (and will benefit the child in the future), maybe a wok-pan with a wok cookbook and you offering to come over and play with her trying out new things. Since she's quitting everything cold turkey, she might get a little frustrated on the weekends, a pal and a wok and a video would make her day I'm sure.
posted by dabitch at 12:45 PM on December 13, 2004

triteza: I think "de-shotgun" is something like "make it look more classy and less like it was thrown together in a week."
posted by 4easypayments at 12:46 PM on December 13, 2004

Caffeine doesn't have to go out of the window. A mug or two a day will be okay. The odd drink here and there won't hurt, either - just not getting drunk once a week or whatever. Help her get rid of the cigarettes asap, though.

Offer to do whatever you can handle to help her with the wedding and so on. Be excited about it and help her to get excited, too. And with regard to the pregnancy, just look after her. Take her out somewhere she'll get some good food once in a while. Pamper her a bit. Be a shoulder to cry on... the whole best friend thing.
posted by humuhumu at 12:52 PM on December 13, 2004

You're a very good friend. Helping to make the wedding nicer and more elegant is a very good idea, and I don't think it's gauche at all. As suggested, some simple invites, maybe hosting a nice, small meal are terrific ideas. Everyone deserves to have their wedding day be nice, at the very least - doesn't have to be fancy, but just pleasant and enjoyable.

As an aside, contrary to what humuhumu wrote above, alcohol really should go - at least in the first trimester, when it has the worst effects. It's just that they don't know how much it takes to cause problems, and really if she's trying to get off alcohol, probably best to give it up completely. YMMV, of course, completely. Good luck helping her with this.
posted by livii at 1:12 PM on December 13, 2004

Be careful with herbal teas: at least do some research to ensure that none of the components have been identified as dangerous to mother/fetus.

Is she getting appropriate pre-natal care? Maybe you could facilitate that, buy her some folic acid, etc.

(Sorry to be a wet blanket... nice weddings are cool, but healthy babies take priority.)
posted by stonerose at 1:31 PM on December 13, 2004

Folic acid is a pretty poopy Christmas present! I'd recommend keeping the healthy-baby stuff separate from holiday gifts. Help making the wedding nice in a festive but low-key way sounds excellent, and the cake idea is a good one. I think it would also be nice to get her a little something that's really for her, in addition to her-as-bride or her-as-mother-to-be. Something like a novel you think she'll really enjoy, or art supplies, or that kind of thing, depending on what she's into.
posted by redfoxtail at 1:54 PM on December 13, 2004

Response by poster: 4easypayments: exactly! I'm guessing that with everything that's going on in their lives right now the wedding will be kept fairly low-key, but if I can help to make it less perfunctory and more celebratory, then by God I'll do it if I can.

stonerose: In part, that's why I'm posting (the tea assortment) seemed like an interesting idea, but the details are lacking. Prenatal care--well, she has our state's (WA) Basic Health plan, which I'm told is fairly good in regards to pregnancy. And she's seeing her doctor about this within the next week or so. My hope is that she'll be straight with him about her substance use, since she was at least five weeks in by the time she realized it...

The idea about a reception is a great, although unfortunately my place is highly unsuitable for it--tiny apartment, half an hour away. Unfortunately, of the two mutual friends who have places that would work, one lives in my town...and the other has been carrying a torch for the bride-to-be just about as long as I've known him. Hmm.
posted by Vervain at 2:03 PM on December 13, 2004

My favorite present to give to any pregnant lady ia this book. It's definitely hippie-dippy, but man oh man what a great book.
posted by Specklet at 2:04 PM on December 13, 2004

Leave the advice books (never ever ever give a woman an advice book, aargh, I still haven't recovered from getting 3 copies of Simple Abundance one year!), teas and folic acid to less inspired friends and relatives. I'm with redfoxtail -- try and come up with things just for her, non-mother, non-wife, as a sign that you, for one, continue to bear witness to her individuality and her specific importance to you. Also, a wedding meal and a standing offer to accompany her on any doc visists, appts, etc. ... or be her first babysitter, will all be appreciated additional 'gifts'. You're swell!
posted by thinkpiece at 2:17 PM on December 13, 2004

You could also give her certificates good for x hours of babysitting. Nukable meals once the kid is born would also probably be very welcome.
posted by QIbHom at 2:21 PM on December 13, 2004

Babysitting vouchers are indeed an awesome idea. As are the pre-prepared meals for freezing and reheating, and/or maybe a post-baby housework voucher, to come and do her vacuuming, dishes, whatever, a couple of times a week for the first few weeks until she settles into a routine.

It would be nice for her, I'd wager, to keep any baby stuff separate from wedding stuff. Let the wedding day be about the wedding.

There are some herbal teas out there designed for morning sickness and healthy pregnancy. She might appreciate some ginseng for energy also, and some ginger tea. You could get her a bunch of different kinds.
posted by tracicle at 2:34 PM on December 13, 2004

Kudos to your friendship. I'm sure your efforts will be hugely appreciated. Just make sure you come across as helping, not trying to take over in a bride-by-proxy kind of way. Not that you seem like the type at all, I'm just thinking pregnant women can be, ah... extra sensitive.

As far as a venue for a little reception, maybe brainstorm a few more ideas besides the torch-bearer. Having worked in a hotel, I know that some can be verrrry flexible in pricing conference rooms & halls if they want to be, and it wouldn't take a lot to dress one of those up a bit. I used to let friends, frequent guests, good causes, etc. use the small meeting room at my hotel for free if it wasn't already booked. They'd bring food, hotplates, Igloo coolers, etc. It cost us nothing but a little cleanup time.

Also, many churches, offices, and apartment/condo developments have meeting/dining facilities, even with kitchens attached. Maybe someone in your network knows someone who knows someone... (If we knew where you were, some MeFites might even have specific suggestions.)
posted by Tubes at 2:49 PM on December 13, 2004

I bet in the later months a foot massage would be quite welcome (either professional or from you, if you're any good at it).
posted by matildaben at 3:10 PM on December 13, 2004

I agree that you have to be very careful about herbal teas--I've read that ginseng is one among many otherwise good herbs that has found to be harmful in pregnancy. If she's anything like me, your friend is going to be really tired, especially the first trimester. So I heartily agree that if you can do some celebratory wedding stuff just for her in addition to filling her freezer with some healthy and tasty meals (and anything else that might take a load off her) that would be great. My willpower goes when I'm tired, and I'm sure I'm not the only one like that, so if she is trying to kick some bad habits anything you can do to help her energy or task-wise would no doubt be appreciated.
posted by Pattie at 3:26 PM on December 13, 2004

but if I can help to make it less perfunctory and more celebratory, then by God I'll do it if I can.
Flowers. Flowers go a long way in making situations, rooms, celebrations seem less perfunctory. You might offer to get her a boquet, if she wasn't planning on one, or an elegant table arrangement. Spreading white roses, baby's beth, ferns, etc. around will make everything look more bridal.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:32 PM on December 13, 2004

When I got married, the gifts my wife and I appreciated most were the gifts of talent and time that some of our friends dedicated to the wedding. If you can do good work baking a cake and designing invites, you'll have done something special. There's nothing special in a spending money on a gift basket.
posted by adamrice at 3:43 PM on December 13, 2004

Response by poster: This is all taking place in and around Tacoma, WA. I really ought to know more about the place, having grown up in these parts, but damn, Tacoma is SUCH an armpit. I couldn't bring myself to care even when I lived on the extreme outskirts of the place for a year or two.

Oh! Here's a thought: how about a spa trip? We've made a few visits to this Korean spa in the past, and we always have a blast. Well, in a bone-meltingly relaxing sort of way. What's the verdict on warmer temperatures (i.e. hot tubs or saunas) and pregnancy?

(By the way, I highly recommend the spa to any female Mefites in this neck of the woods. It's amazing, and while the entry fee has gone up to $25, it is worth it. Not to mention the optional body scrubs/massage/etc. And the in-house cafe serves some killer gyoza. An excellent "girls' day out", as long as you're not modest!)
posted by Vervain at 4:06 PM on December 13, 2004

No hot tubs or saunas when pregnant, sorry! A massage would be awesome, though. Or paying her way to a prenatal yoga class, some kind of social/exercise group thing. Cooking stuff would make a great Xmas gift, or cooking classes - help her launch a new hobby and keep her busy. Helping out with the wedding would be a very nice thing to do since even shotgun weddings are stressful to organize and arrange. You could set up a simple buffet or do hors d'oeuvres and cake only so you don't wear yourself out pitching in, and it would still be perfectly appropriate and festive.

As to the prenatal care, try seeing if there's some midwives in your area. They're usually a lot more involved and easier to talk to instead of a OB/GYN, in my experience, especially if she needs to discuss pot/liquor/cigarette use. I find them to be much less judgmental on those subjects when it comes to help and advice. They're also used to working with lower-income women, which is a bonus when you have insurance issues or need to pay cash (cheaper).
posted by Melinika at 4:26 PM on December 13, 2004

I agree with tracicle, the golden rule here is to make the wedding about the wedding, not the baby. The wedding cake and invites are great ideas. Flowers - well - transitory and often very expensive. Would a few flowers plus some potted bulbs for the spring be an alternative - they could be at the reception to symbolize new growth, and then bring happiness for months afterwards. Hosting a reception is great if you can swing it. Offer to put up some of her friends from out of town if that helps them attend. Organize others to do the same, and to drive and other useful tasks. Can you organize a honeymoon? Even a weekend in the San Juans, or something, would be fantastic.

Treats for her are also great. How about, 12 envelopes, each of which has a special treat/outing , one per month, for the next year. A massage, a new dress, a manicure, a new CD, ear-rings, movie tickets, any of the little things that may be or become unaffordable or slip through the cracks once baby is born. Setting aside less than a dollar a day could make this possible, and mean she always had something to look forward to.
posted by Rumple at 4:33 PM on December 13, 2004

Also - regarding flowers - a friend of mine had hers done through the local horticultural college and they were way cheap.
posted by Rumple at 4:36 PM on December 13, 2004

Things friends can contribute to weddings without it being weird: cake; flowers; photographer; musician(s).

Things friends can contribute as wedding gifts without it being weird: honeymoon (a couple of nights in a nice hotel or inn and gift certificates for nice dinners are wonderful, and quite doable financially for a group of friends presenting them together).

Things friends can give as baby gifts without it being weird: sizable gift card for a store like Target, where things like diapers, etc., can be purchased. I think if you buy one or two actual unique baby gifts and put the big old gift card in with the card it feels like a "practical gift" rather than a "handout".
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:54 PM on December 13, 2004

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