How do I help a very pregnant friend whose support network is falling apart before my eyes?
August 21, 2012 11:37 AM   Subscribe

How do I help a very pregnant friend whose support network is falling apart before my eyes?

My friend, J, is currently seven months along in a very unplanned pregnancy. Her support network has never been robust, but lately things have declined sharply on that front. For example:
  • Our mutual friend M, who has been a huge support to J in the past, has withdrawn completely. M is having her own life crisis at the moment--depression and alcoholism mainly--and feels that her support of J has caused her own depression. As a result, M has withdrawn and isn’t talking to J (or me, but that’s another story).
  • J’s mother and sister are of little to no help. Mom makes promises of help and money but never delivers, and Sis has rarely if ever gotten along with J.
  • Just last night J’s boyfriend/baby’s father admitted to her that he was no longer in love with her. She apparently convinced him to give things another try, but that sounded…tenuous at best.
Anyway, I’ve been doing what I can to help J—mainly listening to her, and spending time driving her to the occasional vital errand as she has no car, etc.—but my own capacity to help is limited as I live an hour’s drive away and work full-time. J has contacted a social worker with DSHS, but their ability to provide services was minimal, as her income falls into that weird area where it’s too much to get help but not enough to really make it on her own.

Long story short, J is near-broke, depressed, freaking out, and feeling very helpless right now, and I’m not sure what else I can/should do to help her. I can't be her sole I’m hoping my fellow Mefites might have some ideas on how to deal with this.

(For the record, J lives in Seattle.)
posted by Vervain to Human Relations (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is she getting prenatal care? Obstetricians and midwives often work closely with social workers who know of community-based resources, support groups, sliding scale birthing classes, etc., that can offer practical and emotional help in situations like this.
posted by headnsouth at 11:44 AM on August 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Well the question is does she plan on keeping the child or give it up for adoption? That is also an option if money, time, depression are at hand along with zero support system. If life is hard now, the worse thing to do is send it skyrocketing into something worse. How old is your friend? Is she a teen or an adult. Maturity wise do YOU think she could do this on her own despite these challenges. For love with the father, you dont' need the love of the father to continue on with raising the child. What he needs to do is step up, be there for the child financially and emotionally. They ned to raise their relationship to a different level--one of their own support system. The kid didn't have anything to do with this outcome and lack of support and nothing makes me angrier than people taking it out on a kid. I'm not talking about abuse but even the stressors of life with raising a kid (without any support) will be taken out on that kid in one way or another. They pick up on those things.

She should seriously look into adoption--open, semi open, or closed. She needs to do this for her and for her child, not because of anyone else or duty. Her duty is to make sure that child has the best options in life.

I'm sorry she's going through this. You're a good friend to help her out with what little time/resources you have. It's not to late to consider adoption.

As an aside I would highly shy her away from keeping then fostering out with the intention to take the child back once back on her feet. My birth mom did this to my 1/2 brother and she never really did get back on her feet; leaving him bouncing from home to home with hope that SOMEONE would take him. No one ever did.
posted by stormpooper at 11:45 AM on August 21, 2012 [8 favorites]

If there's one thing most stressed-out people like to not have to do for themselves, it's cook. Make a bunch of food she likes (a big thing of soup or a casserole or something) and show up with it next time you visit her. If you're not a cooking person, take her grocery shopping next time you're there.
posted by griphus at 11:45 AM on August 21, 2012 [7 favorites]

(Wait, are you asking for other people/organizations that can help her, or additional stuff you can do with your limitations?)
posted by griphus at 11:46 AM on August 21, 2012

Is staying with you an option if she needs to? If so, I'd make sure she knows it.

PEPS is a great resource in Seattle but it won't be relevant for several months.

Does she belong to a church which you can contact?

Can you throw her a baby shower and make sure she has the essentials she needs, either that way or through thrifting?
posted by bq at 11:47 AM on August 21, 2012

You could put her in contact with The Gabriel Project. It's a ministry of the Catholic church, but you don't have to be Catholic to receive support.
posted by erloteiel at 11:57 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seattle Women's Commission: There is a long list of local resources. See if you have missed anything which could apply to her situation.
posted by Michele in California at 12:01 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

If she is going to keep the child, the WIC office is a resource she is likely eligible for, including breastpumps (might need to work with la leche league for hands on how to assistance).
posted by tilde at 12:12 PM on August 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't know how her income falls into a "weird area" if she is near-broke, pregnant, and unmarried. I wonder if she is talking to the right people or the right person. And, if she called them, it might be a good idea to gather up some documents, make an appointment, and visit these people in person.

In my opinion, the best kind of support that you can give her right now is to encourage a seriously practical approach, make sure she is making contact with one of the helping agencies every day until she gets an idea of the type of assistance available, and she is going to have to suss out from her boyfriend what role he wants to play here because she can't do anything at this point without his consent, i.e. adoption. He may have other ideas in mind and it will be invaluable to find out what they are. I wouldn't address him until she gets to have a good chat with that Women's Commission, or until she has exhausted all resources and has a super-clear idea of where she stands with and without him. Maybe a good way to help would be for you to call ahead to some of these places and get the right person's name and extension so that she wouldn't be calling cold?

It might also help to add free legal clinic or service to that contact list, just in case. There may be specific statutes in WA state related to custody of a child born to unmarried parents and it's good to know about all of these ahead of time.

I was in a somewhat similar situation, and she (or you) is welcome to send me a memail. I'm not in WA, though.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 1:30 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're looking for available social services for your friend to turn to:

WA DHSH - State program that provides emergency medical coverage for pregnant women (since her unborn child counts as a family member, the income cap is a bit more lenient) and access to several other state programs for low-income single mothers.
Seattle HHS (city program) and Familyworks (private non-profit) - offers a number of resources for children and families, including subsidized childcare/preschool, nutrition programs, parenting classes, social groups/support for single parents, playgroups for kids, employment counseling, and advocacy.
WA HUD and AptFinder - requirements to qualify for subsidized housing and/or find subsidized housing; once again, reasonable income qualifier for a two-person family.

If you're looking for advice on what you personally can do, I agree with griphus: ready made food is great support for a busy, stressed individual. Find some cheap, healthy freezer casserole/one dish recipes and drop off a bunch each time you see her.
posted by givennamesurname at 2:27 PM on August 21, 2012

If you are able to, try looking for a good doula for J. It sounds like J needs someone to be on her side right now, and a doula both for the end of pregnancy, birth, and post-partum in the cases of post-partum doulas.

Many doulas work on sliding fee scales, and sometimes you can find a doula-in-training who offers services for free in exchange for the experience.

Doulas may also be aware of post-partum groups and therapists who are especially equipped to handle pregnancy and post-partum matters as well as numerous other resources that may not be listed or may be new or may not be well advertised.

While adoption is certainly a possibility even this late in the game, that's not a conversation you should have with J if you know she is intending on keeping the child. When someone is 7 months pregnant already feels like shit and a shitstorm is happening around her, suggesting that she may not be a good mother (which is almost certainly how J would interpret the idea that someone else be her baby's mother) when she wants to will quickly turn into a shit hurricane that, really, she just does not need right now.
posted by zizzle at 6:14 PM on August 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

Please, please, PLEASE do not bring up adoption to her unless SHE brings it up. She's in an intensely vulnerable place right now, and adoption is a lifelong choice that is complicated and difficult.

How awful if this one terrible period means that a woman who wants to, who could, mother her child, ends up surrendering her child for adoption instead. If this is a temporary terrible situation, please do not encourage her to a permanent solution UNLESS she is thinking seriously of it.

And adoption is freaking everywhere, she will get people suggesting this to her already.

We had a kid's friend in a similar situation, and what ended up being most useful from us was working the phones and emails. We called around all the agencies, helplines and government stuff to find out what her options were and what kind of help she could get, etc. We also got her baby/pregnancy books and were as joyful and encouraging as a pregnant woman needs. She ended up placing her child in a semi-open adoption, but she made that choice fully informed and got to care for him for a while first and then decide.

Calling around means playing phone tag with different departments, setting up appointments and figuring out paperwork. Dull but useful and not something someone who is already struggling can cope with. If you could narrow down a list of local/national pregnancy support services to the ones that fit her situation and connect her, that would be a big help.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:28 PM on August 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

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