Help me be awesome and supportive towards my pregnant sister!
September 6, 2012 7:48 AM   Subscribe

My sister is pregnant. I am psyched. Help me be an awesome and supportive sister and aunt!

My sister is almost done with her first trimester of pregnancy and I couldn't be happier for her because I know she will be a great mom. That said, I know having babies is Serious Business and not easy so I want to be helpful as much as I can.

Complicating factors:
- My sister lives a few states away. It's about an 8 hour drive or a short flight or two away but we're not physically close so I can't just pop over with food or to check on her.
- She's single. She's an attorney and while she has student loans and a mortgage, she's doing pretty well for herself in my opinion. The pregnancy was planned. She picked donor sperm and got inseminated. So there's no partner in the picture but she has tons of friends and is getting a doula.
- She's expecting twins!
- She was overweight before getting pregnant. Initially, she was going to try not to gain weight at all but I'm not sure that she can do that when she's expecting twins. Because she's overweight and expecting twins, they're anticipating that she either has or will get gestational diabetes. I would like to send her baked goods or suggest recipes because when she went to the doctor's office, the stupid nurse gave her a list of things that she should eat for diabetes without remembering that she's pregnant (for example, fish). Also, since she's always been heavier than me, food is potentially fraught/loaded on a sister level. I think we've grown past that but I'm not sure and I don't want to risk making things uncomfortable.

When I was getting married, my sister made me a planner so I would like to make her a planner. The one she made me was a composition notebook with things like "write what songs you want played at the wedding on this page!" and "write important phone numbers down here!" What type of stuff to that effect should go in a "baby planner"?

I have another sister and we've started talking a little about having a baby shower and visiting to help out after the babies come. We also have a brother who doesn't live too far from my pregnant sister so hopefully he will be helpful. Her best friend lives near my brother and I know she'll help too, as will my brother's girlfriend. My mother died about five years ago but my sister is pretty close with one of our aunts who already said she would visit and help out. I'm a little worried that my dad is still in shock and freaked out. He hasn't told the woman he's seeing that my sister is pregnant but he said he wants to wait until after the first trimester.

I would like to protect my sister, as much as possible, from jerks who say inappropriate things about a single woman who wants to have kids but I don't know how much of that I can do from afar besides listening to her when jerks say inappropriate things.

TL;DR - My single, professional sister is pregnant with twins. How can I be helpful, supportive and awesome?
posted by kat518 to Human Relations (12 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Can you stay with her for a month after the babies arrive? That would be the best gift of all - assuming you and your sister have that kind of comfort level. You could also go out in the third trimester to help her out with all the details of getting the nursery ready, etc.
posted by yarly at 7:52 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: yarly, I was sort of planning to talk to work and try to go there for a week or two. That said, I know I can't exactly buy a plane ticket now because babies come out when they want to come out. I'm hoping that within my family, we'll be able to plan on taking shifts. I'm still mentally working out logistics - should I stay with her? should I bring my husband if he can come? - but I think those things will make a little more sense as things get closer (right?!)
posted by kat518 at 7:59 AM on September 6, 2012

My brother bought a leather journal and wrote notes to my unborn daughter when we found out she was coming. He gave it to her at her birth. 9 (10 ) months of letters and stories, not every day but enough. So sweet!! That is one thing you can do from afar.... Congrats!!
posted by pearlybob at 8:00 AM on September 6, 2012

RE-travel timing:

A gestationally diabetic single mother of twins there is a high-high likelihood that her delivery date will end up 'planned'

I would suggest talking to her, in addition to us. A lot of people tried to 'help' us when my wife was having our daughter but only about 1 in 3 were not more of a burden. They meant well but they just exhausted us and were underfoot.

The people who helped: knew from us, what help we needed; or knew through wisdom what help we couldn't do without.

unglamorous gifts were most often the best. One friend bought us a giant supply of changing goods and diapers and plain white onzies and puke cloths.

another quietly filled our freezer with frozen food from trader joes. about a months worth. it was wonderful.

our neighbor just started taking care of our lawn and garden.

My father in law "visited" by coming over, starting the laundry, cleaning up, making some food, doing the dishes, taking the laundry out... and then leaving. it was a great kindness.
posted by French Fry at 8:32 AM on September 6, 2012 [5 favorites]

In terms of being there, two things: first, it will be useful to have someone there at the end of her pregnancy, because when you are giant pregnant with twins there are a lot of things that are flat impossible. Second, it is possible-probable that they will want to schedule a C-section for the delivery, particularly if she is close to or over 35, so you might have a firm date of arrival.

My mother stayed with us for a week after the birth of my daughter and a month after the birth of my son, and she was a godsend. What she did specifically: she cooked, she cleaned, she did the laundry. She took care of the house and my husband so that my husband could take care of me. She took the baby out on walks while I occasionally drank a cup of tea unmolested. And she gave her advice (which was very welcome, apart from anything else she was an LLL leader) ONLY when we asked for it. She would lie awake in bed at night listening to the baby howl and howl while we tried frantically to soothe her, but she did not show up at the door until I snarled "GET ME MY MOTHER!" at my husband in a fit of frustrated exhaustion. (At which point she showed up immediately.)

The other godsend was that my father-in-law bought us a month worth of frozen dinners from one of those meal prep places, and paid the extra fee for them to be pre-prepped. So this guy just showed up at the house with dinner all ready to go. Some of the meals required a little assembly, but no measuring or anything, and the instructions were printed on the meal container. That was wonderful, because I knew that I would have at least one nutritious balanced meal each day.

I have a friend who was in this exact situation: single, professional, pregnant with twins. She hired a night nurse for the first month, and firmly swears that this was the best parenting decision she ever made. I know that's expensive, but I would look into how one does that, because it made a huge difference for her.
posted by KathrynT at 8:42 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Single and pregnant with twins? Gifts and helpfulness should be on the entirely practical tip.

She is going to need help when the babies arrive. Someone needs to move in with them for a period of time - hired or family - and be ON IT for an extended period of time to help your sister with everything. If you have any retired female relatives, this is the time to beg them for help.
Visitors are nice if they clean, do laundry, etc., but given that your sister is going to be outnumbered from the start, nothing will replace a no nonsense supportive grandma or grandaunt or whatever.

Other practical things - does she need help vetting nannies/childcare providers? Can you help make a spreadsheet (with columns of cost, location, etc.)? Or what about a similar spreadsheet of pediatric offices?

Does she have a housecleaner? If not, hire one now.

You could also research laundry services.

Does she have a kickass washer and dryer? A big fridge? A good dishwasher? All that stuff will help when the babies come. They're worthwhile investments if she can afford them.
posted by k8t at 8:43 AM on September 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

I would stay with her during your week off, if possible -- in part, because that means that you can be there when there is just too much Making Life Work that she can't get to while she's looking after two babies (whether it's making meals, feeding the cat, or answering the phone), and in part because it could be that the thing she needs most is a couple of 4-hour stretches of sleep, and that means having somebody else able to get up with the kids in the night once or twice. That's sanity-preserving and the kind of thing that a live-in partner would otherwise be stepping up to do, so it's the kind of thing you'd be invaluable for, if you're willing to focus on Helping with Survival rather than on Being an Aunt for that stretch of time.

Good luck! I can't imagine surviving the first month with one kid, let alone two, but the thing about parenthood is just do what needs to get done. It helps to have somebody remind you that you need to look after yourself/outside life from time to time too. Maybe you can line up a series of relatives to make sure that the first four weeks are covered, and that they include trustworthy souls who will make sure that the mail gets sorted, bills paid, showers taken, etc. Great of you to be on the ball with this!
posted by acm at 9:11 AM on September 6, 2012

During the pregnancy: Sign up for one of those baby websites (like on that tells you each week how the baby is growing. Email her and talk about this with her. It'll be like you're going through it with her and will show her how much you care (and that she can talk to you about this in detail without you getting bored).

If you can afford it, buy her gift certificates for a massage and some maternity clothes.

Go visit about two months before the baby is born. Hang out with her and help her set up the nursery.

I would avoid getting involved in her diet or in protecting her from comments of others. She sounds like a capable woman and these things might come off as being intrusive or preachy, instead of purely supportive.
posted by chickenmagazine at 12:45 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a single mama to a newborn. It's fantastic. The joy of actually doing this thing you've wanted for so long is more than I could have imagined. The hard work of single parenting is a lot less than I imagined - it's hard, but it's not impossible. Twins will complicate this, obviously, but she will figure it out. There's a great national group called Single Mothers by Choice, and there will likely be other single moms of multiples in her area who can offer support and advice.

In terms of your specific fears: I was also significantly overweight before my pregnancy and feared gestational diabetes. Not only did it not happen, I also did not gain any weight in the pregnancy, and lost ten pounds in the two weeks after I gave birth. Bodies are weird.

Also, no one ever said anything remotely jerkish to me about being a single mom. If anything, I got a bit tired of hearing how brave and wonderful a choice it is to do this on my own.

Feel free to MeMail me if I can offer more advice/support to you or your sister.
posted by judith at 1:33 PM on September 6, 2012

My advice would be to ask her what she wants and needs from you, rather than trying to think up ideas on your own.

the stupid nurse gave her a list of things that she should eat for diabetes without remembering that she's pregnant (for example, fish).

I just wanted to point out that fish is fine to eat while pregnant, and in fact it's good for developing babies.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:32 PM on September 6, 2012

Response by poster: Rabbitrabbit, maybe I'm thinking of tuna, which I thought was discouraged for pregnant women because of mercury concerns. Whatever it was, it gave my sister the impression that this particular medical professional is a bozo and should not be trusted for good advice.

That said, a good friend has a family member who works for a tuna company so he gave her cases of tuna while she was pregnant. I don't know what the opposite of autism is but when her baby makes eye contact with you, she is *locked on.*
posted by kat518 at 3:08 PM on September 6, 2012

I went out and stayed with my best friend after her c-section with her third child. My main jobs: taking care of (and lifting/bathing/wrangling) her two older children (does not apply here), doing ALL the laundry (she couldn't lift the basket or go up and down the stairs with it), driving her to doctor appointments for her and the baby (she couldn't drive for two weeks after the surgery), stopping her from lifting anything heavier than the baby (challenge level: difficult. She is stubborn), making sure she had a drink of some sort anytime she sat down (gotta stay hydrated for nursing/healing). Making sure she ate regularly. It's easy to forget to do that with a new baby. I also tried, as much as possible, to make her laugh. Laughing is SUPER-IMPORTANT with a new baby. (My other best friend swears she staved off PPD with repeat viewings of Bridesmaids and The Forty-Year-Old Virgin. True story.) Try to desensitize yourself ahead of time to the possibility of seeing your sister's boobs, to baby poop, to how icky the umbilical cord stump is (it's gross). Things like that. Try to be chill when shit (sometimes literally) goes down.

Before the baby comes, be a good listener. Encourage her to take it easy when she can, to cut herself some slack. Also, make sure to ask her about things OTHER than the baby. I tried to do this so my prego friends wouldn't feel like I only cared about the baby. Congratulations, aunty!
posted by Aquifer at 7:14 PM on September 6, 2012

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