How to handle my healthy pregnancy and friends' pregnancy struggles?
November 25, 2013 9:05 AM   Subscribe

How to handle my healthy pregnancy and friends' pregnancy struggles?

I'm three weeks away from my due date on what has been a very easy, healthy pregnancy. A very good friend of mine who struggled for a while to get pregnant, had a rough 1st trimester, and is now in her 2nd trimester, has been admitted to a hospital for what can only be described as a medical mystery. So far she and baby are ok but most signs are pointing to necessary treatment for her equaling no more baby. I'm devastated for her and her husband. There is already a lot of excellent posts on here about how to help friends through this kind of thing so I'm not seeking advice on that end. I also already told her I completely understand any wishes she may have about seeing or not seeing me or the baby while they're going through this, which is the truth, and I also don't plan on initiating conversations about my baby with her unless she brings it up first.

Instead I'm seeking advice on treating myself and my baby ok, since I have a sinking feeling I'm walking the path to postpartum depression. I'd been having negative thoughts due to another close but long-distance friend trying for 2+ years to get pregnant without any luck so far, and they still want to come visit us right after the baby's born. People have asked if I feel guilty, which I think is some of it, and yes I know guilt is a useless emotion, but I just can't put into words the full context of emotions I'm feeling.

I plan on asking my midwife for a referral to a counselor so yes I will seek therapy, but in the meantime before I can see someone is there any advice for thoughts to repeat to myself and remind myself that it's ok to still take care of and love my own baby even if my very good friends may not get the opportunity to do so. I'm so so so sad over this and I'm already having terrible feelings that I shouldn't enjoy my baby's kicks or I should be pretending my belly isn't even there. I've also lost some motivation to read up on preparing for the labor & birth and dealing with a newborn. I have a great partner but he admits he's not the best at handling these types of situations and I don't like seeing him worry about me either.

Thanks all.
posted by wannabecounselor to Human Relations (13 answers total)
This sounds like a lot of interaction with others.

Go radio silence. No, your friends can not come visit you after the baby is born unless they are staying at a hotel. And even then, wow, as someone who had their first baby two years ago, out of town guests of any stripe the first few months doesn't sound like fun at all!

I know you are super hormonal right now and such but what you describe are unhealthy boundaries with others and/or levels of intimacy you won't be able to sustain once your baby is born. (Like, what insensitive shit-stirrer in your life asked if you feel guilty? Drama-making conversations are something you don't need right now. It's OK to change the subject or end interactions, and right now you should be guarding your mental health and doing just that.)

I really think you need lotsssssss of quiet stress-free time before the baby is born.

You also need to back off on your involvement or commitments to others after the baby is born. No one can explain to you how life changing having children is, but suffice it to say, things you thought possible and easy will no longer be. Don't make yourself nuts over promises or good intentions you will not be able to follow through on.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 9:34 AM on November 25, 2013 [10 favorites]

Good work on being proactive about the potential for postpartum depression. It was something that kind of blindsided me - you are wiser than I was. I'm sorry to hear about your friend. This is hard stuff - like nothing else is hard.

If you were my friend I would just tell you to let yourself off the hook. Ambivalent feelings at the end of pregnancy and around childbirth are more common than we probably realize. Even without the sadness for your friends, it is quite normal to not feel overwhelming love and joy at every kick. You're tired, your hormones are in an uproar, your life is about to change 180 degrees -- it's a lot of stuff, even if it's a much loved and wanted baby on the way. New mothers are supposed to be blissed out, and it's kind of taboo to speak otherwise.

Give yourself permission to just get through this. You don't have to read any more books or rearrange the baby's drawer of onesies anymore if you just don't want to! Lay low for awhile. You are about to be exhausted beyond all imagining soon and will need to concentrate on yourself and your baby. Trust yourself and the resources you have in place to help you with these next few weeks.
posted by pantarei70 at 9:38 AM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

...close but long-distance friend trying for 2+ years to get pregnant without any luck so far, and they still want to come visit us right after the baby's born.

These things are not really related to one another. I lost a spouse to cancer but if a friend of mine was getting married I'd still want to come to the wedding. Because I may be sad or have strong emotions about something does not mean I don't also want to share in your happiness over a similar subject.

I also don't see why you wouldn't want out of town guests. Sure, if you have a small house or something you may want them to stay at a hotel, but when my daughter was born people came to visit from all over the place and we had lots of fun seeing everyone.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:46 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

You sound like a wonderful, considerate friend. You're also, as pantarei70 said, being a great mother already by taking steps to nip your postpartum depression in the bud. I would really cling to these thoughts when you're feeling down.

As for thoughts to repeat to myself and remind myself that it's ok to still take care of and love my own baby even if my very good friends may not get the opportunity to do so, I suggest:

Joy is not a limited commodity. Your joy at having a healthy baby does not, in any way, take away from your friends' opportunities for joy. Take care of and love your baby, and as you do that know that this isn't diminishing your friends' chances to one day experience what you're experiencing. You can love this baby and still be a lovely, thoughtful friend.

And congratulations!
posted by schroedingersgirl at 9:58 AM on November 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

Do you have parents/future grandparents, or other friends, who will be completely happy about your baby? Maybe think of them more.

Also, while your friend may be sad now (and for a long time), she may also be able to feel happy for you, either now or in the future. Do you honestly think she'd be happier if you were having serious complications also? Unless she's not a very good friend, then no, she doesn't need for you to be miserable too.

Of course it's good of you to be considerate of her. You sound like a good friend. Just don't assume you know how she's feeling or what she wants; stay open to the idea that you can still be a good friend and be happy.

It may be that she can't be around you, or even talk to you -- but get that information from her or her significant other, parents, etc.
posted by amtho at 10:07 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

First, realize that a lot of this is hormonal, that things will change a ton after the baby arrives, and absolutely do look out for postpartum depression over the months ahead.

But re: this
is there any advice for thoughts to repeat to myself and remind myself that it's ok to still take care of and love my own baby even if my very good friends may not get the opportunity to do so.

it sounds as though (understandably) you're kind of making this all about you-- as though the baby were an attribute of yourself that you should feel guilty or lucky about possessing. Which is understandable, because, hey, the baby's inside you right now. But even though it's "your baby," remember that this is also a person, separate from you, with an independent existence and independent value. That person deserves your love and care. That person deserves to have someone filled with joy about his/her entrance into the world.

In other words, you don't do these things for yourself; you do them for your baby. It's OK not to feel guilty about doing the right thing by your baby.
posted by Bardolph at 10:11 AM on November 25, 2013 [14 favorites]

As someone who has been on both sides of the divide (IF and then post-partum depression), all I can recommend is to do everything you absolutely can to take care of YOU and your baby right now. To me, that would mean no out of town visitors (unless they are super good with babies and are willing to take a night shift or two) and no obligations to keep up close contact with your friend who has had such troubles. I say this, actually, from a place of compassion for you both.

When I was unable to have a baby, the last thing I wanted was to hear from friends who had just had their babies because a small part of me knew that one reason they were calling was to make themselves feel better - "I have reached out to my infertile friend and she has blessed this new miracle of mine and so all is right with the world!" I really resented this and would have preferred just to get a birth announcement, even from my BFFs (seriously).

Once I had my kid, I was so incredibly overwhelmed by the whole thing that I could barely keep up with myself let alone others. I really just had to hunker down for those first weeks and survive until I got some semblance of a routine going. Even then, I had a pretty rabid case of PPD in part because I was chasing expectations of how I was supposed to feel.

I can't help but wonder if your thoughts about not being able to enjoy your pregnancy because of your friend's difficulties is masking a deeper anxiety about becoming a parent.

Definitely seek out a PPD counselor recommendation now from your midwife. Above all, BE KIND to yourself. You are allowed just as much right to be joyful about your baby as your friend will be when she is finally able to have one of her own.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 10:15 AM on November 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

Your friends's troubles are sad, but your friends are HAPPY for you! They don't WANT you to feel bad about them, they want you to enjoy your pregnancy and your baby. They also want to help you as much as they can.

To that end, figure out who is coming and when. Don't have everyone decend upon you all at once, and then leave just when you need some extra hands.

Do speak to your midwife about depression, it's never too early to address it.

Now, get a schedule for everyone.

Close family the first few days. If they can rotate, so much the better. Do not feel that you have to entertain or feed them. They should be bringing you food. It is perfectly okay to say, "I'm exhausted. Can you hold the baby while I nap for a bit?" Then go ahead and nap. You won't have a sleep schedule, so take sleep where you find it.

Actually schedule friends to come watch the baby while you sleep. My friend's daughter called and asked me to sit with the little dude while she got some uninterrupted Z's.

It's okay to acknowledge your happiness and excitement as well as your sadness for them. I find that praying really helps me solidify my feelings of thankfulness and to address any thoughts of strength that I want to send to those who are struggling.

The only things your friends want more than happy, healthy pregnancies, is for you to enjoy YOURS to the fullest extent.

Take good care of yourself!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:16 AM on November 25, 2013

We went through fertility struggles, and had our baby much later than a lot of our friends. That was when I learned what a clod I'd been for so many years, even if my intentions were good.

So, I tell you that it okay, and heartily give you permission to turn down visitors for the first six weeks. The only exceptions being someone who is bringing (cooked!) food, groceries if you need them, or is coming to clean your house. Food can be dropped at the door, by the way.

I heartily give you permission to focus only on yourself and the baby for a few weeks, especially if you are nursing. This includes ignoring your hubby. This is a new situation for all of you, and your most important job is to bond with baby and learn his/her cues. This one is really important.

You may ignore all emails, Facebook, and even phone calls. You don't need to respond to any messages in any sort of time frame if you don't wish to or just aren't feeling up to it. You don't need to post photos today if you are too tired.

The best thing you can do for yourself, your baby, and yes, even your husband, is take care of yourself first. Be vocal about your needs. Learn to say "I need to eat." and sometimes "I NEED TO EAT. NOW."

Parenting a newborn is about learning to put on your own oxygen mask first, so you can take care of your family next. You don't need to worry if the folks two rows back have their masks on.

Anyone who doesn't understand likely isn't a parent, wasn't a primary care-giving parent, or did it so long ago that they've forgotten entirely what it's like. Don't worry about what those people think (or what anyone else thinks). Taking care of your own needs is the first step in avoiding PPD.

And best wishes for a healthy delivery.
posted by vignettist at 11:10 AM on November 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

I had a rough time getting pregnant and then a scary emergency premature birth. This happened during the time that two good friends were pregnant, and I did not bear any malice towards them for their quick conceptions, full-term pregnancies, natural births, or easy breastfeeding. I love their kids and am super happy for them. Don't assign bad feelings to yourself that your friends are probably not feeling towards you. Tell your brain that's just hormones talking, and to knock it off!

Definitely ask your midwife for PPD resources now and ask to be screened for symptoms after the birth. You can even go see a counselor now to talk about what's going on rather than wait - you don't need to be diagnosed with PPD.

It's okay to take a break from reading baby books and all that right now, for any reason. This is not a test you can study for. Birth and initial parenting are ultimately about putting on your own oxygen mask and doing what you need to survive. Trust that you know more than you think you do.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 1:57 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

nd they still want to come visit us right after the baby's born.

If visit = stop in for 40 minutes/an hour with cake and nappies, GREAT. If it means staying with you, think twice. We had a few people staying early with our first baby, and it was the worst. We are having a "no sleepovers until >3 months" with our second who is due in January.

This isn't true for everybody - some people talk about how great it is to have a hand, but we personally found the expectation to play host (and the expectation from family to be hosted) was a whole lot of work and angst at a time when we really needed our attention elsewhere. So just be aware your mileage may definitely vary.
posted by smoke at 2:28 PM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

If your pregnancy had been two years ago or five years from now or at any time other than the present, there would be, at the same time, women struggling with infertility, miscarriage, and other severe pregnancy problems. The difference is that you happen to know some of the women undergoing these terrible things at the EXACT SAME TIME as your healthy, beautiful pregnancy. That's all. If you could step back and look at the whole picture, you'd know that there's never a moment in which someone isn't struggling with the grief of a pregnancy loss at the same time someone else is having a healthy baby. It's just the way it is and it really has nothing to do with you at all.

You, on the other hand, have a child who'll be here soon, eager to see Mom smile and feel her kisses and her joy. Your baby is coming to term now - this is the right time for this child to be here. It's to be hoped that these other women will have a child - a healthy child - when the time is right for them, but you have nothing to do with that. You're feeling tremendous compassion for them right now, and that's exactly right, but you might as well start now putting the idea that YOUR child takes top priority for your emotions and your energy over your friends in place. You'll need to fall back on that many, many times in the next few years.

Your friends are grieving now and feeling hopeless and sad. Truthfully, they'll need to get their support from other friends who are not right at the moment giving birth - and that support will be there for them. Time will make the difference for each of them, but it always seems so slow.

You may have a postpartum depression - you surely will if you start feeling guilty that your child is healthy and normal and you've enjoyed your pregnancy - but postpartum depression can be treated, so fear not. For the moment, just focus on your own little one and be ready to make the world a warm and happy one for your family.

It will be okay, but it will take time.

For the record, I had two early miscarriages, an ectopic pregnancy loss, a miscarriage at 6+ months, and one healthy baby - but only one. And a postpartum depression - with the healthy one! (All nearly 50 years ago)
posted by aryma at 11:01 PM on November 25, 2013

Just echoing what Bardolph said. Try to re-direct and re-focus more of your energy to nurturing love for your little one to be. He or she deserves that focus, regardless of what other sad things are going on in the world around us all. Although I completely understand your feelings and where you are coming from, I urge you do what I say, not like I did - now is the time to turn your gaze inward on you, your little one, and your immediate little family. Soon it will be time to celebrate and rejoice in the birth of your child. Don't let other sadness take away from that. Maybe take a moment to acknowledge that there is sorrow in your immediate world and the greater world - a la broken glass tradition at a Jewish wedding which is about acknowledging that there is sorrow even on this day of personal joy - but then return your attention to the joy of the birth of this child.
posted by semacd at 8:55 AM on November 26, 2013

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