It’s ironic. The first time in my life that I was literally never alone is when I found myself feeling the loneliest. When I was pregnant, although I felt overjoyed to be sharing my body with a growing baby, I also felt very separate from everyone around me. All of a sudden my experience in life was entirely different, and it was hard for me to connect with friends, family, or even my husband about that difference.
Pregnancy is an overwhelming experience. Your body is going through so many changes that you hardly recognize yourself. You are riding a hormone-fueled roller coaster daily. And life can feel upside down while you struggle with your own expectations and fears about the future. Even worse, very few people really understand or know how to hold the space for what’s happening for you, making many women feel extremely lonely.
If you have a friend or partner who is pregnant, here are a few ways you can help them through the emotional challenges and loneliness of pregnancy:
1. Connect with her by phone or in person
Connection is a very basic human need that can be overlooked during the hubbub of daily life. In this technology-fueled world, we often get lazy and substitute Facebook, text, and IM for genuine connection. If you want to make a woman feel less lonely, go that extra mile to connect with her by calling her or scheduling time alone with her to really talk.
When you are with her, be with her. Put down your phone and your work, and really try to connect with her and make her feel cared about. Make her a priority in your life, even if that just means scheduling an hour on the phone or at Starbucks to catch up.
2. Openly listen to her talk about pregnancy
For me, the hardest part about pregnancy was feeling like I couldn’t talk too much about it. I felt like no one wanted to hear me talk endlessly about morning sickness or swollen feet. Many people ask a pregnant mama how she is feeling, but don’t really listen or express much interest in the answer.
If you want to hold space for a pregnant woman, really ask her questions about what’s happening to her and express interest in the answers. Ask follow-up questions. Try to understand her world. Let her talk about the aches and pains or the fears or anxieties and be compassionate.
Most importantly, unless you have actually been pregnant, do not offer advice or solutions for her problems. And do not tell her stories about other people you know! For some reason, everyone becomes an expert when a pregnant woman complains. “Oh just eat ginger for that morning sickness!” or “A friend of a friend was in labor for 35 hours! Are you scared of that?” Don’t do that. Try to ask questions that will make her feel better, not worse.
3. Invite her to things she can enjoy
Everyone wants to belong. Remember the cool table in the high school? Sometimes being pregnant can feel like you’re sitting alone in that lunch room all over again. It sucks to be the one sober person at the New Years Eve party or to have to turn down that concert or hike because your feet hurt too bad. But it sucks more to not get invited anywhere because you’re pregnant!
Do what you can to make your pregnant friend feel like she is still a part of the group. Invite her to do things she will enjoy, like to tea, to a park for a picnic, or on a nice walk. Be creative and think about things that she will enjoy, not things that will require her to be a passive observer.
4. Go sit with her at the party
This one is really easy but can make a huge impact for a pregnant mama. Especially in the later months of pregnancy, we cannot stand for very long. And at parties, everyone tends to stand to converse. So she winds up sitting by herself, left out of conversation.
If you notice a pregnant woman sitting alone, go sit with her and talk to her. Or bring the conversation group to where she is sitting so that she can participate.
5. Do not fight with a pregnant woman
Yes, a pregnant women can be difficult. She can snap at you, be short-tempered and sometimes even irrational. When I was pregnant, I remember hearing myself say mean things like I was outside of my body listening to someone else. We are not ourselves when we are pregnant.
So, most importantly, do not let your temper get the best of you when dealing with a hormone-fueled pregnant woman! When you upset a pregnant woman, you upset the baby. When you stress out a pregnant woman, you stress out the baby. Kapish?
Cut her some slack. When she is short with you, let it go. Partners, if she is not in the mood to have sex, do not take it personally or make her feel guilty. If she is being irrational, just let her rant and then move on. I’m not saying to let her walk all over you. I am saying to both friends and partners – pick your battles and try to avoid raising your voice or escalating the situation.
6. Offer to bring her food or run errands for her
When you’re pregnant, you are SO TIRED! It’s crazy how exhausted you can get by the simplest things like doing laundry or going to the grocery store. Your body literally hurts. But you also feel like you need to be super woman.
It’s hard for many women to ask for the help they could really use when they are pregnant. I remember it took me months to actually accept the offer of the bagging clerk at the grocery store to help me pack my car! Now, even after having the baby I still let them help me.
Pregnancy makes life more overwhelming. So if you want to make a woman feel better, offer to do small things for her without her asking. Bring over take out for dinner. Offer to run by the grocery store for her. Bring her a decaf latte or ice cream as a treat. Do her laundry while you are over. Do things for her that will make her life easier.
7. Check in just to say “Hi!”
In the initial “big reveal” of pregnancy, people are very interested in you and your news. But as the months progress, you can start to feel like people have forgotten about you.
This is not a substitute for real connection (see #1), but it can be a big help in addition to your connection time. Text, call, or email your pregnant friend regularly just to check in and say hi. Ask how they are feeling, talk to them about baby names, or send them something funny or cheery to say you’re thinking of them. A little bit can go a long way to brighten a mama’s day.
When a friend goes the extra mile, it can feel like a life raft during the tumultuous emotional storms of pregnancy. And when you make a pregnant woman’s day, you can also contribute to the happiness of her baby. So it’s a win-win!
Pregnant mamas, how could your friends or partner make you feel less lonely?