When a friend’s baby is diagnosed with a fetal syndrome or she is having a difficult pregnancy for other reasons, her family’s life turns upside down. It is often hard to know what to say – or how to help. Several of FHF’s board members have experienced fetal syndrome diagnoses, so we asked them to share their thoughts on how you might support a friend.
Of course, no mother deals the same way with the reality of a difficult pregnancy, and we all are sensitive to the needs of each person. These are, however, ways to show your support.
1. Be there. Call. Stop by. Even if you are worried about what to say or how to act, be there anyway. The normalcy of a visit with friends can be a short but welcome escape from a diagnosis. If you don’t live nearby, a call or text lets your friend know you care and provides a brief respite.
2. Be an extra hand. Often these mothers would appreciate help tidying the home, running errands, getting to and from doctor appointments, and even coordinating older children’s school pick-up and activity schedules.
3. Learn enough to be familiar with the diagnosis, but realize you aren’t an expert. Friends and family should do some research to learn about the condition and diagnosis. It can be a relief that you are familiar with some of the terms and the general challenges your friend may be facing. Remember, though, that reading an article on the internet does not make you an expert. Each situation is different.
“Someone very close to me denied that I could have TTTS because they had just seen it on Discovery Health and there was no way I could have that. Once I was able to convince them that the diagnosis was real, they coached me on “all their knowledge” about it. It was really hurtful.”
4. Be supportive of tough decisions. Even if you have gone through something very similar, you have no idea what the family is going through. Be careful not to judge the family’s decisions. They are doing what feels right to them, and your support will give them strength.
5. Make calls and find resources. See if you can call doctors, fetal centers, or the Fetal Health Foundation to get more information about a diagnosis. Offer to ask questions and schedule appointments. Look into resources such as Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, and Cherishing the Journey.
6. Understand that being out in public may be difficult. Help by doing things like errands that keep the mother home where she can rest.
“The grocery store was the worst place for me when I was going through my diagnosis and treatment because people always wanted to talk about the baby or the due date.”
7. Consider photos. If the mother agrees, see if you can arrange for a professional photographer to help document the pregnancy. In some cases, these pictures will be the only memories they have with their child. It’s so important in the grieving process to have a visual reminder of their child’s life and time with them.
8. Let them know you are thinking about them.
“I received several books, a couple of stuffed animals and other items from friends and family. I was so touched by each one. Not to mention that the books gave me something to do while I was on “couch arrest,” also known as bed rest.”
9. Bring a meal. A decent meal and someone to rely on when a spouse may be tied to a desk can go such a long way for a mom struggling to bring her baby or babies into the world.
10. Listen. Many times, the best gift you can give is that of a sincere question and understanding silence while a friend tells you her story.