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What to Do When Your Friend’s Birth Doesn’t Go as Planned

Most of us are not prepared when we get the news – a friend or family member has had a baby, and there have been complications.  We go through life assuming everything will be alright, but what do we do in those moments when they are not. What do you do when your friend’s birth doesn’t go as planned?

Unexpected Complications

Two of my three births had unexpected complications. Our first born had a traumatic labor, which resulted in him having lots of bruising, and a hospital stay for 7 extra days. Our second was born at 23 weeks, and spent four months in the NICU before she was able to come home.

Our family has a vast knowledge on what helped, and didn’t help our family while we experienced these two different, but still very painful times in our lives. While every family is different, I’m sure some of these tips will help give you a starting point on where to help those you love.

Food; bring them meals

Set up a care calendar (Here is a wonderful free site where you can manage multiple people, and the recipients will know what to expect each day.)

Preparing freezer meals can be a wonderful way to help spread out the dinners.  Make sure to check with the family that they have room in their freezers to keep extra meals before bringing them over.

When you do bring meals, don’t expect to stay or eat with the family. You can ask if that would be a blessing to them, but generally expect to drop off the food and leave – they are going through a lot and may just need time alone.

Ask them what their favorite food is, and make that! Or bring them gift cards to places they enjoy eating.  Snacks are also helpful, for the parents sitting in the hospital, traveling to see their baby or to give to other children if this is not their first baby. Gift cards for gas if they are commuting can be another really useful gift, as lot of mothers have to leave their babies at the hospital. 

Visit them at the hospital

If you do visit them at the hospital, don’t expect to see the baby.  That can be hard, but if the baby is in the NICU a lot of times there are rules of who you can bring into the rooms, or regulations, or possibly the parents don’t want to risk the baby being exposed to any extra germs, please respect that.  When a baby is trying to heal (in whatever capacity) a common cold can set them back weeks or even worse.

Give them gifts

A journal and a pen are a wonderful gift, that encourage the parents to write down their journey.  The doctors may give them info they want to write down, they may have feelings they want to write but can’t say yet. 

Adult coloring books with markers, pens or colored pencils. (Or buy some for the children if they have other children.)

Bring them coffee or tea. (Make sure to check with the Mama to see if you should grab decaf or regular.)

Buy new blankets, so there are no shared germs with used. If the baby is a preemie, you can cut up the blankets (small squares) so the mom and dad can wear them under their clothes and then leave them with baby. This helps leave the baby with the scent of their parents and calm the babies. Mama’s can also bring the babies blankets home and sit with them as they are pumping milk. The smell of the baby will help the mama’s body produce more milk. Any baby will enjoy having a blanket that smells like their parents.

Sending cards to know you’re thinking of them. 

Give them childrens books so they can read to their baby while they are in the hospital.

Flowers are also a great gift to brighten up the room.

Other Ways to Help

If this is not their first child, offer to watch their other kiddos so Mom and Dad can go to the hospital together. 

Offer to clean their house, or parts of their house. This is huge need especially when all their time is taken up being with their new baby. 

Check in with your friends often, don’t pry or get mad if they don’t want to open up. Just sit with them, or let them know you are there, a lot of times they won’t answer, but it does mean a lot for them to know you are there for them.

Continue to check in, a lot of times it’s after the initial adrenaline wears off that people feel alone.  Checking in weeks or months after will help support them after the initial influx of help has worn off. Bringing them meals during this time can also be a blessing.

Don’t expect them to know what they need

Offer to help, don’t force, but have an idea of what you can help with. 

If you do ask, “What can I do?” and they let you know this would be helpful, don’t judge the need they express.  Perhaps it’s something that’s weighing on them (a house project that needs to get done but now they don’t have time to do) and will be helpful to ease their mind. 

Remember everyone responds differently and your way of processing may not be their way.

Sometimes it’s hard to accept help, but being there willing to jump in, is the best way to support someone walking through a hard season. 

Be there to offer support, but also remember sometimes people just need to have you sit and grieve with them.

Carissa Coghlan

Carissa Coghlan is the mother to three beautiful children, seven and younger. She stays at home full time and homeschools her oldest son. She loves drinking coffee, crafting and organizing her home. She grew up in the bay area of California, and will always feel most at peace standing on the beach hearing the waves crash onto the shore. She has a podcast, called Creating Coghlans, where her and her family are striving to live a more intentional life, filled with more understanding and grace.

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