So you’re going to be a faunt — aka first-time aunt or friend aunt. Congrats!
Here are a bunch of things I learned from my sisters and mom friends about the whole motherhood experience, from pregnancy to post-birth, that can maybe help you help them!
Pregnancy can be as scary as it is exciting, and pregnant people really just want comfort.
Comfort can come in a bunch of different forms, whether it’s comfort from you, a human (sitting side-by-side and binge-watching Great British Bake Off is always a good idea), or an object, like this pregnancy pillow that my sister’s friend got her after she mentioned she was having so much trouble figuring out how to sleep on her side. Other human comforts include, but aren’t limited to:
• Setting a regular reminder to text them to see how they’re doing. This is especially good if you’re not in the same city or state. They might not even want to talk about their pregnancy, which is totally fine; just reminding them that you’re there for them is often enough.
• Standing offers to walk or drive them places, because even normal tasks can be difficult — and even when they’re not, they might just want company.
• Making it known that you're willing to do other helpful things for them — like coming over to do laundry or rubbing their feet (if you actually don’t mind doing this).
Aaand if you want other ideas for little gifts that’ll bring them some comfort during or after their pregnancy, here are some faves among friends and family:
• A water bottle so they can stay hydrated, because preparing another human inside your body is apparently very draining!
• Some compression socks, because swollen feet and ankles are not fun, by all reports.
• An Audible subscription/playlist of fun songs or podcasts to listen to whilst breastfeeding/up at ungodly hours.
Along with comfort, they also want a little support, before and after the baby comes.
Whether or not they’re raising the baby alone, it really does take a village, and you’re about to become a big part of that village. You don’t necessarily have to change diapers (although I’ve heard that is never *not* appreciated), but instead you could just repeatedly make yourself available to do/help pay for the things, whatever they may be. Here are some that new-ish moms told me are particularly helpful:
• Giving them a gift card to a maternity clothing store or rental subscription service. I never thought much about what was involved in shopping for maternity clothes, but for the most part, it’s not that enjoyable. You’re spending money for clothes that feel like they belong to another person’s body, and you only get to wear them for a short amount of time. Thus, a gift card is very practical and deeply appreciated. The more you know!
• Going in with your friend group and/or siblings/cousins/etc. and getting them a cleaning service, because things should be extra clean when babies are around, even though babies make it extra hard to keep things clean.
• Starting a meal train, aka an organized way to coordinate a group to bring meals to the new parents — because it can be shockingly hard to find the time or energy to feed yourself, let alone your baby, especially if you have postpartum depression or anxiety. I recently did this for a friend going through this as a way to make sure her fridge was always full and that she still felt connected to the people in her pre-baby life, and she said she really appreciated it.
• If you want to meet/hang out with the baby, consider telling the parent(s) you can watch them for a few hours while they nap/do errands/whatever else they literally never have time for. Usually, you’ll mostly want to play with the baby anyway!
• And if you’re making plans post-baby, always offering to go to them. It’s so much easier than making them pack up all of their stuff (and a tiny human) to meet you wherever.
And aside from those other two things, just do what you can to make sure they feel understood.
It can be really hard to vocalize what you need, when you need it, especially when you’re a new parent and literally have no energy to do it. Making someone feel understood requires a little bit of mind-reading (or, at least question-asking) on your part. Again, every new/expecting parent is different, but picking up on their little cues and clues will make them feel a little less alone in this whole parenting thing. A couple of things you can try:
• Making plans with them that don’t involve drinking. Again, pregnancy is a perfect time to binge a Netflix show about pastries and/or pretty houses, go on low-impact walks, or meet up for (non-caffeinated) coffee dates. Avoid suggesting brunch (even if booze is optional) or dinner, because they might be wiped out.
• Venmoing them a little money to treat themselves when they seem really stretched thin. (Make it known that the money is for whatever will help them feel good.)
• Arranging to have something nice waiting for them at home (cold brew, cereal and milk, fresh clean sheets, slippers, a box of diapers) the first time they bring back their baby, because being alone with a little one for the first time is low-key terrifying.
Remember: Pregnancy and new parenthood is a strange, alien time, and there are probably a lot of things you never realized about how babies/postpartum bodies operate.
A small sampling of things I found interesting/surprising as a faunt:
• If you (or your friend/relative) were never a "shoes off in the house" person before, you will be now. Get yourself some socks or slippers to wear around the baby, because street shoes are a no-no.
• Start bringing hand sanitizer around everywhere, because again, babies and outside germs don’t mix, and you definitely will be asked to wash your hands every time you go visit.
• That means you’ll also probably want some really heavy-duty hand cream, because all of that washing and sanitizing is DRYING AF.
• Kids’ sleep schedules are not negotiable!!!! Your friend won’t wake up their baby so you can see them, and they probably won’t be able to be as flexible as you want when it comes to making plans.
• And yeah, spontaneous plans are probably dead for a little while :/.
• They’re going to be TIRED AF YOU WILL NOT STOP HEARING ABOUT IT but tbh you should just give them a break because 1) they’re raising a live person, 2) their body just went through trauma, 3) you definitely know that when you’re tired, all you want to talk about is how tired you are.
• If you were wine buddies before, you probably can’t pick right up where you left off after the baby is born if your friend is breastfeeding. There's a thing called pump and dump when they have to pump (because boobs get very painful and swollen when they’re full of milk!) and then throw away the milk because they have alcohol in their bloodstream. This is deffff not preferable, so a lot of new moms really take it easy on the drinking (also because it’s not fun to be hungover and taking care of a human).
OH AND P.S. the pregnancy/first months after birth might seem like the most wild times, but tbh ALL of parenthood is nuts, so don’t forget about them and their needs after that period!
Every new parent is different (put that on my grave), so YMMV with these, but in general, keeping in mind that being a parent is a journey, so the value of being there for them along the way really can't be underestimated:
• Put their child’s birthday in your calendar so you always remember to give a card or gift — or, even better, reach out to your friend to tell them you're thinking of them on the day they became a mom.
• If or when they go back to work, make yourself extra available for emotional support. They’ll likely have even LESS time to spend with you, but may be even more open to check-ins, whether they’re phone calls or texts.
• If they stay home with their child full-time, it can be incredibly isolating (and apparently, boring, especially before their child can walk or talk). Even if you just send them a link to a fun place or event near them that they can bring their baby to, they’d probably appreciate injecting a little variety in their day-to-day life.
• Offer to babysit, especially on their anniversary (if they’re married) or their birthday. (Or pay for the babysitting if you can/don’t want to do it yourself.)
• And keep setting those reminders to check in to see how they’re doing! As one recent faunt told me, "I texted my friend every week after she had her baby because I wanted to give her space, but also wanted her to know I was around and thinking of her. I always asked her if she needed anything and she always said no but thank you for asking. Then one day out of the blue, I got a text from her saying she was really not OK and needed some support, badly. And of course, I was like, HI, YES. PUT ME TO WORK. I AM HERE. But it was also a reminder that it's worthwhile to lay that groundwork so your friend knows you are really, truly going to be there for them. Honestly, being called upon to help my friend and her little family in that moment was one of my biggest honors in recent memory."