I'm so happy for her and her partner that they're expecting, but worried for her, too, because she has a couple risk factors that put her into the high-risk pregnancy category. She's 40, for one. She has a blood clotting disorder, second. And third, she has low progesterone, which could affect the implantation of the embryo.
So how do you react to news of a high-risk pregnancy when you know it's been a struggle to achieve, it's early in its development, and your feelings of excitement are tinged with worry about the risks?
Here's how I found myself reacting to news of my friend's high-risk pregnancy:
Is there ever a reason NOT to congratulate a woman when she tells you she's pregnant? Yes, of course there are. If someone has told you they don't want to be pregnant and it's undeniably clear that the pregnancy is unwanted, it wouldn't be kind to congratulate a woman on her pregnancy in such a circumstance. But even if someone were ill or her pregnancy meant a risk to her own health, I'm not sure I'd keep from congratulating her until I knew her feelings about it. The point is: pregnancy falls into the category of "things generally worth celebrating." It's okay to be excited for a high-risk pregnancy, isn't it? I say yes.
2. "Tell me how you found out and how you've been feeling."
One of the most valuable things I've learned to do as a mother is to listen to what my daughter has to say about how she's feeling or what she's thinking instead of assuming I know what she's going through and projecting my feelings onto her. In the case of learning about my friend's high-risk pregnancy news, I called upon this skill to support my friend appropriately. While there was part of me that wanted to caution her not to get too excited too early in the pregnancy or not to tell too many people until she was in her second trimester, I stopped myself. I realized those fears were my fears—who am I to think they would be her fears? My job as her friend is to love her, support her and be happy for her. The best way to not step on her newly pregnant toes or hurt her feelings is to shut up and listen.
3. "Try not to worry; think positive thoughts."
When she did bring the conversation around to her fears about the high-risk pregnancy, I didn't deny her concerns or invalidate her fears, nor did I feed them. What's the point of adding fuel to the fire of pregnancy worry? My words to my friend—and to you, if you have a high-risk pregnancy: try not to worry. Think positive thoughts. Picture a healthy neural tube forming, five fingers and five toes budding on baby's hands and feet, and wrap your baby with loving thoughts of perfect formation.
4. "Appreciate the journey; embrace it."
Would you tell someone who's just gotten married that their relationship will end someday? Of course not! And yet, whether by death or divorce, all marriages eventually end, don't they? Every beginning has its end. So it is with a pregnancy. Whether a pregnancy terminates on its own or results in a baby, the pregnancy has a built-in time limit. My advice to my friend sharing news of her high-risk pregnancy: enjoy every second of it. Welcome the miracle and be in awe of it. Each stage of pregnancy has its own unique joys. Relish them while they last and see above (don't focus on worry).
5. "Eat well, take your prenatal, get your rest and drink water."
My friend's doctor is going to be the advice-giver. I'm no expert when it comes to high-risk pregnancy. But I do know that for a high-risk pregnancy, just like every pregnancy, the basics are important. And women who have a high-risk pregnancy, just like women with low-risk pregnancy, want to feel like they're doing the right things, being careful, and making the optimal decisions to have a healthy baby. I think almost every mother today feels compelled to try to control the outcome of her pregnancy. Even though we can't really control pregnancy per se, we can control our choices. The basic prescription for pregnant women—eat well, take a prenatal, rest and drink water—are all hands-on things you can do daily to help alleviate that urge to control how your high-risk (or low-risk) pregnancy progresses.
So how do you think I did with my reaction to the news of my friend's high-risk pregnancy? If you have a high-risk pregnancy, how are people reacting to you and your news? What do you wish people would say?
Thanks for reading,