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6 Ways to Show Up for the Preeclampsia Mom in Your Life

I was never quite sure how to “show up” for a new mom prior to my own birth experience with my daughter Madison. I would do the norm of sending flowers or dropping by with a meal, but I didn’t fully grasp how impactful my words and actions could be for a pregnant or recently pregnant friend - especially if that person had experienced a birth trauma like preeclampsia or a heartbreaking pregnancy or infant loss.

I participate in a Preeclampsia/HELLP Syndrome Survivor Group via Circle Connection, and in July, the question was posed in the group, “How did your friends show up, and with that, did relationships change after a birth trauma?”

It made me think. Given the dynamic conversation on the subject and my own personal experiences, I asked the group if I could share their insights to help others find the right way to support new parents with support, friends, and relief during this season of life. Here’s what these preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome survivors had to share about what helped them most during their most vulnerable time:

“Couples therapy helped us a lot. Because we both dealt with the trauma differently”- Courtney of @knockonmotherhood, Preeclampsia Survivor 

“This [postpartum] time truly helped me realize that you most definitely need a village. And that village showed up in a way that we never even imagined. Remember, you went through something traumatic, do not compare your journey to anyone else’s because what you went through matters. I know it’s hard, but talk about it with your partner, friends, or anyone who is willing to truly LISTEN”. - Leah. B, HELLP survivor 

All of the comments in the group seemed to reflect that they loved (or would have loved) that people stopped by for more reasons than to “come see the baby.” 

Please note that the following recommendations were developed for situations where mom and baby make it through the experience, but tragically, preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a major cause of infant loss. Please read our article “How to Show Up for A Preeclampsia Parent of Loss” for tips specific to supporting moms of loss.

How to Show Up for a Preeclampsia Mom:

  1. Understand that her experience has been more than physical. Right now, she is feeling like she somehow “failed” her pregnancy because the experience did not happen the way that she expected it would. Reassure her that it’s completely normal to struggle with those feelings. Remind her that she did everything she could to protect and care for her baby. And if she needs help, point her to the GREAT postpartum psychological care experts out there waiting to hear and guide her through this emotional experience. Recognize that the loss of her expected pregnancy experience is still a loss.
  2. Know that physical postpartum recovery is also often longer. Maybe she had a c-section. Maybe she was on magnesium sulfate. Maybe she was placed in a medically-induced coma. In the worse case scenario, maybe she spent days, weeks, or even months in the intensive care unit. In any scenario, she is going to need hands to help lift, move, clean, cook, and all the other things that go along with a long health recovery. Think of her postpartum recovery like you would a relative that’s had a major surgical procedure - then remember that there’s also often a small helpless being on TOP of that recovery for whom your loved one is now responsible. If you cannot be helpful, make room for someone who can be.
  3. Encourage her to spend bonding time with her baby. In many preeclampsia scenarios, mom and baby may not be together physically in the hospital due to their individual medical needs. Even if they were able to room together, it can be very different taking care of a baby at home than it was in the hospital. Gently encourage her to take time to just hold her baby and do nothing else.  
  4. Remember that birthing and pregnancy stories of “someone you knew who…” are not helpful. Every pregnancy and delivery journey is unique. Save the war stories for a more appropriate time and instead, focus on the new mom and how she can be supported in her journey.
  5. Watch her blood pressure in the postpartum period. Preeclampsia can occur or worsen up to six weeks postpartum, so the new mom should be monitoring her blood pressure and following up with her care providers for general postpartum care and especially if she has any concerning symptoms. We have heard stories of grandparents and great grandparents that have truly helped in this area, what a beautiful way to share their love.
  6. Ask for her favorite dinner (or schedule a MealTrain to get more hands involved!) and arrange to just drop it off without an extended visit. Many families are overwhelmed bringing a new bundle of joy home or facing the back-and-forth of a preemie still in the NICU. Work around the family’s schedule, not yours.

The most important thing is to make sure that your preeclampsia survivor friend knows that she is not alone.

Resources: Here are some resources for yourself, someone expecting, or becoming a mama:

  • Postpartum Support International (https://www.postpartum.net/): Online support groups, 24/7 text support, and more
  • HELLP/Preeclampsia Circle: Join other survivors at the Circle each month on Zoom (free). For more details email Rachel at info@circleconnectiondmv.com 
  • Mommy and Me Workout Groups: Looking to burn some energy, connect with others, and have fun with your kids in tow for a workout? Look into Fit4Mom and Strong like a Mother (SLAM) workouts in your area. Both also have virtual options. 
  • Peanut App: Looking to connect with moms in your area that are at a similar stage? Try the Peanut App and you can filter by location, age, interests, Preemie, Loss, and more. Download the free app here.
  • Momma’s Voices: Do you want to “Use Your Mom Voice” to help create change in the maternal healthcare system? Learn how to be an advocate and effectively share your story with our training (check us out!).

What would you add to help someone learn how to show up? We would love to hear your feedback

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