Amateur Aunt


My older sister is having a baby, and I'm so happy for her--and so scared for myself. It feels like only yesterday that my sister and I were playing in the woods and making cupcakes together (we burnt them--sorry, Mom). Now she seems entirely grown-up, and I feel like I’m faking it. I’m still in college, and I don’t know a thing about baby showers or how to treat a pregnant lady! I want to be there for my sister in any way I can, though, so I thought I’d ask the experts: what can I do to make my sister’s life easier while she’s pregnant? What should I expect while she’s expecting? And how the heck do baby showers work, anyway?!

Congratulations to your sister on becoming a mother--and to you on becoming an aunt! This is certainly an exciting time in your family, and while it may seem like a frightening one, too, it doesn't have to be. The good news is that the answers to your questions are very simple. You can support your sister by doing many of the things that would be kind under any circumstances, as well as by paying special attention to a few pregnancy-specific tips that our experts will provide.

You should know that your sister will be dealing with some symptoms during her pregnancy. The overwhelming majority of pregnant mothers--90%--experience morning sickness. Fatigue is common too, experts say. Being pregnant can be uncomfortable, and pregnant mothers would prefer not to be working or doing chores when they could be resting and taking weight off of their legs and back.

But the world does not stop while you are pregnant. Your sister still has responsibilities at home and at work, so consider lightening her load. Some household chores are actually dangerous to do while pregnant, experts say, so perhaps you could volunteer your services. Or come over and give those cupcakes another try. The pros at Dacor like to say that kitchens bring people together, and a little baking might be just what your sister needs to keep her happy and relaxed at a stressful time (plus, she might actually own a Dacor, which might be a welcome change from the oven in your dorm or off-campus apartment!). Perhaps the best idea of all would be to offer your time and let your sister choose the chore or the activity--after all, she knows best what would help her most.

As for the baby shower, try not to worry. Baby showers do not ask much more of you than to show up with a gift, and the gift-buying is made considerably easier by the use of registries. If your sister sets up, for instance, a Babies ‘R’ us gift registry, then choosing your gift is as simple as hopping on a computer and selecting something from that list. As for how much to spend, the U.S. average is $30, but there is no hard and fast rule--your relationship with the mother and your financial situation as a college student may both affect how much you choose to spend.

With nearly 4 million babies being born each year in the United States, you can be sure that you are not the only first-time aunt freaking out. But remember that your sister loves you and values your support, not your intimate knowledge of baby shower etiquette. Focus on being there for your sister and offer your help in any way you can. Keep in mind the side-effects of pregnancy and her limitations, and try to step in where it would help most. Above all, though, get excited: this is a wonderful time for your family.

“Don't worry. Here's the thing I've learned about pregnancy. Everything feels like a crisis and everything turns out to be heartburn.” - Cammie McGovern

(Nancy Pearson is President of Nancy Pearson Design).

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