“I have something to tell you but, you’ve got to promise not to tell anyone yet.”
“You’re pregnant? You’re pregnant, right!”
And that’s the conversation I had with my sister the first month she missed her period. Call it telepathy or some weird kind of sisterly bond, but I just knew in her voice that she was breaking the news. Once I found out, I had to take a pregnant pause (pun intended) for another month until we told our parents. She wanted to do it after she got her first scan at 8 weeks.
But, I was already a maasi from that first phone call. In fact, my sister’s pregnancy was the first amongst us siblings and the 9 months that followed were a whirlwind of emotions. So before you become a maasi, you’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill as the best sister ever, who ensures her sibling’s pregnancy is as smooth sailing as can possibly be.
And, here’s what to expect when your sister is expecting.
Excitement is at an all-time high, and so is nausea. Here’s how you can help:
The Big Reveal
Your sister’s probably going to need help figuring out how to break the news to everybody. Depending on whether she wants to make it a big production or keep it low-key, pull out your Pinterest board and idea map on the internet for cool ways you can help her do it. From cute announcement t-shirts to a framed ultrasound and digital declarations, there are a number of options that would suit her style.
Between 4 and 6 weeks, sometimes earlier, your sister may experience nausea during the day, or morning sickness in particular. She may even lose her appetite or be set off by certain foods, scents and smells. It’s helpful to make notes about what makes her feel unwell to inform everyone so that you can prevent triggers. Nausea will make her feel tired and weak, so make sure she eats healthy, hydrating fruits and vegetables to stabilise her blood sugar and keep her stomach calm.
The Moodswings, Rona Dhona & So Many Questions
Your sister’s probably going to have a lot of mood swings early in her pregnancy. They usually are at an all-time high during the 3rd month. Be prepared for irrational anger, irritability, reclusive behaviour, and sometimes to have her crying for no reason at all. Patience is key. But, you must remember that this time is about her and not you so don’t just be a silent listener; provide words of comfort and let her use you as a sounding board.
She may also experience doubts about being a good parent, feel underprepared to have a child or feel like she isn’t receiving as much support or excitement from her spouse. You need to play peacemaker and help her stay in a positive frame of mind. Not all male partners have the patience for this phase, so act as a buffer and encourage her to come to you when she’s experiencing a whirlwind of emotions.
A time to bond and a time to roll up your sleeves, here’s how you can help:
Keep Her House In Order
An interesting insight, my sister expressed how she was good to take care of most things herself but needed help around the house. By the fourth month, a small baby bump makes an appearance and your sister is likely to feel more tired than usual. Offer to clean up the house, help her organise her closet, go grocery shopping, and pick up odd chores that are important to her. During pregnancy, it can often feel like everything is changing and your life will never be the same. Helping her keep order in the house and sticking to a schedule she was used to pre-baby bump can really calm her restless mind.
Rest & Relaxation (Maybe even a holiday!)
By the fifth month, one of the more significant body changes is all the swelling, especially in the hands and legs. In fact, most women can’t even wear the same shoe size anymore. Chalk out some weekly rest and relaxation sessions for your sister. You could call for a massage therapist at home or give her one yourself.
This is also a great time to plan a girl’s holiday. She’s pregnant yet active enough to be able to travel and enjoy a celebratory vacation before the baby arrives. You could alternatively recommend a babymoon trip for your jiju and sister if he’d be up for it. Make sure she gets cleared to travel by her doctor.
I had one clear mandate from my sister: “Please ensure I don’t look like a balloon animal in my pictures.”
Well, the sixth month is the perfect time for a pregnancy photo shoot. Her bump is visible yet, she’s not feeling super-conscious about her body. Hire a photographer who has done pregnancy photography and understands the right angles and lights to use to get the best pictures that don’t make the mommy-to-be regret the whole thing. Help her pick out flattering outfits and prompt her in poses to get the best shot. Simple things like moving her face up can prevent a double chin that might make her cringe.
The baby’s almost here so start getting everything in order.
Godh Bharai, or Baby Shower
Now, depending on your sister and family traditions, the seventh month is when you’d host the godh bharai. You could go traditional and invite all the women in the house for a ceremony filled with sangeet, dance, and gifts. Or, if you think she would prefer a baby shower then you can have an intimate gathering of her female friends and family over a nice brunch or evening tea.
Remember, the hostess takes care of everything, including the expenses. So you’re in charge of decor, the guest list, the entertainment, the food, and the venue. And while elders in India prefer to give jewellery or gold to the mother and baby, prompting her friends with a gift registry for things your sister will need once the baby arrives is a great way to help her save some money and get everything together.
Personal Grooming & Confidence Building
By the eighth month, the bump is brimming. Your sister may be feeling off balance and could need help standing up as she gets off the chair, or even walking around for long periods of time. Her body feels completely different and she’s probably very self-conscious because nothing fits.
You should help her with personal grooming because her bump is going to get in the way of her shaving her legs, putting on socks, and even clasping her sandals. Not being able to do these basic tasks for herself will make her feel overwhelmed and frustrated. So, be there to pluck her eyebrows and comb her hair, and encourage her to get out of that nightie and put on some cute airy clothes so that she can feel better about her appearance.
Making The Baby Bag For The Hospital
You never know when the baby’s coming and you may have to rush to the hospital immediately. Put together a hospital bag and keep it by the door so that she can grab-and-go when it’s time. Your bag would include:
For The Mom
- 2 (1 optional) pairs of loose comfy clothes to wear home
- Nightwear that can unbutton for breastfeeding
- Slippers and socks
- 5 pairs of comfy loose underwear
- Toiletries and lotions she may prefer
- Nursing bras (3-4)
- Her preferred birth plan and medical files
- Some energising dry snacks and drinks
- Phone charger and power bank
- Nursing pads/maxi pads
- Music (you could take headphones or a small speaker), playing cards, games
- Pen and paper
- Watch to time contractions
For The Baby
- 2 (1 optional) going home outfits
- Mittens, socks, onesie, and cap
- Diapers for newborns
- Unscented, water-based baby wipes
- Blanket, baby wrap, or shawl
- Baby sleeping bag or carrycot
Make sure the car seat is installed correctly for the baby’s trip home. Also, you will need a large supply of hand sanitisers handy for the hospital room, the car drive, and the house. This way you can ensure everyone cleans their hands before holding or handling the newborn.
At this point, there’s only one thing to say. Congratulations, maasi! Your life will never be the same. You will spend most of your time insisting the child is a mini-you and discover an overprotective side of yourself when it comes to this little bundle of joy. Even if you’ve never really liked kids, now you will find every excuse to hold the baby and refuse to share.