When I first sat down to write this post, I planned to write a concise list of things you should NOT say to the parents of a preemie. That would certainly be a heated topic and one that I can greatly relate to, but seriously…it isn’t about what shouldn’t be said. People are people and they will always say awkward things. Sometimes words just spill out. Sometimes we try and fill the silence with something just because the quiet makes us nervous.
I myself have said so many things that were well intended but that came across totally wrong. The point is, having a preemie is like walking through your own personal earthquake. It shakes your family to the core and, honestly, unthoughtful comments are really difficult to hear. They hurt. They sting and they make you want to cry. That is why I wanted to write this: so others might be aware that well-meaning words can cause a great deal of pain. The following comments were all said to myself or my husband when our baby was in the NICU. I didn’t respond with these answers, but this is certainly how I felt.
You are so lucky that you didn’t have to be pregnant for nine months and gain all that weight!
Ask any preemie mother out there, and I am sure she would tell you, that she would trade the ventilator, the needle pokes, the feeding tubes, the surgeries, and any other complications that accompany having a preemie, all for a nice ring of chub. Swollen ankles and a sore hind end? Bring it on!
When is your baby coming home?
Really? Are you honestly asking me that? Okay, so if we knew the answer to this one, I am pretty sure the date would be not only tattooed to our foreheads but also monogrammed on every single piece of clothing in the closet!
At least you can sleep through the night and recover from surgery; once the baby comes home you will have your hands full!
Right, okay. Our baby is living in an INTENSIVE CARE unit for babies and you actually think we can sleep well? Interesting. Also, there is of course the all-night pumping extravaganza—that really lends itself to rest. Oh, what I would have done to have my hands FULL with a warm little newborn body instead of empty for so long—just waiting for her homecoming.
Your baby is so tiny!
I realize that this may seem like a harmless statement, but this one hurts. Yeah – a baby born early is small. Pointing out the obvious doesn’t necessarily encourage a parent that is praying for each and every ounce gained while in the NICU. Why not lead with something like, “What a beautiful child – a miracle and a gift,” instead?
Is your baby going to make it?
Wow. Do I even have to explain why this stings. I can barely type it without still aching a little.
With all those nurses around, you and your husband should just go out…you’ve got great babysitters.
Right… because romance is looming around every corner when your baby is in the NICU. It is easy to leave your baby hooked up to machines in the hospital and just ‘cheers’ the night away. This is so not true it is not even funny.
I know that there are other preemie parents out there that can relate. I have decided to write a recipe. Do you have some things to add? I would love to hear what made your heart soar or made your heart sting. I want to know what helped you heal and what peeled back the scabs. Let’s learn and grow together!
Here is what I’ve got so far:
A Recipe for Preemie Family Encouragement
- hugs, hugs, and more hugs.
- homemade meals
- a listening ear
- cute baby clothes
- hand sanitzer from Costco
- positive words of affirmation
I can’t wait to hear what you have to add!