A Few Things You Should Never Say to a Preemie Mommy



My preemie is now 18 months and a whopping 28lbs!  It’s pretty safe to say that he has overcome his tiny beginning. Even still, I get comments from family, friends and complete strangers that make me scratch my head.  Those comments instantly bring back all the feels from that time when my 4lb 5oz sweet baby boy surprised us with his early arrival and we landed ourselves in the NICU for a lengthy stay.  So here is my list of What Not to Say to a Preemie and sadly enough, they are all things people actually said to me.  

Overwhelming Amount of Sarcasm Ahead.  Please Proceed With Low Expectations.


“My baby was early too.”

Usually when someone says this to me, of course, I ask how early.  The usual response is about 2 weeks.  Now, I don’t want to down play anyone’s early arrival BUT by ACOGs (The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) and SMFMs (The Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine) definitions, Early term is 37-39 weeks, Preterm is 32-37 weeks and Early Preterm is before 32 weeks.  Ours arriving at 31 weeks + 5 days, was an Early Preterm, so forgive me if I RDJ your 2 week early arrival.


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“Delivering your preemie isn’t much worse than a large bowl movement.”  

I s*** you not (pun intended), this was said to me and with a straight face… A face I almost B!*#@ slapped.



“At least labor was easy since he was so tiny.”

Um…labor is never EASY and don’t ever minimize a woman’s birth story.  It is special and important to her and to suggest that it was less of a big deal, or less difficult than anyone else’s should earn you a slap upside your head (Agent Gibbs style).




“If your baby is staying in the NICU at least you’re getting plenty of sleep.”

Wrong. So very wrong!  This is the one I heard most frequently and irritated me beyond belief.  Between pumping every 2 hours (10x a day because us preemie mama’s often struggle with our supply. Which amounted to about 4-5 hours a day just for a bit of perspective), working part time (see #9), 2 hour travel time between home, work and hospital.  We would usually get home from the hospital at 11pm each night in which it was surely time for me to pump again (it was always time to pump) and I would start each day at 430am and probably got up to pump somewhere in between.  So, no.  There was not much sleep being had.




“Wait until you get out of the NICU and the “real” work begins.”

Because the NICU is really quite a breeze.  (See #4)




“Of course your body bounced back. You’re baby was so tiny.”

Yes, it was the tiny baby and had absolutely nothing to do with the hard work I put in at the gym and good nutritional choices over the 7 months of pregnancy and continued after pregnancy.




“Did he come early because you continued to work out during your pregnancy?”

The answer is NO.  100% no.  All of my activity was cleared with the doctor and it just so happened to be that I had a liver condition brought on by pregnancy that caused the spontaneous preterm birth.  In fact, me staying fit and healthy is thought to have contributed to having such a healthy baby despite such an early birth.  




“You got to skip out on the difficult part of pregnancy.”  

I would have traded anything to be able to experience a full term pregnancy.  Nothing is worth the health of my child.   Plus, a lot of preemie moms, myself included, have a sense of guilt from being unable to carry their child full term.  I may have managed to avoid stretch marks but I have scars on my heart from the preemie experience.




“How could you go back to work while you’re baby was in the NICU?”  

Um…well, I don’t know.  Maybe we have to pay bills, like the kind that come with 31 days in the NICU.  And maybe, just maybe, I want to save as much of my maternity leave for when we brought our son home.  I was fortunate enough to have a job that I was able to return to 3 days after giving birth.  I worked part time all 31 days Zeke was in the NICU.  It saved me almost 3 weeks worth of my maternity leave.  These choices are not easy, so please recognize that everyone’s situation is different.




“Can he come home yet? or When will he come home?”

Okay…this is an appropriate question, it’s just a tough one to have to answer several times a day.  The answer is no and I don’t know.  There is progress and set backs ALL THE TIME.  We were told that Zeke would be released on his 28th day in the NICU.  About an hour after they gave us the good news, he D-sat’d and we were stuck there another 5 days.  It is an emotional rollercoaster but you can rest assured knowing that parents will shout it from the mountain tops (or at least over social media) when they are released from the NICU.




So my dear friends.  If you have a loved one who’s had a premature start, you may want to be a little extra thoughtful with your words.  If you have said any of these to a preemie parent….Don’t worry.  They’ll forgive you.  They just may poke fun at your expense during those late nights in the NICU while they’re getting ALL of that extra sleep. 😉   But lets face it…you owe them that much.  Know that those preemie parents are taking on everything a new parent is dealing with, but pile on top the added stress of living life day by day in the hospital watching their dear baby fight hard to thrive and not always knowing what the next day or even hour will bring.


Are you a preemie parent?  Do you have anything you’d add to the list?

Happy Preemie’ing, er….



World Prematurity Day & Our Birth Story

Today is World Prematurity Day which is a day that will always have a special place in my heart.  The day my son was born was a terrifying blur.  The night before my husband and I had just taken our Birthing class at the hospital.  We learned what to expect, how to help manage pain, took our tour of the room we’d be giving birth in.  (A room we’d actually never make it to.) We had gotten home and I made a list of items I needed to pack in my hospital bag.  The bag I had planned to pack the next morning after church.  (A bag never got packed.) I woke up to a little bit of stomach ache shortly after 4am the next morning.  Honestly, it felt like gas and I though I needed to go to the bathroom.  I laid back down and by 430 the pain had gotten worse but nothing alarming.  I was 31 weeks pregnant so I expected to experience Braxton Hicks.  I got up and walked around a little to see if that eased the contractions but it was becoming clear to me that what I was experiencing was real thing.  I started my contraction timer on my phone and the contractions were only a few minutes apart and quickly becoming more painful.  I woke my husband up and had him call the nurse.  We were told to come in right away so in our haste we threw some random things in a bag and headed out the door.  By now it was about 530am and the contractions were right on top of each other giving my no relief at all.  My husband chopped our 40 minute commute down to about 25 minutes breaking the speed limit and racing through red lights (at my urging!)

We arrived at the ER where we checked in just before 6am.  Well, my husband checked us in, I just waddled around the waiting room groaning like a cat in heat.  The asked when the contractions started and we were told to take a seat and someone would be with us shortly.  My dear sweet husband tried to express the urgency, though I’m sure he was seen as just another frantic dad to be.  It was at that time I felt an overwhelming desire to push and I buckled over.  He grabbed the closest employee to us and it just happened to be the security guard who took one look at me and dashed through the ER door and came running back with a doctor and nurse.  (Bless that security guard) They wheeled me back and in 10 minutes and 2 pushes later, my itty bitty baby was born.

I was so terrified I didn’t want to look him. (This is the part of our birth story that I’m still kind of ashamed of) I didn’t know if he’d even be alive and if he was, what he would look like.  My husband had to tell me to look at him.  “Look at him!  He looks great! He’s got a lot of hair!” And he said it with such joy. He was right.  He was perfect.  So perfect in fact it was deceiving.  He looked like a normal healthy newborn.  The nurse him swaddled him up and covered his tiny face with an oxygen mask.  She let me give him a kiss before they whisked him away to assess his condition.  My husband followed him to the NICU on the 12th floor while they took me to the 14th floor to get cleaned up.

It was that moment when I was left alone, with no belly, no baby at my side and my husband gone to look after our little guy, that emptiness flooded over me like a lead blanket.  I felt nothing.  No sadness, no joy. Nothing.  Now, we expected that things may not go exactly as we had laid out in our birth plan but this….this was not even on our radar.  My husband came back about 45 minutes later with an update on Zeke.  His report was more than I could have asked for.  He was not on oxygen, which is HUGE at this stage.  He weighed 4lbs 5 oz which is a long way from that 3 1/2lbs he was measuring during an ultra sound just 2 days prior.  Finally, the nurses allowed my husband to wheel me in to see Zeke.  I was able to touch him gently while in his incubator so I did the only I could. I cupped his sweet head in the palm of my hand and let him wrap his teeny fingers around mine.  I talked to him so he knew his Mama didn’t leave him.  I apologized for not being with him and not being able to keep him safe in my womb.  I prayed for him, oh how I prayed.  I wondered, did he miss my heartbeat?  Was he scared now that he could hear it?  Did he know I was there?  We let the grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends in to see him and yet, I still hadn’t held him.

Finally, about 14 hours later (or so, time meant nothing to me. I just know it was very dark outside) I was able to hold him.  He was so fragile and was hooked up to feeding tubes, IV’s, heart monitors, CPAP, etc.  The nurse gently lifted him from his new, temporary home and laid him on my bare chest.  Immediately his heart rate calmed and his oxygen levels steadied.  This is what he needed.  This is what WE needed.  I was able to let him sleep on me for about an hour before I was falling asleep and had to be taken back to my recovery room.  Thru the night my husband and I took turns taking the tiny amounts of breast milk I was able to produce and dropping it off in the NICU.  Of course we’d stay by his side for a while before returning to each other.  I wanted so badly to spend the night at his crib side but they urged me back to recover.

I had not cried (yet) and I was able to keep a smile on my face most of the time.  But as my discharge neared, I grew more and more anxious.  My husband returned from visiting Zeke to a wife who was sobbing into her lunch.  It hit me, what had to happen next.  I came in the doors of that hospital pregnant and now, I had to leave without my sweet boy that had been with me every second of my day for the last 7 months.  When I wasn’t by his side, I caught myself rubbing the left overs of his former home in my belly.  I spent about an hour that night trying to leave and sharing lots of tears with those precious NICU nurses.  I can tell you, thinking about that long, lonely, depressing ride home brings instant tears to my eyes every time.  It’s been 17 months and I can feel every single emotion still.

31 days of back and forth between work, the hospital and home to care for our two dogs.  31 days of spending hours upon hours kangarooing and round the clock pumping in the middle of a busy NICU.  31 days of sitting in on Rounds (at least the parts about Zeke),  listening to his medical plan and working with lactation specialists.  31 days of eating cafeteria food and watching new moms come in to deliver they baby and seeing their joy as they took them home the next day.  31 days of alternating hospital shifts with my husband.  31 days of walking into my baby’s empty nursery at the house imagining what it’ll be like when he finally gets to come home.  He spent a long 31 days in the NICU where he put on weight, learned to regulate his temperature, learned to drink (my breast milk) from a bottle (he never did learn to breastfeed so be nice to those Mama’s who can’t bf.  You never know what their circumstances are.)  The NICU felt like a blur but at the same time I can remember every single second of it.


Zeke about an hour after he was born.                                                        Zeke, 1 Day old



Zeke, 15 months old                                                                              Zeke, 17 months old

So to all those preemie Mama’s that are currently in the trenches…it will pass.  It does get better.  A lot better.  You will be forever changed by your experience and your time in the NICU with your sweet preemie will always be a part of you.  But soon…though it will never seem soon enough, it will just be a part of your past.  Just a “small” piece of your great story.  You were chosen to be a part of a very special club.  One, in time, you may just feel blessed to be a part of.  Welcome.

For more information on preterm birth check out http://www.marchofdimes.org/mission/world-prematurity-day.aspx


Happy Preemi’ing!