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.
“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.
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….