It was just over 12 years ago that my son entered the world 13 weeks before his due date. Born at 27 weeks’ gestation, he weighed just 1 pound, 15 ounces, and began what would be an almost three-month stay in the NICU.
That time was filled with so many fears, so many tears and ultimately so much relief when he finally was able to go home, healthy. That time was also filled with well-meaning family and friends who only wanted to help, but whose words also could cause pain.
In talking over the years with other families who have spent time in the NICU, there are some things most parents in this situation would rather not hear. Here are 10 of them.
1. He is soooo tiny.
Yes, we know. I winced as my husband’s wedding band slipped around and up my son’s arm like a bracelet. We’re cheering every ounce he gains, so your shock at his size stings.
2. I couldn’t handle this.
Yes, you could, because you have no other choice.
3. Don’t worry, it will all work out.
There are so many complications that can come with premature birth, so there is a lot to worry about. No, worrying won’t help, but there are serious issues looming and it’s nearly impossible not to be overwhelmed with concern about what your child’s life is going to look like in the future. Sometimes it doesn’t all work out.
4. She just couldn’t wait to be born.
This wasn’t her choice.
5. It’s like you have built-in babysitters with all these nurses.
We would do anything to be at home caring for our own baby around the clock. Anything.
6. Everything happens for a reason.
Well intended, but so not helpful.
7. At least you didn’t have to gain all the weight you would have if you’d gone full term.
Our weight is irrelevant right now when our baby’s weight is being measured in ounces.
8. I read that this could happen because … I heard that you should …
Please keep the medical advice and all the fascinating things you’ve read to yourself. We have doctors and are doing plenty of our own research.
9. Someday you won’t even remember all of this.
Believe me, we’ll never forget.
Even if we don’t respond, the calls, cards, emails and other gestures of support mean so much. Don’t worry so much about saying the wrong thing that you don’t say anything at all.