I have had many a conversation with fellow mums of premature babies and it seems to be a common theme that we’ve all been on the receiving end of some quite hurtful comments. These comments aren’t meant to be hurtful, but they still hurt. They could easily be said by a friend or family member who has the best intentions, but they show a definite lack of understanding of what we are going through or have recently been through. I’m writing this post to raise awareness about what a mum of a premature baby goes through and if this post helps to stop one insensitive comment to a fellow mum then it will have done its job 🙂
5 Things to Never Say to a Mum of a Premature Baby
1. “Aw, hes so tiny”
He’s not tiny. He’s absolutely huge compared to the 800g he was. You have no idea of the blood sweat and tears it’s taken for him to reach 6lb.
2. “At least you didn’t get any stretch marks”
I had this one and I was actually lost for words. No, we didn’t get stretch marks, but that would have been such an obscenely small price to pay in exchange for having a healthy term baby.
3. “You’re lucky you skipped the hardest part of pregnancy”
We would have done anything to have had end stage of pregnancy. We feel robbed of our pregnancies. We had to grieve our pregnancies. Getting to experience a smooth, term pregnancy is not a given. It’s an absolute privilege.
4. “Don’t you just miss the newborn days?”
No, we don’t. When our babies were newly born we were away from home. We lived in a hospital. We expressed 8-12 times every 24 hours. We were separated by an incubator and held our babies once a day and only if they were well enough.
5. “How amazing is that first hold?”
It wasn’t amazing. It was terrifying. Most Mums wait days and even weeks to hold their premature baby (I waited 9 days). When we first hold them, they’re covered in tubes, tapes and wires. We’re scared to move. That magical moment of holding your baby after birth is another privilege that was taken away.
6. “Congratulations! It’s a Boy / Girl!”
I know they’re such kind gestures but receiving ‘it’s a boy’ cards and gifts felt uncomfortable and too soon. Especially in the first 6 weeks when we didn’t know if he would survive. It’s far from a time of celebration. I did receive a few ‘thinking of you’ cards and they felt much more comforting and appropriate.
A female consultant said Congratulations to me a few hours after Theo was born and I was speechless. I didn’t know if my baby was going to live or die. After a few seconds I said ‘I don’t think Congratulations is the right word’. She later apologised to me and thanked me for telling her.
So what SHOULD you say to a Mum of a premature baby? Here are a few comments and gestures that would go a long way
3 Things You Could do / Say to a Mum of a Premature Baby
- I’m so sorry this has happened. I can’t imagine what you’re going through but I am here for you every step of the way
- You are still the single most important person in your babies life
- What can I bring you to make your days a little easier? You could suggest bringing a home cooked meal, freezer meals, new toiletries or to do some washing or household tasks.
During my time in NICU someone sent me the quote ‘from tiny acorns, mighty oaks grow’. It really touched me and I remember it to this day.
I hope this gives some insight into what it’s like to have a premature baby. Can any Mums add to the list?
Please share this post to help raise awareness about prematurity and how to be as understanding as possible to new preemie parents. Jess x
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Claire Ricaud says
Great post Jess, well done and thank you. I can relate to so much of what you’ve shared; I’ve not had a premature baby but I’ve lost pregnancies and been through IVF. You’re so right, most people don’t have bad intentions they just don’t have the slightest comprehension of what you’re going through or they simply have failed to think before speaking and when life’s difficult enough and you’re that emotionally vunerable it’s like taking a bullet. I’m not a pro writer like yourself but I’ve considered whether I should write something along similar lines to what you’ve shared in the hope of helping others to better understand how to support friends or family members going through these experiences. Suffice to say, nothing that people say surprises me anymore but at the same time I’m more often than not left shocked, saddened and speechless by how much ignorance is out there when you consider that experiences like ours are not uncommon. If I could help just one lady/couple feel less alone and more supported than I do it would be worth it!