As mentioned in on of my previous posts, I am a caffeinatedmum of two miracles. My twins were born 26 weeks and 3 days into my pregnancy, when they flew me in the hospital and wheeled me into an operating room, cut them from me precisely and swiftly to save them. It was nothing like what I expected when I was expecting!
I learned a lot from that experience, specific medical terms from CPAP to ROP and how to uncover hope in the middle of traumatic circumstances.
I also learned that people say some pretty outrageous stuff to you when you deliver your babies 95 days before your due date. I mean, you’d think that people would say comforting things but no.
They say things like “At least you get to sleep through the night”.
After spending 122 days in the NICU, I heard my fair share of such remarks. In my heart I know that most people are well meaning and that they just don’t know what to say. So here is a helpful list of the things you definitely should NOT say to the mum of a baby/ babies in the NICU and the one thing that you absolutely should.★
1) “At least you get to sleep through the night!” – This one always surprises me because who thinks that a mother with a child/ children in the hospital is sleeping well? In reality, nighttime was the worst for me, especially at the beginning, when I had to be away from my babies every single night during the time they were the most critically ill.
Plus, most preemie mums have to pump milk just like they would for a newborn. So that meant that every two hours throughout the night an alarm would sound and I would strap myself to a breast pump. Sleeping through the night was not “a thing.” (Actually, it’s still not a thing. I am still highly caffeinated!!)
2) “Aren’t you worried that all of those heavy medications are going to mess them up?” – Um, well no, I wasn’t until you said that. I was mostly focused on how they were, you know, keeping them alive. But thank you for that. That was super comforting and did not at all give me yet another thing to fret about while my babies are extremely sick.
3) “You’re being overprotective, kids need to be exposed to germs!” – Actually, children with compromised immune systems should definitely not be exposed to germs. In fact, they are basically the exact group of people who should stay away from germs. Like, scientifically and all that.
But I will cop to being overprotective. There is an incredibly difficult transition from the NICU to everyday life. I spent four months watching my daughters struggle to live and took them home with an home apnea monitor and the warning to be vigilant about keeping her away from possible illnesses. For a long time my life was entirely consumed with keeping them alive and it is very hard to shift out of that mentality.
4) “You’re so lucky that you didn’t have to deal with the 3rd trimester, especially with twins!” Missing out on the 3rd trimester is kind of what landed us in this whole mess. So I’m not feeling super grateful for that particular scenario. I’d give anything for the peace of mind of knowing that my babies were safe inside my womb instead of in an isolette on a ventilator.
5) “You don’t know if they are going to be normal! There will be severe development delays! ” –Yes & yes, while it is true that babies born very early have a high risk for developmental disabilities or delays, there is no way of knowing what might happen. But stating a mother that their babies are not going to be normal is an insensitive statement, this is better left unsaid. I think we can all agree that even if issues did arise, none of us would ever love our children any less.
6) “I could never do that” – For a long time this phrase made me feel angry and I wanted to bite back a retort, “Well, I don’t really have a choice, do I?” But time and hindsight has softened me a bit. I think it is born out of a deep-rooted fear, one that whispers to us that we aren’t strong enough to handle the hard things. From the outside looking in I am sure it does look like something that we could never handle but on the inside, in the living it out, you learn that you can. And that you will. Because your child needs you.★
The thing that I appreciated the most was when people simply said, “I am sorry that you are going through this.” I found comfort in an acknowledgement that this situation was unbelievably hard. It also freed me from having to carry the emotional weight of tough conversations when I was already barely keeping it together.
And when you just aren’t sure what to say, a simple “I’m thinking of you” will always suffice. Sometimes it just helps to be remembered.