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Top 10 things not to say to a preemie parent

1
A guide on how not to drop a bollock for anyone who knows a parent of a premature baby…

Whilst the baby is still in the Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit:

‘Congratulations!’

This is not really a congratulations moment, even though there is a new baby. There was no ‘normal’ about it, no knowing if the baby will even be ok, and a family with their lives on hold. Just offer your friendship, love, and help, rather than the conventional congrats and fuss for now.

‘When are they coming home?’

If a baby has been born prematurely,

SelfishMother.com
2
it can be weeks if not months before they are home. There is no set date, and it can change constantly due to setbacks and complications. It’s such an unanswerable question!

‘I know a mum who had a 24-weeker who weighed less than a bag of sugar and now he’s a 6-foot grown man monster!’

That’s great for the man monster, but every premature case is individual and reassurance in such uncertain times when you can’t actually back it up isn’t the best choice even though there’s kindness behind it.

After the baby is

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3
home:         

‘Oh they’re so tiny!’

This is the big one to NEVER SAY! EVER! Again, the baby may seem cute and dinky to you, but to preemie parents you’re pointing out how noticeably small they are which can be very upsetting. Similarly, announcing that your full-term baby is ‘massive’ or saying how much they weigh at their health visitor checks should probably be saved for non-preemie parents. To us, it’s just another kick in the balls whilst we continue the uphill battle to even get our baby to 6lbs.

‘How

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4
premature were they? How much did they weigh?’

People can view prematurity as almost cute or interesting, like you’ve given birth to a doll or a fairy (rolls eyes). I used to get asked this a lot at baby groups and saw people’s curiosity as minimising the gravity of prematurity.

‘I bet that was a shock! They must have just been keen to meet you!’

Yeah…the little tinker! A lot of people assume prematurity exclusively means you went into labor early. This is so frustrating for preemie parents, because it can be for a whole host of

SelfishMother.com
5
reasons such as illness in mother or baby, complications, or like our experience – loss within a multiple pregnancy.

‘My baby was a week early. I get it.’

You don’t. Whilst this isn’t a ‘who had it worst’ competition, it will be a blood boiling comment to a parent of an extremely premature baby, because it’s likely a week early baby will still have come home very soon after birth and that the harrowing ‘NICU slog’ was not a part of that story.

‘So how old are they now?’

Well they should have come ‘then’, but

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6
instead came ‘now’. So they have two ages: the time they have been in the outside world, and the ‘corrected age’ of what they ‘should’ be. Don’t make me work it out, because I can’t go there again, and I’m shit at maths.

‘Will they be behind or have problems?’

Hopefully not, but many premature babies have a list as long as your arm of risks of physical health problems and developmental delays in the future. What’s innocent curiosity to you may be another upsetting reminder of the long-haul uncertainty prematurity

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7
brings.

‘You’re out the woods now you’ve left the unit.’

This is another biggie for me. In Eva’s first few weeks home, we were back at the hospital for eye tests, blood tests, and checks on her medication. Every damn week. She had to have 4 sets of medicines twice a day for months afterwards, and going back to the place you had just escaped was unbearable. Then there are all the worries about weight and development. Not to mention the fact they are under a pediatrician for the next two years for regular checks. Walking out the NICU with

SelfishMother.com
8
that baby does not mean it’s over.

So there you have it – I hope that helps! In summary, just show up with love (we need it) and put the kettle on. x

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Louise ODonnell

By

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- 9 Feb 20

A guide on how not to drop a bollock for anyone who knows a parent of a premature baby…

Whilst the baby is still in the Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit:

  1. ‘Congratulations!’

This is not really a congratulations moment, even though there is a new baby. There was no ‘normal’ about it, no knowing if the baby will even be ok, and a family with their lives on hold. Just offer your friendship, love, and help, rather than the conventional congrats and fuss for now.

  1. ‘When are they coming home?’

If a baby has been born prematurely, it can be weeks if not months before they are home. There is no set date, and it can change constantly due to setbacks and complications. It’s such an unanswerable question!

  1. ‘I know a mum who had a 24-weeker who weighed less than a bag of sugar and now he’s a 6-foot grown man monster!’

That’s great for the man monster, but every premature case is individual and reassurance in such uncertain times when you can’t actually back it up isn’t the best choice even though there’s kindness behind it.

After the baby is home:         

  1. ‘Oh they’re so tiny!’

This is the big one to NEVER SAY! EVER! Again, the baby may seem cute and dinky to you, but to preemie parents you’re pointing out how noticeably small they are which can be very upsetting. Similarly, announcing that your full-term baby is ‘massive’ or saying how much they weigh at their health visitor checks should probably be saved for non-preemie parents. To us, it’s just another kick in the balls whilst we continue the uphill battle to even get our baby to 6lbs.

  1. ‘How premature were they? How much did they weigh?’

People can view prematurity as almost cute or interesting, like you’ve given birth to a doll or a fairy (rolls eyes). I used to get asked this a lot at baby groups and saw people’s curiosity as minimising the gravity of prematurity.

  1. ‘I bet that was a shock! They must have just been keen to meet you!’

Yeah…the little tinker! A lot of people assume prematurity exclusively means you went into labor early. This is so frustrating for preemie parents, because it can be for a whole host of reasons such as illness in mother or baby, complications, or like our experience – loss within a multiple pregnancy.

  1. ‘My baby was a week early. I get it.’

You don’t. Whilst this isn’t a ‘who had it worst’ competition, it will be a blood boiling comment to a parent of an extremely premature baby, because it’s likely a week early baby will still have come home very soon after birth and that the harrowing ‘NICU slog’ was not a part of that story.

  1. ‘So how old are they now?’

Well they should have come ‘then’, but instead came ‘now’. So they have two ages: the time they have been in the outside world, and the ‘corrected age’ of what they ‘should’ be. Don’t make me work it out, because I can’t go there again, and I’m shit at maths.

  1. ‘Will they be behind or have problems?’

Hopefully not, but many premature babies have a list as long as your arm of risks of physical health problems and developmental delays in the future. What’s innocent curiosity to you may be another upsetting reminder of the long-haul uncertainty prematurity brings.

  1. ‘You’re out the woods now you’ve left the unit.’

This is another biggie for me. In Eva’s first few weeks home, we were back at the hospital for eye tests, blood tests, and checks on her medication. Every damn week. She had to have 4 sets of medicines twice a day for months afterwards, and going back to the place you had just escaped was unbearable. Then there are all the worries about weight and development. Not to mention the fact they are under a pediatrician for the next two years for regular checks. Walking out the NICU with that baby does not mean it’s over.

So there you have it – I hope that helps! In summary, just show up with love (we need it) and put the kettle on. x

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Louise ODonnell

Hi I'm Louise! Check out my blog posts and my Insta @helpamummyout for more musings on life after baby loss, maternal mental health and prematurity. I love to post about honest motherhood having gone through the toughest intro to it imaginable in the hope I can help others realise it wasnt just them when the fairytale went tits up! Thank you for joining me and for reading!

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