Things you should never say to a NICU mom!
Sometimes it’s difficult to find the right words when friends and family are going through difficult times. I too have found myself at a loss for words when trying to comfort friends who are going through a tragic loss or crisis of some kind. But the insensitive things that escape people’s mouths sometimes, really do amaze me. While most people were very sensitive and respectful of our situation when our son was in the NICU, there were a few off comments here or there. Here are a few examples of things you should never say to a NICU Mom!
“You’re so lucky! You have round the clock babysitters for your baby!” This is one of those “jokes” you should probably keep to yourself. NICU moms would hardly ever think of their situation as lucky and would give anything to be at home with their baby. While they appreciate the nurses and the care they gave 24/7, they would much rather be at home cuddling their little ones. The NICU experience is traumatic for most moms and often results in PTSD.
“Did you take your prenatals?” On more than one occasion random therapists or social workers visiting the NICU asked me if I took my prenatals, smoked, drank or did drugs while I was pregnant. Yes they were trying to get to the bottom of our plight, but I found it highly offensive! Did I look like the kind of woman who would do any of these things? Endless crying and sleepless nights had definitely taken their toll on my appearance, but seriously?! Even if I was doing those things I don’t think it would be appropriate to ask unless you’re my doctor!
“Can I come visit the baby in the hospital?” The NICU is a sensitive place with a lot of rules and regulations. Unless you are immediate family, don’t ask to visit. Wait for the mom or dad to extend an invitation to you when they are comfortable. It may be hard enough for them to see their new baby in that condition, far less friends and extended family. Asking puts moms in an awkward spot and adds unnecessary stress. If you would like to help, bake a casserole that they can freeze and drop it off at a convenient time. It may be an even better idea to mail something special to cheer mom up, without the burden of a visit.
“Oh My God! He is so small for his age.” Yes preemies are usually small for their age. It’s a sensitive topic for NICU moms who are usually obsessed with feeding and weight gain. Refrain from bringing attention to it and try to make a positive comment about baby’s progress instead. As I was shopping for my son’s birthday celebration, a stranger in the check out line commented on how ridiculous it was that I was having a birthday party for a 6 month old. I didn’t bother responding. But these instances are cutting for NICU moms who are doing all they can so their babies could catch up.
“When Steven was his age he was already walking, talking and studying for college entrance exams!” I get it, your kid is advanced. I’m very happy and excited for you! My kid was born almost three months early and has been through a lot! He is doing GREAT in my book! I’m not comparing him to your child, you don’t need to either! Premature babies are measured by their adjusted age and even so might still take a little longer to develop certain skills due to their extended hospital stays. Comparing them to full term babies only makes their moms unnecessarily anxious.
“Why don’t you try this…” If you have never had a child in the NICU giving advice may not be the best idea. It is a special circumstance that changes everything you know about caring for a baby. Be a good friend and listen, let your friend vent and get her feelings out. Try not to be opinionated or judgmental.
Most of all, your friend or family member will need pressure free love and support during and after a NICU stay. Be there when they ask you to be, but be careful what you say. NICU moms tend to be an emotional mess and will take most things very personally for quite some time.
© Nicola Rios Nogales and ispeakmom.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicola Rios Nogales and ispeakmom.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.