• Fri, Oct 18 2013

10 Things Not To Say To An NICU Mom

NICUBabyMy son spent 76 days in NICU. It was devastating. And here’s what added insult to injury:

1. ”What did you do?”

I smoked a heap of crack, screwed every man that walked by, moved houses for fun, ate cold lunch meat, and rode horses like The Lone Ranger. Really?

Moms who have their babies early are under a mountain of guilt. Many feel like failures because they did not carry their baby to term. Sometimes, she didn’t do anything! It just happened. Don’t make her feel worse.

2. “She just couldn’t wait to be born!”

Oh I thought babies who were ready for the world could breathe on their own, be held, not require lines into their arteries, blood tests every morning, X-rays twice a day….I mean, really, tomorrow she will be off to college!

3. “Is he going to make it?”

I don’t know! Thanks for reminding me.

4. “You don’t even look like you had a baby!”

Yes, not only am I not walking around with my new baby, I don’t even look like I have one. Thaaaanks.

5. “At least you can sleep while baby is in the hospital!”

No, probably not. NICU moms spend most of their time camped out in NICU and chained to a breast pump eight hours a day. When they are home trying to sleep, they are haunted by guilt because they aren’t with their baby. Or they are worried that their babies are crying unattended. Or they are up waiting on the hospital to call and give bad news. Ain’t no rest for the NICU mom.

6. “Your baby will come home and it will be like nothing ever happened.”

NICU moms are at risk for severe PPD and/or PTSD. The stress of having a baby in the hospital can put a huge strain on a couple’s marriage. Many preemies require reflux medication, glasses, occupational therapy, speech therapy, have cerebral palsy or brain damage from birth, need feeding tubes, have issues eating solid foods, etc. NICU is not a place where babies just gain weight, go home, and live happily ever after. Many parents grieve on their child’s birthday. NICU stays can leave head spinning emotional scars. Don’t assume all will be well after discharge.

7. “At least you didn’t get to the third trimester and have to be uncomfortable.”

I promise you I would have stayed 41 weeks huge for two years if it meant my kid didn’t have to go to NICU.

8. “At least you had an easy labor.”

So small baby means easy labor? Say that to a pPROM C-section mom who spent a week scared shitless trying to keep her baby in until 29 weeks and see how long it takes her to smack you senseless. Or cry, which Is very likely.

9. “It’s like you have a free babysitter!”

No, it’s more like I have given up my parental rights to a team of medical professionals who are paid through my insurance company that charges me hundreds of dollars a month to save my child’s life. I never chose for these people to take care of my child, and if they were babysitters I promise you wouldn’t use them. They pick my kid up to feed him or prick his feet. That’s about it.

10. “Oh your baby looks like a normal baby!”

Really? Did you expect to see a disfigured reptile?

This is a reader submission.

(photo: villagelinca)

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  • carly

    Being a nicu nurse I am hurt to hear that we are simply medical professionals that “pick him up to feed him or stick him for blood and that is about it” Not sure where your baby received his care but we love and care for our babies.

  • Beth

    As a NICU mom first (26 weeker, 76 days, came home on oxygen) and then went back to school and am now a NICU nurse, I agree that all of these are horrible things to say to a NICU mom.
    The comment you made for #9, though, is extremely hurtful. I am so sorry that your nurses were so awful to you during your stay. Do you know why they “prick his feet?” To make sure he doesn’t have a life threatening problem (the blood test can be for lots of things when using capillary blood). It is the LEAST invasive way to check for these issues.
    And furthermore there are plenty of times that I am the one up at 2am holding the crying baby and singing to him to calm him down. I sit in the rocker and love on him until he can rest. I do this because mom either doesn’t want to come (which DOES happen, more than you think it would), cannot come (she’s still very sick herself) or needs her own rest (to recover!). I don’t complain & certainly don’t bring it up to the parents, because I would never want to hurt them and make them feel more guilty than they already do. Please rethink this statement.

  • Alicia Kiner

    As a former NICU baby, THANK YOU to all you nurses who help us through the most difficult days of our lives. I was born 9 weeks early in 1981. My lungs collapsed almost immediately after being born, and my doctor told my parents that if I survived through the night, I had about a 30% chance of surviving at all, most likely with handicaps. Other than slight astigmatism, my vision is great. I don’t have cerebral palsy, or anything else like that. I do get severe migraines, but you know what… I wasn’t really supposed to be here, so, what’s a few headaches really? And you know what you say to NICU parents… if you need me, I’m here. Whatever you need. That’s all.

  • Avengeme

    Wow, the simple fact that this even needs to be openly stated just goes to show how ignorant people can be.

  • jen

    I wish I could have posted this outside my daughters NICU door!

  • Jlw

    Having worked in a NICU, you need to be a little bit gracious to the people keeping or trying to keep these babies alive. No they are not baby sitters they actually care enough to do a job that most people don’t last at long…..just saying

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