November is Premature Birth Awareness month.
I will always be passionate about premature birth awareness. It’s also strangely fitting it’s this month, since it was a November nine years ago that I found out I was pregnant with my twins.
I actually didn’t know it was twins at the time, or know what a scary, intense time was about to be our pregnancy journey. Looking back, I just remember how happy I was that November.
Before my twins were born, I didn’t know much about what it meant to experience a premature birth. I also didn’t have any idea the risks and complications that are involved for everyone. It really changes your whole life, and your whole perspective on pregnancy, childbirth, and the health of your children. You learn not to take anything for granted.
There are so many different reasons that babies can be born early, and most of those reasons are out of our control. Luckily, medicine keeps advancing to help both mothers and babies. We also know that babies are very strong, no matter how early or how small they are born. You can read through any micro preemie Monday story for proof. However, more premature birth awareness is needed.
Until all babies are born with their best chance at a healthy start, we must keep fighting.
Words to Parents
While I may not be able to make any scientific advancements, I can share some of my own experiences to help increase awareness. I’ve shared in the past what it feels like to be a NICU mom, and I’ve also shared how you can help a NICU family. Today, I want to share the things you want to avoid saying to a preemie parent.
Words are often more harmful than actions. With all of the other pain a preemie parent is experiencing, I’m hoping my advice will help you be more compassionate and caring in a difficult situation.
It’s definitely hard to know what to say, and sometimes even harder what to avoid. People often think they are saying things that are helpful, or that will make the situation more bearable. Perhaps, they are even trying to find the good in any bad situation.
While intentions might be good, words can still hurt.
- If you are pregnant, please don’t say you wish your baby would come early.
Believe me, I know how uncomfortable, and even terrible pregnancy can be. I went full-term with my first baby, and everything hurt at the end. However, when you have your baby prematurely, it’s not just early. Those babies are missing critical time to grow and develop in the womb. This leads to many serious, and even fatal, issues.
- Don’t ever place any blame on the mother.
Little comments about a mother’s lifestyle choices can have a huge impact. Mothers already put a huge amount of blame on themselves, they don’t need anyone else to add to it.
- Say any part of the journey is a blessing.
I had people tell me how lucky I was that my baby was in the NICU. They said it gave me a chance to rest. I would have happily given up any amount of sleep to have my babies home with me. Letting someone else take care of my babies was impossibly hard, no matter how much I knew they were doing what was best.
- Remark how small the baby is or that they are anything but perfect.
It’s a hard thing not to do, and it’s not the worst thing to say, but we already know how small our babies are. I’ve also had people tell me that my babies had that “preemie” look. I’m not even sure what that is, but I didn’t want to hear it.
All mothers think their own babies are perfect, which they are. Preemie babies are no different.
What IS helpful
After having a premature baby, all parents need support. Telling them that you are there for them is probably the most important thing you can say. It’s even more important to show them.
Listening when they want to talk about their baby is so helpful. I had friends that thought distraction was what was best, when really I just wanted to talk about my babies. I wanted to share their milestones, vent out my frustrations, and cry out my fears. I didn’t have the energy to make small talk or gossip.
Ask the parents what they need. Ask how you can help with the other things that are going on in their lives. Unfortunately, the rest of the World doesn’t stop when your baby is in the hospital. Get them groceries, run an errand, or babysit their other children.
It’s also OK to admit when you don’t understand something or don’t understand exactly what they are going through. Honesty is so much better than platitudes or saying things you think they want to hear.
There’s No Right Thing
I know I didn’t tell you exactly what to say, but that’s because there is no right thing. Every preemie parent is different and so is every situation.
The best advice I have is to go with your heart. When you truly care about someone, you will find the right words or actions. If you make a mistake, that’s OK too. The most important person in a preemie parent’s life is their baby, so don’t let your own feelings get in the way.
The second best advice I have is to get educated. Learning all that you can before making assumptions is key.
Premature birth awareness is so important because a premature birth can happen to anyone. I hope you’ll join me in sharing this post.
Please feel free to leave me any questions or comments below.