Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => Family and Children => Topic started by: Dark Annie on January 17, 2013, 06:30:38 PM

Title: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: Dark Annie on January 17, 2013, 06:30:38 PM
One of my friends gave birth to a little girl last week, after a very difficult pregnancy and birth due to the mother's health issues. The little girl is the first child for the couple and for a long time it was doubtful they could even have kids.

Although baby is healthy, she has jaundice and needs 'blue light treatment' and, as such, 24 hours after mum and bub were discharged, baby was re-admitted to start treatment. Bub will be in hospital for a while, depending on how many 24 hour treatments she needs.

The parents are coping well, but mum is obviously quite emotional as she is recovering from a Caesar, visiting hospital and dealing with the fact that she hasn't had any real home time to bond with her daughter. She is also contending with the fact that whilst most people are supportive, some are making comments like 'At least you'll get her home soon- xx weeks is nothing and baby won't remember', or 'it's just jaundice- not like baby is really sick'. 

The problem is that all these comments are generally meant to be well meaning and mum doesn't know how to respond without offending these people who we genuinely trying to be helpful! I was hoping ehell could give me some good responses I could pass on to friend? Also, just for discussion purposes, what are some well meaning  things you should never say to parents of blue light or ICU babies?
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: Ceallach on January 17, 2013, 06:45:55 PM
Oh dear, these situations are tricky.   Really, all people should be saying is things like "I hope baby is better soon" and "Is there anything we can do to help?" or similar.     If they are saying things that your friend finds upsetting I think the only option is to beandip, and try to avoid them.   They're not realising that right now she's hurting and stressed and isn't ready to count her blessings!   She just wants baby to come home.  It's hard, but as long as people are well-meaning and not malicious there's not really any direct response that would be helpful.  I would just avoid people who are causing more stress and not being supportive.

The problem with these comments is that sometimes they are helpful - for example, when I miscarried my first pregnancy after a long time unsure of whether I could get pregnant, I actually didn't mind when people said "Hey at least you know now that you *can* get pregnant, that's progress!".    But those were people close to me, who were also acknowledging my pain etc at the time.   If random people had said it, perhaps I would have found it hurtful.   
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: JenJay on January 17, 2013, 06:56:07 PM
I might reply "I appreciate that you're trying to cheer me up, but it's still pretty awful not being able to have my newborn home with us."
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: LEMon on January 17, 2013, 07:19:23 PM
She might want to express more her pain at being apart.  That may help people to see the issue isn't her fear for her baby's health, but her longing to be together.

To those who seem/are insensitive but she feels are loving, she can also say something about how difficult this whole time period has been and how much she longs for it to be over, and can they help her by (what she does want to talk about, think about).  Steer them toward what she wants to talk about, rather than let them be in control.

Remind her that being emotional at this time is not a crime.  It has been and is hard emotionally right now.  She can tell them she needs them to support her with positive thoughts of how it will soon be.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: mmswm on January 17, 2013, 08:19:19 PM
The NICU where my two youngest sons were patients gave me a little business cards to give to people who made unintentionally thoughtless comments. Most of the people who say things like this are trying to "look on the positive side".  Unfortunately, it comes across as cold and uncaring. It is important to keep in mind that they mean well.  Maybe she could come up with a phrase to say to people who say these things; sort of a "lather, rinse, repeat" sort of thing.  Maybe something like "While I am grateful that my daughter's health issues aren't worse, it is still very difficult to be separated from my baby at such an important time of life.  I appreciate that you are trying to look on the positive side, but what I need right now is sympathy and support while I deal with a reality that is not the 'fantasy healthy newborn' that I've been dreaming about for so very long."
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: Emmy on January 17, 2013, 08:21:09 PM
I agree that the comments sound well meaning, but what they are saying is hurtful.  From experience, giving birth to healthy baby without surgery and being a new mom with all the hormones involved make women very emotional, so I'm sure this is extremely difficult for your friend.  Maybe your friend could say "I know jaundice isn't life threatening and my baby won't remember this, but it is still upsetting to not be able to bond with her during this time.  XX weeks may not seem like a long time in the grand scheme of things, but it is a very long time to wait for our baby to come home and it is difficult to deal with the fact that we can't be home together now." 

The comments sound like the people making them assume she is worried about the baby's health and they want to reassure her that the baby will be ok and out of the hospital soon when she seems more upset about not being able to bond with the baby.  I always find the 'count your blessings' comments to be a bit insensitive even if not meant to be that way.  I imagine most people have never been in her situation, and casually telling her the baby will be home soon or the baby won't remember seems dismissive of her feelings.  It would be like somebody who was not a victim of a natural disaster telling a friend who lost their possessions to one "at least you got your health".

 
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: DottyG on January 17, 2013, 08:23:26 PM
Not sure what she should say back to them, but as to what they should say to her....

If I were her friend, I think I'd be saying something like, "I know you want to spend as much time as you can up at the hospital with her.  What can I do for you so that you can do that?  Can I go to the grocery store or do some errands for you?  I'm here for you - even if you just want to call me and talk a while."

(ETA:  I just reread my post and wanted to clarify that I'm not directing that at you, OP.  I know you're doing the right thing with your friend; I was referring to the other people in her life who are looking for something to say.)
 
 
 
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: kareng57 on January 17, 2013, 09:56:55 PM
There was a similar thread about things like this a few years ago and it got pretty heated (and I'm not good at searching for prior threads) - just so you know.......

Overall, I'd think that people are simply trying to be reassuring.  Newborn jaundice is pretty common - and about 25% of even fullterm babies are jaundiced enough to be tested.  I don't know the average statistic about those who are jaundiced enough to need the bili-lights - perhaps less than 10%, but enough that almost everyone knows of a baby who had to have this treatment, and everything turned out fine.  OTOH, the number of people who know of a baby who had to have intensive treatment (perhaps intense lung treatment) due to extreme prematurity is much lower.

I know rules are different in different countries (and I don't want to start a debate about this) - but when I had DS #1 he was still quite jaundiced on the day I was due to be discharged and at first they weren't going to let me go home.....but they did, on the condition that we bring him back the next day for another blood test.  We did, and the bilirubin level was down.  That satisfied everyone - if it's going down, even slowly, that's fine.  With babies, it just doesn't suddenly increase, again.


ETA:  I forgot to address the issue of a mom being separated from her baby.  That's of course very, very difficult and it almost happened to me.  (But re breastfeeding, he was such a miserable nurser that it was almost a nonissue anyway).
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: shygirl on January 17, 2013, 10:09:11 PM
When people told me "it's okay, he won't remember any of this", about my son being in the NICU after he was born, the first few times I was caught off guard and didn't say anything.  Afterwards, I said something like "Oh, but I will remember"

For people who say "he's not really sick", I would respond with "but it's still hard to be away from the baby".

Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: LeveeWoman on January 17, 2013, 10:19:28 PM
I might reply "I appreciate that you're trying to cheer me up, but it's still pretty awful not being able to have my newborn home with us."

I really like this. It acknowledges that people are trying to look on the bright side while also reminding them that the mom misses her infant because there are significant medical issues involved.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: violinp on January 17, 2013, 10:21:21 PM
When people told me "it's okay, he won't remember any of this", about my son being in the NICU after he was born, the first few times I was caught off guard and didn't say anything. Afterwards, I said something like "Oh, but I will remember"

For people who say "he's not really sick", I would respond with "but it's still hard to be away from the baby".



This is exactly why those kinds of comments are so hurtful. Of course, the baby won't remember - that's not the point. The point is that the baby is sick and the parents are trying to deal with a lot of stress and sadness.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: Allyson on January 17, 2013, 11:12:57 PM
I could see myself saying something like this before I found this and similar sites. I have a real tendency to underreact and downplay. Which is sometimes super helpful when other people are freaking out like mad, but it has led to me to say the wrong thing here.

I like the comments that are *not* chastising but explaining, like 'It's hard to be away' and 'I will remember'. It acknowledges the person probably has the best intentions and maybe helps them see why the comments they're making aren't really doing any good.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: DottyG on January 18, 2013, 12:29:02 AM
Karen, whether it's common or not, it's not common to the mother who's already emotional after giving birth and is now separated from her baby.

All the facts in the world aren't comforting when you just want to be home cuddling your new baby instead of seeing him in a cold, sterile place with strange lights over him helping him get better enough to leave.

(I know you know that. But I think your post kind of illustrates the problem that the OP's friend is experiencing. People are trying to bring facts and blunt talk to a situation that needs gentleness and compassion.)

Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: Precarious Armada on January 18, 2013, 09:37:53 AM
IMO, people use the "He's not really sick", "Baby won't remember this" etc comments for two reasons - either they are sympathetic and trying to calm/soothe somebody, or they're trying to shut down emotional reactions they can't cope with/have no sympathy with.
And otherwise sympathetic people can be so focused on "making the new mother feel better", that they cross over into the unsympathetic "shut down the reaction" territory.

I think the key is in the delivery. "At least he's not really ill, but it's still very hard to be separated from your new baby", "I can see it's really hard for you right now. Even if the little one won't remember it, it's very hard on you! How are you doing? Is there anything I can do?"
Maybe get clued in friends/family members to give the well-intended but socially clutzy a clue.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: TurtleDove on January 18, 2013, 09:46:45 AM
... all these comments are generally meant to be well meaning ... I was hoping ehell could give me some good responses I could pass on to friend?

Unless the same person is saying the same thing over and over, I would advise your friend to recognize people are trying to be supportive and mean well, and just let it slide. Your friend is not going to change the world one well-meaning commenter at a time, and essentially putting someone in their place when they honestly meant well and your friend knows that seems counterproductive.  It seems like it is borrowing trouble.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: bah12 on January 18, 2013, 09:51:10 AM
I experienced something similar when my daughter was born.  She was a little premature and although healthy, had a short stay in the NICU.  I have never felt an emptiness like I did in those days when she was there.  She had been with me 24/7 for so long and then suddenly she wasn't.  Going home without her was the hardest thing I ever did.   I had many well meaning friends try to cheer me up by telling me things like "at least she isn't sick"  "she won't remember this."  And honestly, if I were a sane and rational person at that moment, it might have made me feel better.  But I wasn't.  I was a post-partum, hormonal, first time mom that couldn't help but be worried about my daugher (otherwise why would she be in the hospital) and feeling extremely sad that she couldn't come home right away.

I think people need to realize that of course there are babies and parents out there that have it much worse, but that knowledge does little to ease the emptiness and sadness any parent with a baby in the NICU feels.  I can't even imagine how much worse off I would have been if we had health issues to worry about too.

I think it would be good to remind people that the emotions are very much the parents and about the parents. Regardless of how well off the baby is.  And being sympathetic to what the parents are going through is all they need.  "This must be hard for you."  "Is there anything you need?"  "How are you doing today?"  Those statements meant the world to me back then.  Lucky for me, we had wonderful nurses in our hospital who (I found out later) pulled one of my well meaning friends aside and explained how her statements weren't helpful. (My friend was trying to comfort me in the waiting area, and it wasn't helpful). 

I think it will likely be tough for your friend to explain these feelings to those that are hurting her.  If you hear someone make those comments to her, it would be kind to gently explain to them what she does need.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: Sharnita on January 18, 2013, 10:13:21 AM
I think it depends. My nephew was born over a month early, did need the lights, was really small so he had to be in NICU for about a week and a half. Yes it was hard on his parents not to bring him home when mommy got to leave and they had concerns about the relatively minor problems he had but they really did find comfort knowing he wasn't that sick. I think it helped keep them calm in the time they weren't visiting him, knowing he wasn't in crisis. Now, I eouldn't lead with that reassurance but I think people do comfort themselves with that knowledge.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: TurtleDove on January 18, 2013, 10:16:28 AM
I agree with Sharnita.  Not all situations or all people would react the same way to the same comment.  I know when I have been upset about _____, I found comfort in hearing from people that it would be okay, that things would get better, that there would be joy again.  Other people find such statements to be minimizing their pain, which would not have occurred to me at all.  Differnet strokes for different folks, and unless the comments are repeated or you have reason to believe they are not well meaning, I would let it slide. 
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: DottyG on January 18, 2013, 10:28:52 AM
Quote
Unless the same person is saying the same thing over and over, I would advise your friend to recognize people are trying to be supportive and mean well, and just let it slide. Your friend is not going to change the world one well-meaning commenter at a time, and essentially putting someone in their place when they honestly meant well and your friend knows that seems counterproductive.  It seems like it is borrowing trouble.

I disagree.

It's one person....and then one person.....and then one person.  I can see how someone who's already scared and upset would find that they've reached their breaking point.  It may be intended to be supportive, but it's not doing what it was intended to do.  It's not supporting.  And there are ways to gently let people know that the words they're using are not doing what they think they're intending to do.  We encourage letting people know that they've erred in their wording in other situations here at EHell that aren't nearly as emotional.  We, especially, should be able to do so in a situation where someone is in a position where they're having to visit their newborn baby in a hospital.

It doesn't have to be rude.  In fact, the OP's friend should not be rude to these people for the very reason you mention; they think they're being nice, and there's no need to attack them for it.  However, what they're saying isn't coming out nice.  If I were saying something to someone and making a really stressful situation even worse to the point that they're upset by what I've said, I absolutely want to be made aware of it in a gentle way.  I would never want to cause someone like the OP's friend additional pain.  I wouldn't want them to be glad when I left, because they were concerned that I would stick another "well-intentioned" barb into them when they're already hurting.  I also would want to know so that I didn't say the same thing to others in the future and hurt them as well.

I think there are some phrases we can suggest here to help the OP's friend convey what she's feeling.

Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: Just Lori on January 18, 2013, 10:46:08 AM
Ask for what you need.  If someone makes a well-meaning comment about how Baby will be home soon, say, "Of course I know this, but it's been a rough few months and right now I really need some hugs and sympathy from the people who love me."

Sometimes we really need to be specific, instead of hoping people will draw the correct conclusions.  It sounds like the people involved want to help the mother, but they just need a gentle nudge in the right direction.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: Giggity on January 18, 2013, 10:49:06 AM
The 21st person to make that comment has no way of knowing that 20 other people said it to you first. I vote don't take it personally.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: Jaelle on January 18, 2013, 10:55:03 AM
I might reply "I appreciate that you're trying to cheer me up, but it's still pretty awful not being able to have my newborn home with us."

I like this. It acknowledges that they're trying to be nice, while still pointing out that they're actually being somewhat thoughtless. There's a difference between "being nice" and true empathy.

When I was born (oh-so-many years ago  ::)), I was very premature and had to stay in the hospital for two months. My parents lost another baby, my twin, at the time. I was OK (miraculously, really), but I still had to stay until I made weight.

My folks lived in a rural town. The hospital was a half-hour away. They only had one car, and dad needed it for work.

This was really rough on them, especially Mom. She went as often as she could, but it wasn't always possible. (Dad would make side trips to visit me, even though it meant he had about a five-minute lunch "hour.") But people would say, "Oh, at least this one is OK!" "Oh, at least you know she'll be coming home!" :o  To this day, she says she's not sure how she managed to not let them have it. (Personally, I think she should have.)

I understand a little what she went through now. My elder was in the NICU for a week after being born. (He wasn't in any danger, but they wanted to be sure they had some of his heart issues regulated.) But I lived a five-minute drive away and could camp out in the NICU all day with him if I wanted. That wasn't possible then.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: TurtleDove on January 18, 2013, 11:05:06 AM
There's a difference between "being nice" and true empathy.

...
But people would say, "Oh, at least this one is OK!" "Oh, at least you know she'll be coming home!" :o  To this day, she says she's not sure how she managed to not let them have it. (Personally, I think she should have.)


I understand where you are coming from, but I think it's important to understand not everyone thinks or feels the same way.  For me, positivity and looking on the bright side is what I need when I am hurting. If this happened to me, I would imagine I would be grounded and calmed focusing on what I did have (a baby who would be healthy and coming home) rather than what I had lost, which would likely panic me.  Obviously not everyone agrees.

For others, like you mom, positive comments apparently upset her.  It doesn't mean your mom is right and I am wrong, or vice versa, just that people are different.  To let someone "have it" when they are trying to be supportive and are likely saying what they would want to hear if the positions were reversed seems counterproductive.  To gently explain what you need instead would make sense, depending on the relationship.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: DottyG on January 18, 2013, 11:11:08 AM
I like this.

Quote
say, "Of course I know this, but it's been a rough few months and right now I really need some hugs and sympathy from the people who love me."

This is what I was talking about.  Gently let the person know that the words they're using are hurtful and that there's a better way to be comforting, if that's what they're trying to do.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: bah12 on January 18, 2013, 11:38:45 AM
There's a difference between "being nice" and true empathy.

...
But people would say, "Oh, at least this one is OK!" "Oh, at least you know she'll be coming home!" :o  To this day, she says she's not sure how she managed to not let them have it. (Personally, I think she should have.)


I understand where you are coming from, but I think it's important to understand not everyone thinks or feels the same way.  For me, positivity and looking on the bright side is what I need when I am hurting. If this happened to me, I would imagine I would be grounded and calmed focusing on what I did have (a baby who would be healthy and coming home) rather than what I had lost, which would likely panic me.  Obviously not everyone agrees.

For others, like you mom, positive comments apparently upset her.  It doesn't mean your mom is right and I am wrong, or vice versa, just that people are different.  To let someone "have it" when they are trying to be supportive and are likely saying what they would want to hear if the positions were reversed seems counterproductive.  To gently explain what you need instead would make sense, depending on the relationship.

I agree that everyone manages hard situations in different ways.  I would like to point out though, that you really can't say how you'd be until you go through it yourself (this is true for anything).  I too, like to look at the bright side of things and be positive.  And like I said before, normally people pointing out the good things makes me feel better.  But, take into account that you (general) are speaking to someone who probably isn't their normal, rational self.  Post partum, I was emotional, irrational, and illogical.  And I haven't talked to a single mother who has had a baby in the NICU that wasn't the same way.  Sure, there may be someone there that would love to hear the "at least the baby isn't really sick" comment, but I would err on the side of the majority and think that it probably wouldn't be helpful.

And I think telling a mother in this kind of mental state of heartache and stress not to take it personally, won't help at the time.  Logically, she probably already knows this, but emotionally she may not be able to get herself there. 

In a situation where I'm trying to comfort someone who is going through this, I would likely focus on what the mom is feeling and try to be understanding that she is going through something rough...even if things are guaranteed to get better.  And I would do this until I know, for a fact, that she wants me say the "well, at least you don't have it as bad as those whose kids are really sick" statements.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: BeagleMommy on January 18, 2013, 02:02:11 PM
I've told this story before, but it bears repeating.  DS was born 5 1/2 weeks early and spent 3 weeks in the NICU.  He was flown by helicopter to a children's hospital that was a two-hour drive from our home.  DH had to work and I was not allowed to drive after giving birth so we were only able to see our new baby on the weekends.

The things I appreciated most were the friends who didn't try to make me see the "bright side" (i.e. he was big in size, doctor's expected him to be fine, etc.).  They let me cry when I needed to or sit quietly when I didn't feel like talking.  My late MIL, who had been through this with DH, gave me the greatest advice.  She said "This is the hardest thing you will ever go through.  You have the right to feel however you're feeling.  He probably won't remember a thing, but you will never forget it."
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: johelenc1 on January 18, 2013, 02:28:08 PM
I think most of the replies are too wordy for a brief conversation you are having with a friend or acquaintance.  I completely understand where the OP's friend is coming from.  (26.1 week twins - 4.5 months in the NICU).  But, every parent who has a NICU baby (or any baby) is different and responds differently to the experience.  I know some mothers who were traumatized - literally - they have suffered from PTSD.  Others, like myself, are fine.  I'm not sure there is one right answer or thing to say.

The realty is that the friend's baby will be fine.  But, parents, especially first time new parents, worry about their children.  Plus, whether it be for one day or 200 days, going home from the hospital without a baby is an experience that can't be described and shouldn't be dismissed.

I think your friend should briefly acknowledge the well-meaning comments since people are certainly only trying to be helpful, and then briefly comment on how it feels to her.

"At least it's just jaundice and the baby will be fine.  It could be so much worse."
True, but it's still hard to be away from my baby.
"It's only a few days/weeks.  You can get some extra rest!"
I know, but I'd rather be awake with my baby than asleep at home without her.


Most people, especially if they are compassionate enough to try to make the mother feel better in the first place are going to quickly pick up that she is not comforted by their "it could be worse" attitude and back track rather quickly.  I would bet the next sentences out of their mouths is something like, "oh, of course, it's hard to be away from her.  Are you able to visit much/are you doing ok/I hope she is home really, really soon..."

Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: Tea Drinker on January 18, 2013, 03:29:11 PM
Quote
Unless the same person is saying the same thing over and over, I would advise your friend to recognize people are trying to be supportive and mean well, and just let it slide. Your friend is not going to change the world one well-meaning commenter at a time, and essentially putting someone in their place when they honestly meant well and your friend knows that seems counterproductive.  It seems like it is borrowing trouble.

I disagree.

It's one person....and then one person.....and then one person.  I can see how someone who's already scared and upset would find that they've reached their breaking point.  It may be intended to be supportive, but it's not doing what it was intended to do.  It's not supporting.  And there are ways to gently let people know that the words they're using are not doing what they think they're intending to do. 

Maybe something like "I know you mean well, but it sounds like you're saying I have no right to be upset." And then maybe add what you would find helpful, whether it's "what I could use here is a hug" or "It's not just that I'm worried about the baby. I'm still recovering from surgery, and it would be a big help if you could go to the supermarket for XYZ."

This separates finding the remark unhelpful from questions of whether the well-meaning friend should have guessed that s/he wasn't going to be the first person to say "it's not like your baby is really sick."
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: DottyG on January 18, 2013, 03:30:57 PM
Quote
I would bet hope the next sentences out of their mouths is something like, "oh, of course, it's hard to be away from her.  Are you able to visit much/are you doing ok/I hope she is home really, really soon..."

I've tweaked the above comment.  We would hope so, but based on some of the things I've heard out there, I wouldn't count on it. :(
 
 
 
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: Judah on January 18, 2013, 03:35:35 PM
There's a difference between "being nice" and true empathy.

...
But people would say, "Oh, at least this one is OK!" "Oh, at least you know she'll be coming home!" :o  To this day, she says she's not sure how she managed to not let them have it. (Personally, I think she should have.)


I understand where you are coming from, but I think it's important to understand not everyone thinks or feels the same way.  For me, positivity and looking on the bright side is what I need when I am hurting. If this happened to me, I would imagine I would be grounded and calmed focusing on what I did have (a baby who would be healthy and coming home) rather than what I had lost, which would likely panic me.  Obviously not everyone agrees.

For others, like you mom, positive comments apparently upset her.  It doesn't mean your mom is right and I am wrong, or vice versa, just that people are different.  To let someone "have it" when they are trying to be supportive and are likely saying what they would want to hear if the positions were reversed seems counterproductive.  To gently explain what you need instead would make sense, depending on the relationship.

I agree that everyone manages hard situations in different ways.  I would like to point out though, that you really can't say how you'd be until you go through it yourself (this is true for anything).  I too, like to look at the bright side of things and be positive.  And like I said before, normally people pointing out the good things makes me feel better.  But, take into account that you (general) are speaking to someone who probably isn't their normal, rational self.  Post partum, I was emotional, irrational, and illogical.  And I haven't talked to a single mother who has had a baby in the NICU that wasn't the same way.  Sure, there may be someone there that would love to hear the "at least the baby isn't really sick" comment, but I would err on the side of the majority and think that it probably wouldn't be helpful.

And I think telling a mother in this kind of mental state of heartache and stress not to take it personally, won't help at the time.  Logically, she probably already knows this, but emotionally she may not be able to get herself there. 

In a situation where I'm trying to comfort someone who is going through this, I would likely focus on what the mom is feeling and try to be understanding that she is going through something rough...even if things are guaranteed to get better. And I would do this until I know, for a fact, that she wants me say the "well, at least you don't have it as bad as those whose kids are really sick" statements.

I think Turtledove's point is that this approach won't be comforting to everyone in the situation.  I've been there. DS was born 5 weeks early and was in NICU. In the begining his chances of surviving were remote. My emotional state would have been much worse if the people around me had been trying to assuage my feelings. Instead I needed assurances that DS would get better, that there would be no lasting damage, and that his situation would, in the end, make us all stronger.  Fortunately, I got what I needed. ..mostly.

My point is that everyone handles stress differently and what is reassuring to me might be insensitive to you. Since we can't really know where someone else is coming from, it's best to take their efforts at comfort in the best possible light.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: DottyG on January 18, 2013, 03:39:28 PM
Judah, you left out the next sentence in that paragraph, which is a crucial one to what she was saying with the one you highlighted.

Quote
And I would do this until I know, for a fact, that she wants me say the "well, at least you don't have it as bad as those whose kids are really sick" statements.

Err on the side of being gentle and letting her get the emotions out.  It's better to err on that side and then move to "your baby will be fine" than the other way around.  The first might not comfort you but it can be changed fairly quickly to what does comfort you.  The second can be a stab in the back and hurtful to someone and can't be as easily undone.

And it does boil down to a friend's paying attention to the person and being attentive to what a person in pain needs from them.  If you really want to comfort someone, you'll be paying attention to them enough that you can suss out which style will be the best and do that for them.  It's the people who just blare ahead and think they're being supportive without actually paying attention to the person that are doing the most damage of all.  If I were with TurtleDove and continued to act in a way that doesn't help her see that things are ok and that her baby will be ok, I'm being rude.  But, likewise, if I'm saying "It's not like your baby is really sick" to someone who would benefit from a hug, I'm not being the best comforter I can to that person.
 
 
 
 
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: Judah on January 18, 2013, 04:06:51 PM
Judah, you left out the next sentence in that paragraph, which is a crucial one to what she was saying with the one you highlighted.

Quote
And I would do this until I know, for a fact, that she wants me say the "well, at least you don't have it as bad as those whose kids are really sick" statements.

Err on the side of being gentle and letting her get the emotions out.  It's better to err on that side and then move to "your baby will be fine" than the other way around.  The first might not comfort you but it can be changed fairly quickly to what does comfort you.  The second can be a stab in the back and hurtful to someone and can't be as easily undone.

And it does boil down to a friend's paying attention to the person and being attentive to what a person in pain needs from them.  If you really want to comfort someone, you'll be paying attention to them enough that you can suss out which style will be the best and do that for them.  It's the people who just blare ahead and think they're being supportive without actually paying attention to the person that are doing the most damage of all.  If I were with TurtleDove and continued to act in a way that doesn't help her see that things are ok and that her baby will be ok, I'm being rude.  But, likewise, if I'm saying "It's not like your baby is really sick" to someone who would benefit from a hug, I'm not being the best comforter I can to that person.

Again, it's a personal thing. I would prefer not to be "comforted" in that way. It's just as easy to try to provide my kind of support and move to hugs than it is to go the other way.  But that's not my point. My point is that when people are doing their best to comfort you, it's best to try accept their efforts in a positive way, in the way that they are meant.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: DottyG on January 18, 2013, 04:15:02 PM
Quote
It's just as easy to try to provide my kind of support and move to hugs than it is to go the other way.

And that's my point.  In my opinion, it's not "just as easy."  Because the two ways create a different result and going to the other doesn't work the same way.

Quote
I would prefer not to be "comforted" in that way.

No.  You wouldn't.  Hence my last paragraph of the one you quoted.
 
Edited for TurtleDove and Judah
 

 
 
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: Judah on January 18, 2013, 04:22:46 PM
And that's my point.  It's not "just as easy."  Because the two ways create a different result and going to the other doesn't work the same way.

It depends entirely on the person. Telling me, "It must be so hard to be away form your baby right now, do you want to talk about it?" would be just as upsetting to me hearing, "He'll be fine and he won't remember a thing" is to the subject in the OP.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: TurtleDove on January 18, 2013, 04:25:34 PM
And that's my point.  It's not "just as easy."  Because the two ways create a different result and going to the other doesn't work the same way.

Some of us are saying we disagree with your opinion about this.  Neither of us needs to be wrong. I have told the board I would not react well to the brand of comfort you propose - it would panic me.

I agree with Judah, especially this, which was my point: "My point is that when people are doing their best to comfort you, it's best to try accept their efforts in a positive way, in the way that they are meant."
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: DottyG on January 18, 2013, 04:25:56 PM
Quote
It depends entirely on the person. Telling me, "It must be so hard to be away form your baby right now, do you want to talk about it?" would be just as upsetting to me hearing, "He'll be fine and he won't remember a thing" is to the subject in the OP.

Hence my last paragraph of the one Judah quoted.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: DottyG on January 18, 2013, 04:26:25 PM
Quote
Some of us are saying we disagree with your opinion about this.  Neither of us needs to be wrong. I have told the board I would not react well to the brand of comfort you propose - it would panic me.

Hence my last paragraph of the one Judah quoted.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: DottyG on January 18, 2013, 04:27:35 PM
Since it appears it's not being noticed, I'll repeat it!

Quote
And it does boil down to a friend's paying attention to the person and being attentive to what a person in pain needs from them.  If you really want to comfort someone, you'll be paying attention to them enough that you can suss out which style will be the best and do that for them.  It's the people who just blare ahead and think they're being supportive without actually paying attention to the person that are doing the most damage of all.  If I were with TurtleDove and continued to act in a way that doesn't help her see that things are ok and that her baby will be ok, I'm being rude.  But, likewise, if I'm saying "It's not like your baby is really sick" to someone who would benefit from a hug, I'm not being the best comforter I can to that person.

TurtleDove, I even went to the trouble of mentioning you by name in it the first time!

Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: jemma on January 18, 2013, 04:30:25 PM
 If she wants sympathy, I would recommend your friend saying "I know my baby will probably fine, and won't even remember this adventure in a few years, but its still hard to not be with him right now and (whatever her other issues are).  My children have food allergies which will limit what they can eat and where they can go possibly for the rest of their lives.  On the other hand hand, any serious problems are probably preventable and almost certainly treatable.  I think people often don't want to "feed the drama llama" and are likely to minimize concerns that seem overblown. In my experience starting with the good and then giving the bad makes people take your concerns more seriously because it seems more proportional.  And yes, I do have more experience than I want convincing people to take these health issues seriously, though that is a whole different matter....
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: TurtleDove on January 18, 2013, 04:31:09 PM
DottyG, I am not certain I am understanding why you are responding as you are.  I disagreed with your continued assertions that this statement is fact: "It's not "just as easy."  Because the two ways create a different result and going to the other doesn't work the same way."

I am not advocating any particular way of comforting anyone.  I am advocating taking well meaning words in the light they were intended.  For the record, I have quite a bit of experience in this myself.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: DottyG on January 18, 2013, 04:33:56 PM
Quote
I am not certain I am understanding why you are responding as you are.

We agree on that much at least! :D  I am not certain I'm understanding why you are responding as you are, either!

Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: DottyG on January 18, 2013, 04:40:51 PM
I've put an "In my opinion" in the sentence for you so that it's not coming across as fact.  I felt it was implied, but maybe it's better actually in there.

Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: Judah on January 18, 2013, 04:50:19 PM
Quote
It's just as easy to try to provide my kind of support and move to hugs than it is to go the other way.

And that's my point.  In my opinion, it's not "just as easy."  Because the two ways create a different result and going to the other doesn't work the same way.

Quote
I would prefer not to be "comforted" in that way.

No.  You wouldn't.  Hence my last paragraph.
 
Edited for TurtleDove

Ah, see this is my confusion. Your last paragraph is the one that says "And that's my point.  In my opinion, it's not "just as easy."  Because the two ways create a different result and going to the other doesn't work the same way".
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: bah12 on January 18, 2013, 04:57:46 PM
[I understand where you are coming from, but I think it's important to understand not everyone thinks or feels the same way.  For me, positivity and looking on the bright side is what I need when I am hurting. If this happened to me, I would imagine I would be grounded and calmed focusing on what I did have (a baby who would be healthy and coming home) rather than what I had lost, which would likely panic me.  Obviously not everyone agrees.

For others, like you mom, positive comments apparently upset her.  It doesn't mean your mom is right and I am wrong, or vice versa, just that people are different.  To let someone "have it" when they are trying to be supportive and are likely saying what they would want to hear if the positions were reversed seems counterproductive.  To gently explain what you need instead would make sense, depending on the relationship.

I agree that everyone manages hard situations in different ways.  I would like to point out though, that you really can't say how you'd be until you go through it yourself (this is true for anything).  I too, like to look at the bright side of things and be positive.  And like I said before, normally people pointing out the good things makes me feel better.  But, take into account that you (general) are speaking to someone who probably isn't their normal, rational self.  Post partum, I was emotional, irrational, and illogical.  And I haven't talked to a single mother who has had a baby in the NICU that wasn't the same way.  Sure, there may be someone there that would love to hear the "at least the baby isn't really sick" comment, but I would err on the side of the majority and think that it probably wouldn't be helpful.

And I think telling a mother in this kind of mental state of heartache and stress not to take it personally, won't help at the time.  Logically, she probably already knows this, but emotionally she may not be able to get herself there. 

In a situation where I'm trying to comfort someone who is going through this, I would likely focus on what the mom is feeling and try to be understanding that she is going through something rough...even if things are guaranteed to get better. And I would do this until I know, for a fact, that she wants me say the "well, at least you don't have it as bad as those whose kids are really sick" statements.

I think Turtledove's point is that this approach won't be comforting to everyone in the situation.  I've been there. DS was born 5 weeks early and was in NICU. In the begining his chances of surviving were remote. My emotional state would have been much worse if the people around me had been trying to assuage my feelings. Instead I needed assurances that DS would get better, that there would be no lasting damage, and that his situation would, in the end, make us all stronger.  Fortunately, I got what I needed. ..mostly.

My point is that everyone handles stress differently and what is reassuring to me might be insensitive to you. Since we can't really know where someone else is coming from, it's best to take their efforts at comfort in the best possible light.
[/quote]

What you are describing is a very different scenario than, I think, the one we are debating.  Your baby was sick.   I can't even imagine what I would say to a mother who was feeling the stress of wondering if her baby would survive.  In that case, I actually have no idea if it's better to throw out "everything will be ok" or focus on the parents' stress.

I'm talking about the situation in the OP, and the situation  I was in with my own baby in the NICU after she was born 5 1/2 weeks early...and that is, having someone tell me "at least she's not sick" and "you can bring her home soon enough" were not helpful.  And since I was in the part of the NICU with other babies in similar situations to my DD (i.e. there to gain weight, get jaundice treatment, or for a mandatory stay because of prematurity and not actually in a life threatening situation), my experience is that most mothers felt as I did.  Extreme stress and sadness over not getting to bring baby home and the feeling of separation from the child.  All of us would have appreciated "how are you doing?" and "this must be so hard to leave your baby in the hospital" over having our feelings minimized.

My point is simple.  Of course people react to things differently, but I have never met someone who got offended at a "how are you doing?" question.  Maybe she says "I'm a mess, I just need someone to tell me it's going to be ok" or maybe she says "I'm a mess, rationally, I know everything is fine, but I miss my baby so much, I feel so alone and empty."  Then take your cues from her.  Jumping in with positives does sort of sound like you're (general) minimizing her feelings.  She doesn't have to have a sick baby to feel upset about being in the NICU.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: Judah on January 18, 2013, 05:05:32 PM
[I understand where you are coming from, but I think it's important to understand not everyone thinks or feels the same way.  For me, positivity and looking on the bright side is what I need when I am hurting. If this happened to me, I would imagine I would be grounded and calmed focusing on what I did have (a baby who would be healthy and coming home) rather than what I had lost, which would likely panic me.  Obviously not everyone agrees.

For others, like you mom, positive comments apparently upset her.  It doesn't mean your mom is right and I am wrong, or vice versa, just that people are different.  To let someone "have it" when they are trying to be supportive and are likely saying what they would want to hear if the positions were reversed seems counterproductive.  To gently explain what you need instead would make sense, depending on the relationship.

I agree that everyone manages hard situations in different ways.  I would like to point out though, that you really can't say how you'd be until you go through it yourself (this is true for anything).  I too, like to look at the bright side of things and be positive.  And like I said before, normally people pointing out the good things makes me feel better.  But, take into account that you (general) are speaking to someone who probably isn't their normal, rational self.  Post partum, I was emotional, irrational, and illogical.  And I haven't talked to a single mother who has had a baby in the NICU that wasn't the same way.  Sure, there may be someone there that would love to hear the "at least the baby isn't really sick" comment, but I would err on the side of the majority and think that it probably wouldn't be helpful.

And I think telling a mother in this kind of mental state of heartache and stress not to take it personally, won't help at the time.  Logically, she probably already knows this, but emotionally she may not be able to get herself there. 

In a situation where I'm trying to comfort someone who is going through this, I would likely focus on what the mom is feeling and try to be understanding that she is going through something rough...even if things are guaranteed to get better. And I would do this until I know, for a fact, that she wants me say the "well, at least you don't have it as bad as those whose kids are really sick" statements.

I think Turtledove's point is that this approach won't be comforting to everyone in the situation.  I've been there. DS was born 5 weeks early and was in NICU. In the begining his chances of surviving were remote. My emotional state would have been much worse if the people around me had been trying to assuage my feelings. Instead I needed assurances that DS would get better, that there would be no lasting damage, and that his situation would, in the end, make us all stronger.  Fortunately, I got what I needed. ..mostly.

My point is that everyone handles stress differently and what is reassuring to me might be insensitive to you. Since we can't really know where someone else is coming from, it's best to take their efforts at comfort in the best possible light.

What you are describing is a very different scenario than, I think, the one we are debating.  Your baby was sick.   I can't even imagine what I would say to a mother who was feeling the stress of wondering if her baby would survive.  In that case, I actually have no idea if it's better to throw out "everything will be ok" or focus on the parents' stress.

I'm talking about the situation in the OP, and the situation  I was in with my own baby in the NICU after she was born 5 1/2 weeks early...and that is, having someone tell me "at least she's not sick" and "you can bring her home soon enough" were not helpful.  And since I was in the part of the NICU with other babies in similar situations to my DD (i.e. there to gain weight, get jaundice treatment, or for a mandatory stay because of prematurity and not actually in a life threatening situation), my experience is that most mothers felt as I did.  Extreme stress and sadness over not getting to bring baby home and the feeling of separation from the child.  All of us would have appreciated "how are you doing?" and "this must be so hard to leave your baby in the hospital" over having our feelings minimized.

My point is simple.  Of course people react to things differently, but I have never met someone who got offended at a "how are you doing?" question.  Maybe she says "I'm a mess, I just need someone to tell me it's going to be ok" or maybe she says "I'm a mess, rationally, I know everything is fine, but I miss my baby so much, I feel so alone and empty."  Then take your cues from her.  Jumping in with positives does sort of sound like you're (general) minimizing her feelings.  She doesn't have to have a sick baby to feel upset about being in the NICU.
[/quote]

You've totally missed my point, which is that when well meaning people are sincerely offering they're best efforts at comfort, it's best to accept their words in the way they are meant. It doesn't matter how sick the baby is.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: MariaE on January 18, 2013, 05:37:38 PM
It most of all sounds like you're talking at cross-purposes. Judah, Turtledove etc. are arguing how the mother should act (i.e. assume the speakers mean well), whereas DottyG, bah12, etc. are arguing how the speakers should act. The two aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, I agree with both sides :D
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: DottyG on January 18, 2013, 06:01:43 PM
Quote
Ah, see this is my confusion. Your last paragraph is the one that says "And that's my point.  In my opinion, it's not "just as easy."  Because the two ways create a different result and going to the other doesn't work the same way".

See the requote in Reply #37 (what is being referred to as "my last paragraph").

Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: oogyda on January 18, 2013, 06:39:19 PM
I'm sorry, I can't get past the phrase "Just jaundice"!!!!

Yes, it's common.  Yes, it's easily treated in all but a minuscule percentage.

However, the resulting complications from jaundice if left untreated, or if it does not respond to treatment are frightening and life changing.  Nobody wants to see their child develop brain damage of any severity!! 

Just jaundice, indeed>
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: Allyson on January 18, 2013, 07:46:32 PM

My point is that everyone handles stress differently and what is reassuring to me might be insensitive to you. Since we can't really know where someone else is coming from, it's best to take their efforts at comfort in the best possible light.

I love this, and I think it's really true. Absolutely yes it is understandable that someone in an awful situation might not hold back their emotions at being 'wrongly' comforted, as it were. And I wouldn't necessarily hold someone responsible for what they said in a situation like that. But at the same time, if I said the wrong thing and someone 'let me have it' or 'told me off', I would probably avoid trying to talk to them about it. Not because I am insensitive, but because I would feel I had no idea what I could say that would be better, not worse, and walking on a minefield.

When my boyfriend was seriously ill and in hospital, someone tried to deflect with humour--I'm normally a very lighthearted person so I can see why she would think that. But, literally the first words out of her mouth were 'I hear you tried to kill your boyfriend!' You could've heard a pin drop, everyone just stared at her. I sounded rather brittle when I said 'not really up for that kind of joking right now'. And then quickly started talking about other things. (Not really sure if I have a point with that story, just my own experience with that kind of thing.)
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: DottyG on January 18, 2013, 07:48:46 PM
Quote
someone 'let me have it' or 'told me off'

Who suggested that in this thread?

The OP asked
 
Quote
mum doesn't know how to respond without offending these people who we genuinely trying to be helpful! I was hoping ehell could give me some good responses I could pass on to friend?

I'm not reading that as her wanting to "let someone have it" or "tell them off".
 
 
 
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: TurtleDove on January 18, 2013, 08:42:42 PM


When I was born (oh-so-many years ago  ::)), I was very premature and had to stay in the hospital for two months. My parents lost another baby, my twin, at the time. I was OK (miraculously, really), but I still had to stay until I made weight.

My folks lived in a rural town. The hospital was a half-hour away. They only had one car, and dad needed it for work.

This was really rough on them, especially Mom. She went as often as she could, but it wasn't always possible. (Dad would make side trips to visit me, even though it meant he had about a five-minute lunch "hour.") But people would say, "Oh, at least this one is OK!" "Oh, at least you know she'll be coming home!" :o  To this day, she says she's not sure how she managed to not let them have it. (Personally, I think she should have.)

This has already been addressed, but since DottyG asked, this is where that reference comes from.  Some of us think it is better to take well-meaning comments in the way they were intended rather than lashing out at someone who failed to read your mind.  As I already addressed, for me, I would appreciate the exact comments that elephantschild's mom found offensive.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: kareng57 on January 18, 2013, 09:26:39 PM


When I was born (oh-so-many years ago  ::)), I was very premature and had to stay in the hospital for two months. My parents lost another baby, my twin, at the time. I was OK (miraculously, really), but I still had to stay until I made weight.

My folks lived in a rural town. The hospital was a half-hour away. They only had one car, and dad needed it for work.

This was really rough on them, especially Mom. She went as often as she could, but it wasn't always possible. (Dad would make side trips to visit me, even though it meant he had about a five-minute lunch "hour.") But people would say, "Oh, at least this one is OK!" "Oh, at least you know she'll be coming home!" :o  To this day, she says she's not sure how she managed to not let them have it. (Personally, I think she should have.)

This has already been addressed, but since DottyG asked, this is where that reference comes from.  Some of us think it is better to take well-meaning comments in the way they were intended rather than lashing out at someone who failed to read your mind.  As I already addressed, for me, I would appreciate the exact comments that elephantschild's mom found offensive.


That's exactly my feeling.  DottyG, you seem to not understand that your own feelings don't necessarily reflect other peoples' feelings.  For some people, an "I've been there, and everything turned out fine" could have more value than a hug.  Everyone reacts to these things differently.

Now, if I was talking to a mom of a newborn who was hospitalised with jaundice, I certainly wouldn't treat as though it was nothing.  But if I said "it happened to my child too, I know how difficult it must be but it was fine in the end" and she lashed out with something like "no, you DON'T KNOW" - well, I'd probably just avoid her for a while, figuring that nothing I said would make her feel better.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: DottyG on January 18, 2013, 10:05:08 PM
Quote
DottyG, you seem to not understand that your own feelings don't necessarily reflect other peoples' feelings.

I'm fully aware of the fact that my feelings don't reflect those of everyone else. Thanks.  I figured that's what the "in my opinion" covered.

I am unsure on why I'm getting flack when I have clearly said that different people need different comforting styles.* And a good friend pays attention to the clues as to which style to use. I even stated that trying to "comfort" someone like TD (I even used her name in my example) by continuing to offer hugs would be rude. Likewise, continuing to "comfort" another person by saying "it could be worse" when they need a hug is rude. That makes sense to me; comfort someone in the way that does just that the best.

I stand corrected on the fact that someone did state that they'd "let someone have it" for using the wrong style. I'm sorry for not remembering that someone did say that.



* Just copying part of what I said - but there is more in the actual post - "And it does boil down to a friend's paying attention to the person and being attentive to what a person in pain needs from them.  If you really want to comfort someone, you'll be paying attention to them enough that you can suss out which style will be the best and do that for them."


ETA: and I do understand TD's statement that it's best to try to look at a comment as being an attempt at being comforting instead of jumping to the idea that they're being insensitive. I also think that may be hard to ask of someone who's in pain at the time. But I do see TD's point with that. Better to assume kindness unless proven otherwise.




Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: Emmy on January 19, 2013, 06:13:36 AM
It sounds like most of the comforters are missing the point of the OP's friend's feelings.  It sounds like the child is not in any grave danger and the OP's friend is not worried about his survival, but she is struggling with dealing with her child not being home with her and missing the bonding time.  The remarks are well intentioned, but missing the point because they seemed focused on telling the OP to cheer up and that her son will get better soon.  I imagine the type of comfort people want depends not only on the person, but the type of situation. 

I think wording is important no matter what style of comfort is used.  Phrases like "it's not like your baby is really sick" or "it's just jaundice" sound like they are minimizing the parents feelings.  Saying something "I know having your baby in the hospital for any reason is difficult and scary, but jaundice is highly curable and your baby will be home soon" is still a positive approach, but doesn't minimize the parent's feelings. 

Several people posted something like this:

Quote
If she wants sympathy, I would recommend your friend saying "I know my baby will probably fine, and won't even remember this adventure in a few years, but its still hard to not be with him right now and (whatever her other issues are).

It kindly lets people know that she expects her baby to be fine, but the issue she is struggling with now is that she misses having him at home.

Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: gen xer on January 19, 2013, 08:39:59 AM

My point is that everyone handles stress differently and what is reassuring to me might be insensitive to you. Since we can't really know where someone else is coming from, it's best to take their efforts at comfort in the best possible light.

I love this, and I think it's really true. Absolutely yes it is understandable that someone in an awful situation might not hold back their emotions at being 'wrongly' comforted, as it were. And I wouldn't necessarily hold someone responsible for what they said in a situation like that. But at the same time, if I said the wrong thing and someone 'let me have it' or 'told me off', I would probably avoid trying to talk to them about it. Not because I am insensitive, but because I would feel I had no idea what I could say that would be better, not worse, and walking on a minefield.


I agree with this....and to be honest while I understand that someone may be going through a difficult time and be more emotional than normal it is no excuse for rudeness by "letting someone have it".  Reading all these reactions and realizing that anything you say could be the wrong thing to say can make for a very stilted, awkward environment.  Maybe the less said the better - just be there, to listen, to help, whatever.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: Ceallach on January 19, 2013, 05:15:48 PM
I think we're getting caught up in"right"vs. "wrong", when such a thing doesn't exist. 

People shouldn't minimize the feelings of those around them or imply that their situation is trivial - it's unhelpful even if well-meaning.   I don't think anybody gets to decide how stressful/upsetting the particular situation is for the mother in question, but it's irrelevant to the question of dealing politely with it.      On the other hand, those who are the recipient of thoughtless but well-meaning comments also should handle these politely and graciously.   In etiquette there's no such thing as "X behaviour justifies Y".   Each person is responsible for their own conduct.   
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: Elegiac on January 22, 2013, 11:44:04 AM
Hugs to your friend during this difficult time.

Yes, most people know that the baby will be all right. However, mum has just gone through major surgery, dealing with changes in her body and a fluctuation of hormones - top that off with the fact that she can't see her baby.  Terms like 'It's just jaundice' do not help the situation.

I would probably respond with 'I know you mean well, but with everything going on right now, I'm overwhelmed and just want my baby home with me'. People who mean well don't always take the big picture into consideration - this isn't just about baby being in the hospital, but mum going through a lot, and it is their first baby.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: artk2002 on January 22, 2013, 01:20:22 PM
Unless you *both* have a particular sense of humor (we use "could be worse, could be raining" a lot), trying to comfort someone by pointing out how much worse it could be is just a terrible idea. There are so many positive things that could be said instead that I don't know why someone would take that tack at all.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: Mikayla on January 22, 2013, 02:14:11 PM

My point is that when people are doing their best to comfort you, it's best to try accept their efforts in a positive way, in the way that they are meant.

I've read through to the end, but this is where I land.  In fact, if someone is in pain for any reason, it's always best to seek out the comfort of those who provide the type of comfort you need.

For example, my brain processes things logically, not emotionally.  It doesn't mean I'm not compassionate; it means I express it in terms of logic or facts.   So about 5 years ago when a good friend had a jaundice baby and called, of course I felt terrible, but my knee jerk reaction was to make sure she understood that this term applied to newborns is nowhere near as alarming as an adult who wakes up with yellow eyeballs. 

She knew me well enough to know that if she needed hugs and tears, there were others better much better equipped to provide this.  And nobody was wrong and nobody was right.  It's just who we are.

I do think balance is achievable between comforters being careful how to express things vs comfortees being careful how they receive things.  But the latter is more my gut reaction. 

Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: artk2002 on January 22, 2013, 02:29:37 PM
My point is that when people are doing their best to comfort you, it's best to try accept their efforts in a positive way, in the way that they are meant.

My response is that the road to (e)Hell is paved with good intentions. If your best effort is hurtful to other people, then just don't do it. If I'm in pain, scared, whatever, someone's good intentions aren't going to come through if the words are hurtful. I don't have any energy left over to analyze someone's statements to figure out that they "meant well."

Discretion is the better part of valor. There are lots of things that one can say that don't involve "gee, it coulda been lots worse."
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: TurtleDove on January 22, 2013, 02:54:00 PM
Discretion is the better part of valor. There are lots of things that one can say that don't involve "gee, it coulda been lots worse."

That's not what this thread is about though.  The well-meaning comforters are reassuring the new mother that things will be okay, not that they could have been much worse.  I agree it is almost never helpful to tell someone, "Stop whining, some person has it worse."  I think it is often helpful, and it certainly is to me, to hear, "things will be okay - I've been through it - I know it's hard to see now, but things will be okay."
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: bah12 on January 22, 2013, 02:54:59 PM
You've totally missed my point, which is that when well meaning people are sincerely offering they're best efforts at comfort, it's best to accept their words in the way they are meant. It doesn't matter how sick the baby is.

Cutting out the quote tree. 

I don't think anyone is saying that you (general) should not accept well-meaning comments.  The point is not what should the mother who is stressed and upset at separation from her baby do...of course, she is accepting the comments as well-meaning.

The point is, I think it's smart for all of us to learn something here.  And that's that the "it could be worse" comments can come across as very hurtful and minimizing.  That perhaps there are better phrases (focusing on the mothers feelings and validation of those feelings) that would be better said...at least until you (again general) know that the mother wants to hear about how much worse it could be. 

I agree that it shouldn't matter how sick the baby is (or not) because the best way to approach situations like this is to focus on the feelings of the parents...and to validate those feelings.  Like artk2002 said, "it could be a lot worse" is usually not the most comforting thing to someone who is upset.  I say, validate the feelings first and work your way around to the "it's not as bad as it may seem" conversation as you continue to comfort. 
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: artk2002 on January 22, 2013, 03:21:27 PM
Discretion is the better part of valor. There are lots of things that one can say that don't involve "gee, it coulda been lots worse."

That's not what this thread is about though.  The well-meaning comforters are reassuring the new mother that things will be okay, not that they could have been much worse.  I agree it is almost never helpful to tell someone, "Stop whining, some person has it worse."  I think it is often helpful, and it certainly is to me, to hear, "things will be okay - I've been through it - I know it's hard to see now, but things will be okay."

Someone saying "It's just jaundice, it's not like she's really sick" is saying exactly what I was addressing. It's saying that the mother should somehow feel better because it's not as bad as it could be. The baby *could be* "really sick." Any phrasing that includes "at least..." or "it could..." is a poor choice, IMO. The fact that it was well-meaning isn't relevant.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: Aeris on January 22, 2013, 05:18:57 PM
I think we're getting caught up in"right"vs. "wrong", when such a thing doesn't exist. 

People shouldn't minimize the feelings of those around them or imply that their situation is trivial - it's unhelpful even if well-meaning.   I don't think anybody gets to decide how stressful/upsetting the particular situation is for the mother in question, but it's irrelevant to the question of dealing politely with it.      On the other hand, those who are the recipient of thoughtless but well-meaning comments also should handle these politely and graciously.   In etiquette there's no such thing as "X behaviour justifies Y".   Each person is responsible for their own conduct.

But what is minimizing to one person is extremely helpful perspective for another. I fall into the 'need positive-side comments' group for the most part. The comforting I personally find most helpful in an ideal world is one smallish layer of validation/sympathy/hugs, then followed by focusing on the aspects of the situation I can find happiness in.

If I'm in a tense, scary, stressful situation, I often feel I'm staring down the barrel of every horrific possible outcome. I become paralyzed by staring at my own wounds. I generally desperately need someone to say "It's okay, Aeris, it's just a flesh wound! [even if they are lying] Everything is going to be just fine! Just you wait, in just a few days, things will be back to normal!" To someone else, this might be minimizing their pain, and acting like their situation is trivial. For me, it's the thing that gets my mind out of dangerous emotional paralysis.

If someone does nothing but focus on my own pain, it can severely increase my negative mental spiral.

So, no, you can't actually say that this entire category of commentary is universally unhelpful.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: bah12 on January 22, 2013, 06:05:15 PM
I think we're getting caught up in"right"vs. "wrong", when such a thing doesn't exist. 

People shouldn't minimize the feelings of those around them or imply that their situation is trivial - it's unhelpful even if well-meaning.   I don't think anybody gets to decide how stressful/upsetting the particular situation is for the mother in question, but it's irrelevant to the question of dealing politely with it.      On the other hand, those who are the recipient of thoughtless but well-meaning comments also should handle these politely and graciously.   In etiquette there's no such thing as "X behaviour justifies Y".   Each person is responsible for their own conduct.

But what is minimizing to one person is extremely helpful perspective for another. I fall into the 'need positive-side comments' group for the most part. The comforting I personally find most helpful in an ideal world is one smallish layer of validation/sympathy/hugs, then followed by focusing on the aspects of the situation I can find happiness in.

If I'm in a tense, scary, stressful situation, I often feel I'm staring down the barrel of every horrific possible outcome. I become paralyzed by staring at my own wounds. I generally desperately need someone to say "It's okay, Aeris, it's just a flesh wound! [even if they are lying] Everything is going to be just fine! Just you wait, in just a few days, things will be back to normal!" To someone else, this might be minimizing their pain, and acting like their situation is trivial. For me, it's the thing that gets my mind out of dangerous emotional paralysis.

If someone does nothing but focus on my own pain, it can severely increase my negative mental spiral.

So, no, you can't actually say that this entire category of commentary is universally unhelpful.

I get what you're saying.  I'm just wondering, though, if the "it could be a lot worse" is the best comment to open with.  I mean, I know a lot of people that feel that the comment minimizes their feelings, including me (and I am not easily offended). Yes, things could be worse, but does that mean that I can't be upset?  So, without knowing what the other person needs as far as comforting words, what do we default to?

I don't know anyone (not saying they don't exist) that gets on the defensive if someone says "I know this must be hard for you." or "how are you handling things?"  I think those are good openers to guage where the person you are trying to comfort needs you to go.  And I think it probably wouldn't take long to figure out if they want to be told all is going to be ok or that someone somewhere has it a lot worse or just want some sympathy for their particular situation without being told that someone is going through something harder. 

In cases where one person is trying to comfort another, I kind of tend to give more leeway to the one that's upset.  Yes, it's good advice to tell them that these commens, even if unhelpful, are well-meaning and they need to take it as such, but if I were to focus my advice anywhere it would be to those of us who are trying to comfort.  And unless you know exactly what the other person wants to hear, I think that there are better openers, less likely to further upset, than "It could be worse."
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: TurtleDove on January 22, 2013, 06:18:48 PM
And unless you know exactly what the other person wants to hear, I think that there are better openers, less likely to further upset, than "It could be worse."

I am confused why this is the focus. I don't think any of us have said this is a good opener.  What I have said is that, to me, I would imagine it would be helpful to hear, "Don't worry - it's jaundice - your baby isn't sick and everything will be okay."  That is not at all the same as, "Stop your whining, don't you know that the baby down the hall has no eyes and has 3 arms!!!! Just be glad your super sick baby has eyes! And two arms!"

For me, what would NOT be helpful would be, "Yes, this is awful!  Your baby might die!  You will never get to bring him home!"  All of these comments would be validating fears, but would be the opposite of comforting to me.  Such comments would panic me because it would be confirmation that I am not just being sensitive but that the worst is probably going to happen.

I guess I still don't see the title of the thread as a statement of "it could be worse" but rather, "don't worry - things will be okay."
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: shygirl on January 22, 2013, 06:58:16 PM
For me, what would NOT be helpful would be, "Yes, this is awful!  Your baby might die!  You will never get to bring him home!" 

Boy, I HOPE no one would say something like that!

When I was in the position of the OP's friend, I didn't appreciate it when people said my son wouldn't remember his time in the NICU or what happened to him while in there.  But I did recognize that those people were trying to help me feel better, even if I didn't really feel better.  If anyone ever said anything like the quoted, that would be horrible.

A coworker of mine also tried to help me feel better by bringing up worse situations, like his nephew who was born at 25 weeks and only weighed 1 pound.  I understand that his point was that my son's situation could have been worse, and I should be glad that it wasn't - but instead I felt like he was implying I shouldn't feel bad.  It took me a while to realize that even though it could have been worse, it was still okay to feel bad or sad about my son being in the NICU.

Ultimately, what really made me feel better were the people who said my feelings were okay.  They agreed that yes, the situation sucks.  And then we moved onto the positive things.  I never found it helpful when people said "don't feel bad" or "don't worry". 
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: TurtleDove on January 22, 2013, 07:10:49 PM
Ultimately, what really made me feel better were the people who said my feelings were okay.  They agreed that yes, the situation sucks.  And then we moved onto the positive things.  I never found it helpful when people said "don't feel bad" or "don't worry".

Hmmm. I don't disagree, and my "trauma" is different from what this thread is about. But for me, what helped me was knowing that my fears/feelings were not rational.  I guess no one really said, "You have no right to be upset." That would have been awful, to me.  But hearing, "I understand you are upset, but you will get through this and you will be okay" is what I needed.  Not "Yes, this is awful. It's the worst ever.  If I were you I would want to die." 

That is what I was feeling.  Were my feelings valid?  I suppose. Were they helpful to me?  Nope.  And it helped me to understand that, especially from people who had been through something similar and survived, happy again.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: CakeEater on January 22, 2013, 08:05:15 PM
Ultimately, what really made me feel better were the people who said my feelings were okay.  They agreed that yes, the situation sucks.  And then we moved onto the positive things.  I never found it helpful when people said "don't feel bad" or "don't worry".

Hmmm. I don't disagree, and my "trauma" is different from what this thread is about. But for me, what helped me was knowing that my fears/feelings were not rational.  I guess no one really said, "You have no right to be upset." That would have been awful, to me.  But hearing, "I understand you are upset, but you will get through this and you will be okay" is what I needed.  Not "Yes, this is awful. It's the worst ever.  If I were you I would want to die." 

That is what I was feeling.  Were my feelings valid?  I suppose. Were they helpful to me?  Nope.  And it helped me to understand that, especially from people who had been through something similar and survived, happy again.

I don't think anyone means that by validating the mother's feelings, that they should say any of that.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: TurtleDove on January 22, 2013, 08:59:07 PM
I don't think anyone means that by validating the mother's feelings, that they should say any of that.
No, and I cannot imagine anyone actually saying that to a friend! My point is that in "validating" feelings without a positive statement, for some people, like me, that can be devastating. The last thing I needed was someone telling me that my most horrible fears were valid. I needed hope. That's all I'm saying is that some negative yet valid fearful feelings are perhaps valid but to have those negative feelings reinforced is harmful, in my opinion.
Title: Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
Post by: bah12 on January 22, 2013, 10:35:43 PM
I totally missed where someone said that validating feelings meant saying anything close to commenting on worse case or even far fetched scenarios. I'm responding specifically to the situation in the op, which I personally relate to. And that situation is one where the baby is in the hospital, for non life threatening reasons and the mom is upset about the situation. If we were talking about my sister or my best friend, I'd know exactly what to say. As so many have pointed out, there's no one right way to comfort someone. But if I'm not sure, I do think the safest thing is to start with something like "I understand this hard for you. how are you doing? " that's not validating personal fears, its validating her right to being upset. As the conversation continues I'm sure her needs will be more clear. Starting with the"it could be worse statements"which my understanding from the op are the one liners bothering her friend, is not wise.