Author Topic: It's not like your baby is really sick...  (Read 8442 times)

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bah12

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #15 on: January 18, 2013, 10:51:10 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.

Sharnita

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #16 on: January 18, 2013, 11:13:21 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.

TurtleDove

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #17 on: January 18, 2013, 11:16:28 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. 

DottyG

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #18 on: January 18, 2013, 11:28:52 AM »
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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.


Just Lori

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #19 on: January 18, 2013, 11:46:08 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.

Giggity

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #20 on: January 18, 2013, 11:49:06 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.
Words mean things.

elephantschild

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #21 on: January 18, 2013, 11:55:03 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.
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TurtleDove

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #22 on: January 18, 2013, 12:05:06 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.

DottyG

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #23 on: January 18, 2013, 12:11:08 PM »
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.

bah12

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #24 on: January 18, 2013, 12:38:45 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.

BeagleMommy

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #25 on: January 18, 2013, 03:02:11 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."

johelenc1

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #26 on: January 18, 2013, 03:28:08 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..."

« Last Edit: January 18, 2013, 05:20:32 PM by johelenc1 »

Tea Drinker

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #27 on: January 18, 2013, 04:29:11 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."
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DottyG

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #28 on: January 18, 2013, 04:30:57 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. :(
 
 
 

Judah

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #29 on: January 18, 2013, 04:35:35 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.
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