Monday, August 25, 2008

Dealing With Insensitive Comments, part 1 (weeklong series)

I'm looking forward to kicking off several week-long series here. This week, I'm going to address how to deal with insensitive comments. It seemed to me like I encountered insensitive comments in many different ways at many different times during my journey of caring for my micropreemie. They started before my baby girl was even born and continue on to this day. I'll be breaking the week down like this:

  • Monday- pregnancy, labor & delivery
  • Tuesday- at the birth announcement
  • Wednesday- during your hospital stay
  • Thursday- homecoming
  • Friday- life at home with your micropreemie

I'm hoping this series will be helpful for parents who are trying to cope with receiving some of these comments. I'm also hoping it will be a good reminder to others to think before you speak.

Insensitive Comments heard during pregnancy, labor, & delivery:
"There must have been something wrong with the baby..."
Ok. Perhaps there is something wrong. Most likely no one has any clue at this point. If you really think about it, this comment offers little comfort either way. My recommended response to this is simply, "We have no reason to believe that is the case. Thank you for your prayers that everything works out."

"You shouldn't have lifted your other child so much..." (or fill in other 'point the finger' reason-- "you should have eaten better", "you shouldn't have had that glass of wine early in your pregnancy", "you should have been more careful and not fallen down that time"... the list could go on and on)
This one is flat-out accusatory. And I beat myself up about it a lot. It didn't help that the accusation came from an OB. The simple fact is that I DID lift my 29 lb 10-month old all the time. What was I to do? He didn't walk! He was a baby. For this, I replied, "Good to know" and tried to move on. I comforted myself with the knowledge that not one other doctor on the team recommended a weight limitation for lifting during my pregnancy. It's important to let those little things go-- people do far worse and have healthy, full-term babies all the time. It's just another "life's not fair" example.

"Your stomach is SO flat!"
Yeah, I know, this one sounds like a compliment. But, trust me, don't tell a woman who is in labor that she's "so thin!". When you know there's a baby on the way any minute, you aren't shooting for svelte. Big, round, and unwieldy would be just fine, thank you very much.

"Maybe it wasn't meant to be."
For one thing, this comment sounds to me like the child has been lost. And, for the record, I think it's a rotten thing to say in that case. But when this is said while you're fighting the progression of labor, trying desperately to hang on, it almost sounds like a death sentence. I chose to take it as "maybe your pre-term labor wasn't meant to be" (even though I knew darn well that was not the implication). This enabled me to smile brightly and reply, "thanks so much- that's what we're hoping!" My answer confused people, but it comforted me.

So, what SHOULD you say if you know someone who has gone into early labor? Here are three suggestions:

"What can I bring you? Who can I call for you? Is there anything you need done at your home?"

"This baby must be one tough, impatient little one. Good thing he/she has such a strong mommy."

"I'll be praying for you."

Take your pick. You just want to shoot for supportive and helpful. There's no need to try to guess or predict or explain anything. Leave that to the medical staff.

Tune in tomorrow for some advice on dealing with those "off" comments you might hear following the birth of your baby and also some suggestions for kind ways to welcome a loved one's micropreemie into the world.


Ryann said...

All I can say is "AMEN!", I'm glad to know I wasn't the only one dealing with insensitive comments, and still do to this day. Although, your responses seem much more tactful than mine have been, so I applaud you for your ability to think the best of people. I certainly look forward to reading the rest of the weeks posts!

JessieLeigh said...

Oh, you're definitely not alone on this one, Ryann. And I'm sure there are tons of parents of non-preemie babies who've heard some rather insensitive feedback too...

It's important to note that some of those responses are my "recommended" replies... and not necessarily things I came up with on the fly. ;) Many times, I admit I was simply left sputtering at a loss for words...