Having a baby is super stressful, but there are few things more stressful than having a baby too early. My two youngest babies were born 6 and 7 weeks early. I can’t explain to you the pain of leaving a hospital while your baby stays in the NICU. It can also be really difficult for extended family and friends to know how to react or what to say. When “congratulations” could send a preemie mom into tears, it can be easy to just say nothing.
Don’t do this! Preemie mamas need your support just like any other new mom, and maybe even more so. That said, I know it can be awkward, and every mom reacts differently to having a preemie in the hospital. Some spend every second at the hospital. Some have to go back and forth between the hospital and home with older kids. Some want to be around people the whole time, and others would rather be left alone. So what do we do?
How to Support Preemie Moms?
Offer a Ride
Sometimes moms are going back and forth between the hospital and home, and that can get really stressful. With my preemies I had cesareans, so I wasn’t able to drive by myself. Also the hospital was about an hour away from my house. My mom and dad, sister, and mother-in-law gave me rides when A-Man was in the hospital and his biological dad was working.
It was such a blessing to be able to visit the NICU without stressing about schedules and timeframes. With Baby M, we were able to arrange Chris’s schedule so that he could take me every day. Bottom line? A ride to her baby will be invaluable to a preemie mom.
Make a Meal
This is one of the most popular ways to support new moms, and I don’t know why people don’t do this with preemie moms. You don’t need to “wait until the baby is home” to bring over a meal. Trust me, a preemie mama has just as rough a time, if not more so, than any new mama getting dinner on the table.
With Baby M we went back and forth from the hospital every day surviving off of crackers, cookies, candies, and granola bars. My poor kids had more frozen chicken nuggets while Baby M was in the hospital than anyone ever should! Having a hot meal that wasn’t from a fast food place would have been an incredible blessing in those crazy weeks.
A preemie mom who has older kids has her heart torn into pieces while her baby is in the hospital. You want nothing more than to be together with your whole family, but you’re always leaving one. Either you leave your baby at the hospital, or you’re leaving your older kids with a sitter. It’s heartbreaking.
Offer to help babysit her older kids for her, and try to make it something fun and exciting so that she feels less guilty. I am not a mom who uses babysitters. Even when I worked full time, the boys went to my mother-in-law’s house, and she still watches them whenever I need her to, so I’m spoiled. Getting babysitters for the boys was really hard on me, but it was such a blessing to have family to help.
Do. Not. Joke.
This one is probably well meaning, or at least I’ll hope that it is. We like to lighten the tension and tell a quick joke and we hope it will make our friend laugh. It won’t. And if it does, she’s faking and will either be crying or screaming about it later.
We do not need to hear how tiny our child is 500 times. [Trust me, Cap’n M is almost 18 months and the size of a 6-month-old still, it gets old real quick]. Do not by any means say to a preemie mom, “Oh you’re so lucky, I went two weeks overdue and was miserable”. Ever. I really think that should go without saying, but I’ve had many people tell me that. We’re not “lucky” that our children were forced into the world before they were prepared and may have lifelong issues.
And finally, do not, as a co-worker of my mother-in-law so politely asked, say “Oh my gosh, was your baby the one that like almost died?” Just don’t.
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