In light of my bestie's NICU adventures last week, I called upon my own NICU memories to compose a handy guide for friends and family members to consult before saying funky things to a distraught mother.
Situations like this are so hard...nobody can prepare for them, and emotions make us all tongue-tied and fumbly. So, while this may sound harsh, I'm just trying to tell it like it is. We all know you mean well...it just doesn't always come out the right way.
5. This isn't that bad. When my Johnny was in the hospital, it was WAY worse.
Um, even if Johnny's hospital stay WAS way worse than this particular mom's story, please don't say that. It sounds like you are down-playing her heartache, and right now she needs to feel like she isn't crazy for feeling like her world is falling in on itself. Maybe your story was harder than hers, but she doesn't need to be one-upped right now.
4. Everything is going to be alright.
Do you know that? Really? Because you never really know, right? You can hope that it's alright. You can feel like it will be alright. But you need to acknowledge her fears that it may not, otherwise she's going to feel like she has a secret that she can't divulge to anyone.
When Chase was in the NICU, I actually imagined what it would be like if he didn't come back from his surgery. I did. I had it all lived out in my mind. I don't even think I told my husband about it. I just harbored that little scenario in my heart all by itself, and then felt guilty that I didn't have enough faith to squelch it. It felt awful to carry that around.
3. This time next year, you will have forgotten this ever happened.
Nope. She will never forget that she had to leave her baby at the hospital when she was discharged. She will never forget that she had to go past all the other new moms with their little pink bundles of babies when she headed out to the car with her bags and her gifts and her empty car seat. That's going to be burned in her mommy-brain forever, and even though that sounds terrible, it's not, because it will provide support someday for another mom who needs it.
2. I know how you feel.
Unless you've had to leave a newborn in the NICU, too, you don't. You may have an idea...you may almost know...you may try really really hard to equate it to something that you have gone through. That's okay to talk about. Try saying, "I can only imagine that you must be feeling like I felt when ...xyz."
1. Are you going to try for another?
Yeah, too early. Never, ever. Just don't.
So what CAN you say?
1. When can I watch your other kids for you?
2. I'm bringing a meal for you on ____ day.
3. I'm here if you need to talk.
4. I'm sorry that you have to go through this.
5. We're praying for (thinking about) you.
6. Give me an update.
7. Call me any time for anything. Seriously. Do.
8. I did the stupidest thing today...(follow with a funny story- a little levity is welcome now and then.)
9. How are you feeling?
10. It's going to be so.awesome. when you bring her home.