Dealing With Insensitive Comments, part 2 (weeklong series)


Today I want to mention a few of the insensitive comments that you might hear upon announcing the birth of your child. Back in July, I wrote a bit about how to help the parent of a preemie. It broke my heart to read an anonymous comment to that post in which a woman wrote about receiving two sympathy cards following the birth of her preemie– a child who is now ten-years old, I might add. That is a classic example of insensitivity that you may face when you announce the arrival of your tiny miracle. Here are a few things I’ve heard:

Insensitive comments following the birth announcement:

“Wow, I hope she lives.”

Well, yes, you and me both. But that’s sort of stating the obvious. The best reply to this is simply “Thank you”, but I would encourage others to reconsider before they choose this for a comment…

“Is she normal looking?”

Wow. You know, it would never occur to me to ask the parent of a full-term baby if their child was ugly or deformed even though not all new bundles of joy are perfect and beautiful. There are two ways to answer this one effectively: “Define normal.” or “She’s perfect.” Both are brief and do not invite a whole lot of further discussion. There is a part of me that actually understands what the ask-er wants to know hear. They truly wonder what exactly a “half-cooked” baby looks like. I think most people might be surprised to find out that they look like, well, babies. Tiny, skinny, veiny little babies.

“Will she turn out OK?”

I truly believe this is a well-meaning question. It is simply ill-timed. I responded to this one with, “It’s too soon to tell, but she’s doing so well. She’s so strong.” Honestly, no parent is really in a position to answer this question with any degree of certainty. Could I have predicted that my son would have a severe speech delay when I looked down at his sweet newborn face? Of course not. Neither can preemie parents foresee the exact future.

Better things to say? Not surprisingly, they’re pretty simple…

“Congratulations.”

“I can’t wait to see pictures!”

“Let us know how we can help.”

Surprised? Those things don’t differ a whole lot from what you’d say when someone has a healthy, full-term baby. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.

Be sure to check out yesterday’s post on insensitive comments during pregnancy, labor, & delivery. Also, don’t miss tomorrow’s advice about undesirable remarks received during your hospital stay!

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