A Parents Wish
"Few wishes come true by themselves." -June Smith
(This letter is written for the friends and family of parents who have given birth to a
premature baby. It was based on an original wish list from the Atlanta Chapter of
Compassionate Friends, an infant loss support group.)
What do parents wish others understood about the birth of
their premature baby?
1. I wish you would not be afraid to speak my child's name and
talk of him without the tone of sympathy, sorrow and pity in your voice. My child lives
and is important and I need to celebrate his existence, no matter his outcome.
2. If I cry or get emotional when we talk about my child, I wish you
knew that it isn't because you have hurt me; the fact that my child is struggling and is
not quite perfect has caused me tears. You have allowed me to cry and I thank you. Crying
and emotional outburst are healing.
3. I wish you would recognize my child's birth with your words
and actions and not center on his chance for survival, disabilities and a
4. I will have emotional highs and lows, ups and downs. I wish
you wouldn't think that if I have a good day my pain is all over, or that if I have a bad
day I need psychiatric counseling.
5. I wish you knew that the birth of a preemie is different from
other pregnancies and births and must be treated differently. It is tragedy and
celebration, fear and joy, gain and loss, among so many other things. I wish you wouldn't
compare it to your pregnancy, any other pregnancy, or the sickness of a parent, a spouse
or a child.
6. Being a premature parent is not contagious, so I wish you
wouldn't shy away from me. I do wish you could be involved with my baby, but also
understand that visits need to be on different terms than a full-term baby. Even though
prematurity is not contagious, much of the ordinary germs people bring with them can be
devastating to my child, so I may not want you to hold or kiss my baby and I will be very
strict about cleanliness. In fact, there may be times you cannot be close at all.
7. I wish you knew that all of the 'crazy' grief reactions I am
having are in fact very normal. Depression, anger, frustration, hopelessness, and the
questioning of values and beliefs are to be expected following the birth of a premature
8. I wish you wouldn't expect my pain and healing to be over in
six weeks, six months or six years. The first years may be very hard for us as we take
time to absorb all the differences that can come with a premature child. I will be raising
a child whose early life is very different from fullterm babies, not only while they are
in the bounds of the hospital, but often once they are home. I will be coming to terms
with many emotions. I will be mourning many losses, even though I gained a beautiful baby.
As with alcoholics, I will never be 'cured' or a 'former preemie parent', but will
forevermore be a parent to a preemie.