A Home for Your
|By: Kerry Bone and Mara Stein. PSY. D.|
Whether your pregnancy was
high-risk or perfectly normal all along, the moment you deliver early, you become part of
a world that is different from others whose pregnancies have been without incident, and
full-term. You find yourself confronting a whole new world of experiences, discussions,
and feelings which may surprise you. In this monthly column, we will highlight difficult
experiences commonly faced by parents of premature babies.
| "No wonder you look so good and thin... you didn't have
to be pregnant the whole time."
"Once your emotions get back to normal, it won't bother you to have him in the hospital so much."
"Gosh, I wish my baby would come early. I'm so tired of being pregnant."
"Just think about it this way, if he hadn't been born yet you wouldn't be able to touch him anyways, no big deal!" (said by a nurse who was preventing the baby from being touched)
"Well, at least you can get some sleep now while she is in the hospital."
"So what do you do during the day? Do you still go see the baby?"
"Have they told you there are things wrong with your baby?"
"Will he ever catch up? Why can't he do what others are doing?"
"You sure do overreact to germs and visitors!"
"Why do you celebrate his birthday when he was born? Shouldn't you use his due date?"
"You really need to stop being so depressed and get on with life. I mean, at least you have a baby."
"Well, at least you didn't have to get fat and go through those uncomfortable final months of the pregnancy."
"She told me that she and her aunt were thinking of sending me a care package with baby stuff but they didn't know if she would live or not so they were going to wait."
"First thing out of my step cousins mouth after she heard I hadn't seen the baby yet was, 'If it were my child I would be demanding to see her'"
"Well at least you can get some sleep with him (Michael) on the monitor."
"At least you avoided another three weeks of hospitalization" (while my daughter was spending her time in the NICU)
"What a tiny baby! I couldn't deal with that!"
"How can you stand to see them in pain? I wouldn't choose that for my baby!"
"Things will be normal once they come home."
"I believe in doing everything naturally - you know, no stress for the baby."
|Sound familiar? When confronted with comments such as these, parents often feel paralyzed, hurt and angry. Most of all, parents feel misunderstood. At the root of each of the above comments is a basic failure of empathy. Empathy is not the same as sympathy. Empathy means "feeling with" someone, not feeling "sorry for" someone. An empathic listener will "get it" even if they haven't been through the same situation because they register most everything that has been said... the feelings as well as the thoughts; the fears in addition to the hopes. This does not mean that people who make "dhac" comments are purposely insensitive or mean to hurt you, but that they have failed to truly understand the meaning of having a baby early. Rather than listen to you as you explain and describe what this experience is like, people sometimes just can't seem to hear what you are saying. Perhaps the things you are telling them are difficult for them to digest. Maybe they are afraid of how they would feel if they allowed themselves to really understand the intensity of your grief and fear.|