Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Going Out, Part 3 – Questions

After the anxiety of strangers touching your baby, the second biggest complaint/issue that I have heard from preemie parents is the questions/comments you get. Depending on your preemie, people can ask “How come your baby is so small?” “Shouldn’t he/she be walking/crawling/talking/etc by now?” “What’s wrong with him/her?” Although some people may just be genuinely curious, there are a few that can border on being downright rude. Here are some tips to get through the situation as easily and quickly as possible.

The first thing that you need to decide is how much time you can or are willing to spend explaining your personal situation. If you are in a hurry, just not in the mood, or dealing with someone that doesn’t get it – give a quick answer and move along. If you have more time or want to educate/explain your situation than you can take more time to answer follow-up questions and talk about your personal experience with prematurity. Prematurity has been in the news a lot lately so more people may ask questions.

Here are some basic answers that I have used for people that ask questions:

- My son/daughter was born x weeks/months premature/early
- He/she was born weighing less than x pounds and he/she’s been catching up ever since (this answer is best said with a cheery tone and then you can move along to the next aisle/spot)
- With my son I sometimes just gave his adjusted age since his size more corresponded with that age than his actual age
- My son/daughter was born x weeks/months early so developmentally he/she is just x months old.
- A lot of kids don’t walk at 12 months. Since he/she was born early, he/she has more time to catch up so we aren’t concerned.
- Since he/she was premature his/her lungs/stomach/heart/etc are still developing
- He/she had to get xxx because of xxx. Give the short answer and then go from there.

If someone asks if you are worried about the long term effects of prematurity (based on recent articles), autism, or other related issues, here are some things you can say:

- Right now we are just taking it one day at a time.
- We are just thankful that our son/daughter survived – he/she truly is a miracle and we are blessed that he/she is with us today.
- We are really excited/happy about how far our son/daughter has already come or how much he/she has already accomplished.
- No one really knows how each individual baby will do long term. So far everything looks good. Or depending on your situation – right now we are just working though XYZ issues.
- Every baby is different

I think the most important thing to remember is that you can control the situation. If someone is rude or just not understanding, move along and don’t worry about them. You don’t have to answer their questions or explain everything. Be simple, direct, to the point and then say goodbye. As I’m sure you already know, many people simply don’t understand prematurity and the effects it can/does have on babies, parents and families.

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