Home » About Me » “You should just be grateful”

“You should just be grateful”

I was talking with another preemie mom this morning about our precious gifts, the NICU, how terrifying and devastating and overwhelming it all was. She said that someone had told her, once she brought her daughter home, she should “just be grateful.” What in the ever-lovin? But yes, I’ve heard the same. I should just be grateful – my son is here. He dodged pretty  much all the bullets. He’s amazingly perfectly normal and healthy. Damn right, I’m grateful, every single day. But I’m also sad, heartbroken, guilt-ridden, maybe a tiny bit angry still for all we lost. Don’t ever tell a preemie parent they should just be grateful. You have zero clues.

Seventeen years later, I can still cry over his photos. I can, and do, still frequently cry over all he’s able to do. Every milestone is that much different because I  know very well what could have been, what probably should have been. I pull out his first hat, and am just stunned that it once was too big for him, and my fist barely fits into it. I see his first diapers (clean ones of course) and know they’re the size of a credit card. For real. I remember clearly how it felt to hold two pounds in my hands.

I think about the new mom that I was…..wheeled past the registration desk and all the people waiting in the ER, straight to Labor & Delivery, where I nearly fainted to hear his heartbeat on the monitor, so sure I’d been he was already dead inside of me. I think about all those stats they threw at us each day – his prognosis for survival, then his prognosis for survival without lifelong debilitating disabilities. I think about how much pain I was in, running a 104 degree fever for 16+ hours, knowing there was nothing we could do and that he was safer outside of me. We saw Wonder last weekend. That moment they whisk the baby out of the delivery room, no words said, just silence when there should be joy and laughter and the sound of a newborn crying, I started crying. That’s what it was like. That god-awful silence…..I hate that memory. I hate no one even told us if we had a boy or a girl. I hate that I know how many grams he weighed when he was born (under 1000). I hate that a hospital-grade breast pump was rolled into my room not two hours after giving birth – it became my companion for three months, every two hours. I hate I didn’t even know how to find my son in the NICU when I was finally released. I hate that I went home every night from the NICU to sit by an empty crib….a crib that waited 93 days to be filled.

Don’t tell me I should just be grateful. I am grateful. But I also hurt, I also grieve what we lost, the horrible things we faced that no parent should face. Don’t ask me to be grateful for that. Please. I wouldn’t wish prematurity or the NICU on my worst enemy. I’m grateful – my beautiful, precious miracle child survived. That is amazing. He is a joy. I am thankful and very aware our blessings. But dammit – nothing, no amount of time, takes away the scars from that experience.

8 thoughts on ““You should just be grateful”

  1. People say so many things without realizing how awful it is for others. We all are guilty and we can’t even suck the words back in. Many years ago, two of my closest friends fought because one told the other to be grateful WHILE SHE WAS IN THE HOSPITAL WITH SEPSIS ON THANKSGIVING. It was the strangest thing, and I was sure that friend would realize the error in her comment, but nope, she kept on. They’re no longer friends because of it.
    What I’ve noticed is that gratitude is like Yo Mama jokes. You can be grateful all you want, but you can’t tell people to be grateful.
    Of course you’re grateful, and I’m sure your preemie mom friend is, too, but every one of your negative points is valid and heart-wrenching because those are your feelings. You may never get over it. It was a trauma, a real universal human trauma of life and death.

  2. Beautifully written. While our son wasn’t a preemie, he did need open heart surgery when he was 5 days old. We became best friends with the NICU nurses. We were told “be grateful” and while we were, it was for totally different reasons. Not to mention, we certainly didn’t need to be told to be thankful we had our son home. Thank you for this. Parenting is hard enough as it is…

      • Only slightly less scary than having a preemie. He was hospitalized for just 16 days, not months. But still scary in its own right. People really do say some dumb things. Most of the time I just chalk it up to ignorance. They don’t how it feels or what we went through.

  3. Ugh. The things people say… I saw Wonder last week as well and of course totally connected with Julia Roberts and what she was going through during parts of the movie. In a nutshell, I cried four times throughout the movie.

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