Wednesday 1 February 2012

Congratulations - It's a Baby

When Joseph was first born, I felt so strange. I really felt very sorry for anyone who came to see me, because my head was just all over the place. I didn't know what to feel.

The day Joseph was born was so strange, he was born at 10am, I didn't see him, and then he was just taken away. I went back to the delivery suite where I'd been the night before, and was put back on monitoring. I had someone with me at all times. But not my baby.

I think, looking back, I was surprisingly calm. I remember being a bit sad at one point, and tears slipping down my cheeks and one of the doctors comforting me, but I just lay in bed, with my husband popping in and out as he went to see his son. A son.

One of my regular doctors came on shift at 9pm. She gathered me in a hug and said "congratulations". I think it was the first time it had been said. I just blinked. I didn't feel congratulations were at all in order. I'd failed. I had failed in my primary duty of care, to keep my baby safe inside for 9 months. Congratulations? I didn't even know if I'd take my baby home at that point, it seemed a bit, well odd.

But in days to come, I longed for people to congratulate me. And it started happening, slowly but surely, as people got more confident, and Joseph got bigger.

I did a quick straw poll on Facebook last night. I asked: "A question for mums of premature or poorly babies. When you had your baby did you want people to say "congratulations"? " I gave the option of "yes" "no" and "not immediately, but after a few days/weeks, yes".

Of those who responded the vast majority said "yes", only 2 said a direct no, and only 1 said "later". 

So, I think its safe to assume, that with a new baby, regardless of gestation, it is best to say "congratulations". I'd be interested to hear other people's thoughts on this.



  1. I felt similar to you, my body didn't do the job which it was intended to do. I still don't feel that *I* gave birth. I did want Evelyn acknowledged though. She was my daughter, and she was here.

  2. In my case there was no congratulation just "I'm sorry and hope they get better soon". I missed the whole big excitement and joy when the new baby is coming and for the whole first year on NICU I was comforting grieving parents and deep down was happy it was none of mine this time... Now they are both coming to 3 an as much as I wanted to have another one "the normal way" I'm so scared it can happen again I gave up...

  3. I agree with the majority in your survey although not sure whether that is with the benefit of hindsight. I had really mixed feelings - a friend bought me a gift on day 3 - some tiny premature baby clothes - my heart completely sank - clothes? Was it tempting fate to be given clothes? Did she not realised just how tiny he was and that dressing him was impossible? They made me feel sick so I took a deep breath, said thank you - no one else has given me anything, and put them in the bottom drawer in my hospital room.

    However - despite my initial reaction to that gift - part of me was really upset that very few people gave me things for Oscar. The secretaries at work had avidly followed my pregnancy but suddenly fell silent once I gave birth to a 660g almost 27weeker. And remained silent- I did speak to one of them about it much later and she said it was awkward as although they waited with baited breath for each update- they were very aware that he may not have survived even when he came home with his oxygen and ng tube etc so didn't want to buy him anything. That upset me further - why deprive him of gifts just because there was a risk he might die? And it wasn't the material side of things I missed regarding the gifts - it was the fact that he wasn't even acknowledged because he was so ill. A few other gifts and congrats cards drifted in slowly months down the line when people obviously thought it was safe enough to send something. It really felt like people were afraid of the worst so thought silence was the safest approach.

    Sorry if I ranted - your blog today just brought back those feelings somewhat!!

  4. charlotte.cheshire1 February 2012 at 20:51

    When Adam was born, he appeared healthy and so despite the tiredness I did want congratulations. When, twelve hours later, he was taken to NICU with Group B Strep with Meningitis I was numb. I had no idea what was going on and although I was crying, I was also in shock. I couldn't bear other people's families congratulating new mother's on the birth of their healthy children. Shortly afterwards, the midwives kindly moved me to a private room to insulate me a bit. We had loads of congratulations cards over the three weeks he was fighting for his life but the ones I treasured were the ones that expressed joy over his arrival and love, warmth, empathy, prayers, concern etc etc over his health. Simple congratulations just hurt. Now, he's my little miracle but then it was hell. (And if you want to read his story it's at

  5. Yes I think after the first day or two, I felt like that too, that I wanted him acknowledged, and we were told to be positive, so I wanted everyone to be positive as well. I think moving on, I've decided I did give birth, ok not out the lambing end, but I kept him safe, and he was brought out in one piece. We did our jobs, we delivered our children x x

  6. I love rants, I am really glad that you feel you can rant and let those feelings go, I know it helps me.

    I had exactly the same feelings. I got a lot less than my term mum friends, and its not a competition, its not a materialistic thing either, but it was kinda upsetting. And we got that many soft toys because people didn't know what to get and were too scared to ask!

    One of my friends texted me and said "I wanted to buy clothes but no one makes anything for a baby that small" I had no energy to explain that a) he was happy in a nappy and a hat, and b) that he would grow so newborn would be fine, eventually!

    I think its very hard for people to know what to say, and I'm heartened that one of my most popular hits on google is "premature baby friend what to say and do". So some people do really want to know, and do really care.

  7. Adam is such a dumpling, isn't he just gorgeous! Love the pooing in the bath, well done mate! And well done mummy for letting daddy deal with it :D Lovely blog, you have a new follower.

    I am really glad you shared our story, because I want this blog to be about all babies, not just premature ones. Any baby can go through special care, and the fear, and the joy, and the hopes are the same. So thank you very much.

    I love the prayers we received. My favourite card looked like a child's drawing and it said "Your new home" and inside the writer had put "welcome to planet earth, its all yours" I just thought it was so lovely and positive, and I'll never forget it!

  8. I can really relate to that feeling too, supporting others and a little voice in your head saying "oh I am so glad we're not there now" and then feeling guilty.

    It's well documented that we are not having more babies, its been a tough decision, but there's no way I could face that again.

  9. Just wanted to add that we did get cards and flowers about 48 hrs in, but only after my husband rung people up and told them to go and buy them and we actually recieved 2 bereavement cards, saying in sympathy. Not what you would expect, but people do funny things I supose!! I lost count of how many people said Im so sorry instead of congratulations, and I think that those that did say it I didnt believe I deserved them as my body had failed her in every way possible. My nana came out with the worst thing 3 days after having Daisy I went to see her and she said "eeee I havent got the baby anything incase its, well you know, a waste of money" I was speachless and felt like Id taken a round of bullets but what can you say other than the older generation speak the absolute truth!! I can laugh about it now though.

  10. How odd! I got sympathy cards too, really strange, and very upsetting. I was such a mess anyway, I found it really confusing. We had the same extreme either "sorry" or "congratulations".

    We have another premmie in the family who is quite poorly, and one of Joseph's great aunts gave me a toy for Joseph when he was a week old and said "he'll never be able to play with it, but you can put it in his room". I was shocked, and really upset. She went on to talk about the other boy, who was still, at 5, ventilated, PEG fed and in a bad way.

    She adores Joseph now, and I don't think can quite believe it that he is normal!

    Just as well we didn't have sense of humour bypasses when we had our babies!

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