36 Weeker ≠ 26 Weeker

One does not want to brag about how long their baby was in the NICU, although many do (see this earlier post on NICU bragging).

However, not all who mention how long their baby was in the NICU for are bragging about the experience. I would say a decent number of parents are simply stating that information up front as a desperate attempt to find someone else out there who has gone through exactly what they have gone through. I can relate to their desire because parents who have had a 26-weeker are not going to have much in common with parents of a 36-weeker.

What Kate and I know about prematurity is based on our own experience of having a 26-weeker. So, if you can, imagine our reaction when we read something like this, “My baby was born at 36 weeks. It was so horrible. We had to stay in the NICU for two weeks.” Parents of a 26-weeker are just going to laugh at that. In a similar fashion, so different our experience could be from a 24-weeker that parents of such a preemie might rightly scoff at our daughter’s 109 days in the NICU. I would not hold that against them because 24-weekers are at a higher risk of having longterm side effects from their prematurity than 26-weekers.

The earlier your child is born, the more you will hear stories from parents of preemies that will sound “easy” or “absurd.” The more they are going to sound like the person is NICU bragging, when, in fact, they might not be at all. Perhaps they just want to share their story. 32-weekers are fairly rare, right? Yes.

As you might be able to tell from reading the earlier post about NICU bragging, my views on this phenomenon have slightly evolved. For parents of preemies, a good rule of thumb is this:

Next time you are talking to someone who has also had a preemie, do not assume that their child’s time in the NICU was harder, easier, shorter, or longer than your child’s stay there. There are ways to find parents who have gone through the same experience as you have, but starting off with woe is me, is likely going to isolate you rather than find you the support you desire.

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4 thoughts on “36 Weeker ≠ 26 Weeker

  1. Spot on. I still sort of cringe when I hear parents of 32+ weeker prems suggest they know how it feels because they spent a week in the NICU, but I try to remind myself now that there are so many different ways and reasons a parent’s heart can break. I recently posted about meeting a woman who told me about her 34 weeker preemie, and I’m thinking “uh, yeah right”, but then it turned out her son is non-verbal. Both of my kids talk just fine. It was humbling to say the least.

    Great blog. Can’t wait to read more.

    • Thanks for your comment, Alana. Most NICU stories I’ve heard from 32+ weekers are pretty calm compared to far earlier deliveries. There are so many possible complications though, so hearing of a 34 weeker who is non-verbal makes me quite sad and thankful that my 26 weeker is clearly trying to form words. Thanks for reading!

  2. Wow, I’ve seen this topic many times in the almost three years that I’ve been a preemie parent. I agree with your take on it. I wrote a post titled “To Be Understood” in which I discuss my feelings on the “A preemie is a preemie” debate.

    Shout out to a fellow parent of a twenty six weeker!

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