Telling Her ‘It’ll Be Fine’ Isn’t Helping
Recently a mom reached out on one of the Facebook groups I’m a member of. She had found out on her twenty week anatomy scan that her baby was going to have a cleft lip and palate. I can completely relate to her want for help, reassurance, and support from someone who’d gone through it before.
By the time I got to the post there was something like 60 other comments. I read through the first 30 or so and just sighed. I read things like:
‘It might still heal and close up, don’t worry momma!’
‘If a tech can’t tell if it’s a boy or a girl they are wrong about this too’
‘My family had a history of (insert random unrelated genetic defect here) and my child turned out perfectly and so will your’
‘Chin up mom, your baby will be prefect/beautiful/an angel!’
‘Don’t worry my parent/sibling/grandparent/third cousin twice removed was born with this and they look almost normal!’
You should note I changed some of the wording and spelling to make these comments legible.
The thing what broke my heart was the mom saying things like we had our high-res special ultrasound to double check and it came back positive, and other such things trying to say it had been confirmed. People kept repeating the same ‘comforting’ comments. The few comments from moms that had cleft babies were lost in a sea of uselessness.
These parents were all trying to reassure this mom, but the thing is, these comments don’t help. A lip won’t magically heal on its own, a palette close, doctors don’t tell their patients this lightly. The mom wasn’t looking for pity or ‘hope’ she was looking for other moms with advice and help, what to expect, what it means, how many surgeries, those types of thing. If any of these moms read past the first line of ‘I’m a first time mom and just found out my baby girl will have a cleft lip and palate’ they would have seen that. She had specific questions, concerns and wanted to connect with moms who had gone through this.
These ‘hopeful’ helpful comments can make it so much harder. Especially when you end up commenting multiple times about it being confirmed (or at least as confirmed as it can be).
This mother is scared, confused, hurt, sad, blames herself, doesn’t know what to do next and has no one to turn to. When she decides she’s ready to reach out she’s bombarded with comments from people who don’t have a clue.
You can always offer support, say a kind word, or share a story but please remember these comments with false hope are merely there to make yourself feel better.
I know lots of people had questions and tried to make me ‘feel better’ after they found out. By the time I started telling people all I wanted was to talk about it, that was why I shared. I didn’t want to hear she’ll be perfect anyway and I certainly didn’t want to hear it could magically heal in the womb.
It’s not something you can just rub a little breast milk on once baby is born and poof cleft lip is fixed. It’s a long process that takes surgeries, determination, sleepless night and love. Please think before you comment, will it help this mother or do I just pity her and want to make myself feel better.
Photo – Flickr/Susan Ackeridge