When Congrats Isn’t the Right Word…

From the moment I saw two pink lines, I had dreams of how my pregnancy would go.  I would carry the baby to term, my water would break, and my husband would drive me to the hospital where I’d deliver a healthy baby girl.  I even wrote in my birth plan that “I only want a C-Section if absolutely necessary.”  Want to guess how much of that happened?  Yeah, none of it.

Instead I found myself hospitalized at 31 weeks, and I delivered {via C-Section} at 32 weeks to a baby that was whisked straight to the NICU.  In fact, if it was on my birth plan, there’s a 99% chance it didn’t happen.

NICU Congratulations

I am so grateful for all of the family and friends that sent messages after my daughter was born.  I was comforted by the thoughts and prayers that were offered for my new little family.  But there was one word I just had a really hard time processing, even though I know it came with the best intentions…congrats.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy for my daughter’s birth or overjoyed to be her mother.  And it wasn’t that I didn’t love and appreciate the loved ones that offered congratulations.

I just couldn’t get past the fact that my daughter wouldn’t be coming home with me from the hospital.  I wouldn’t receive visitors at home to fawn over a squishy newborn.  The picture I had in my head of our family was replaced with NICU visits, explaining to friends and family that they wouldn’t be able to see her at the hospital – or even for a while after she came home.

I felt like the celebration should be reserved for when she finally came home from the hospital.  When my heart didn’t stop every time the NICU’s phone number showed up on my caller ID before I’d made it to the hospital for the day.  When my baby was healthy.  And we did celebrate when she came home at 25 days old, but only those who practically bathed in hand sanitizer and hadn’t sneezed in at least a week were invited.

I’m sharing this because I recently realized I wasn’t alone in these feelings.  In fact, of the mommas I’ve spoken to, about half felt the same as me.  So if you’re in that half, you’re not alone.  You’ll have your celebration.  And when it’s time, please let me be the first to say congratulations.


  1. I get what you are saying with this. Every mom and dad in this situation is entitled to their feelings on what phrases hurt them, and I know that I sometimes wasn’t in the right frame of mind to be congratulated. But, for me usually hearing “congrats” or even “congrats mom” reminded me that even though my baby daughter was fighting for her life, i was fortunate because she was alive, I was alive, and I was her mom and she was my daughter. That whole time before her birth and after really scarred me and it scarred me in places and ways that no one person in my group of family and friends knows about fully-so please don’t imagine that I’m discounting he author’s feelings. On the other hand sometimes I was able to use little words of congratulations – which I actually usually heard from the nurses – to jolt me out of the feelings of intense fear and remind me that I was actually blessed to have her even if she was in the nicu and struggling.

  2. This is everything I felt. I too had severe preaclampsia and my little girl was born at at 31 and 3 days. Everything that was planned is blown away. Thinking about you in your current pregnancy as I’m sure it is exciting and scary all at once.

    • How is your little girl doing?

      And thank you- my second baby was born last September at 33 weeks. I had preeclampsia again but we’re both healthy now!

  3. Beautiful – that was exactly how I felt when my twins were born at 32 weeks and were in the NICU for 2 months ..

  4. Well said!! I was hospitalized at 24 weeks & delivered at 28 weeks. Nobody can prepare u for what 2lb 11oz looks like and congrats certainly didn’t seem appropriate. My fear of germs & illness lasted until my daughter was around 2 when my son was born. (Full term with the assistance of a cerclage) My daughter is now almost 13, two inches taller than me and just as moody and difficult as any manager out there! Lol ☺


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