When Eliza was in the NICU the thing I most hated people telling me was "she'll be fine," "everything will be OK," or one of the many variations on this theme. At first I used to say to myself "and how the hell would you know that?" Then I simply started saying it out loud to the usually well-intentioned speaker. My response was often not well received. Maybe some recent tragedies in the micropreemie world have gotten me focused on this over used phrase and poor attempt at comfort, but I have started to notice again how often people say this when they really don't know this to be true. Why do people persist in this? Maybe they think that if they say it enough it must be true and the baby will be fine? I just don't know what they are thinking.
In our little micropreemie world, the past few weeks have had a number of tragic losses and unexpected deaths of babies that were born too soon. Some of these babies had been home and relatively healthy for months, years even, yet the lingering effects of their prematurity took their lives. I wonder how many times did their mothers hear someone flippantly tell them "she'll be fine" when in fact the person had no clue as to what they were talking about. When you really think about it, telling parents "she'll be fine" is not only presumptuous, but is pretty condescending, as if the person actually knows something more about the child's condition than you the parent.
In the same vein, I often wonder why people persist in offering up some example (usually mythical) of another child who has the same problem(s) your child has, but who has triumphed miraculously over adversity. I heard a story not long ago about an alleged "21 weeker" who was now a robust 5 year old with no residual problems ("21weeker" can be loosely translated to "mother has no idea when child was conceived"). Should I walk away feeling better or worse that my 26 weeker has a bucket of problems than the mythic 21 weeker? I asked the person telling me the tale of the 21 weeker if it was possible that the mother simply chose not to divulge the problems the child had, because maybe she (like me) was tired of hearing "she'll be fine" whenever a problem was even mentioned. The person telling me this tale couldn't even accept that it was possible that the mother did what we all do, and simply told the person "she's fine" as a way to end the conversation.
So maybe the next time we want to drag out the old platitudes of "she'll be fine" or "everything will be OK" when someone tells us their child's problems, we will instead say "that sounds awful and I don't know what you are dealing with, but if I can help in any way, please let me know." Because sometimes, things just don't end up OK.
Just a suggestion.