In my 34th week of pregnancy, my daughter was diagnosed with IUGR (Intrauterine Growth Restriction). IUGR can occur in around 2 in every 100 pregnancies, and usually involves the foetus not receiving enough oxygen and nutrients to thrive, whether from the placenta or from another complication in pregnancy. Most of these babies are born pre-term, and the ones who make it to term are usually very small for gestational age.
Even though it was a prognosis I was expecting, it was still a scary time filled with worry and self-doubt, especially since this was my first pregnancy. The diagnosis was handed to us almost two years ago, and like any new parent, I have had my fair share of unsolicited advice and comments. As a mother to an IUGR baby, let me tell you the things I'd really like you to stop saying to mums of IUGR babies.
Any comment on the size of my belly.
"Oh, your belly is so small!", or "Are you sure you're even pregnant?" are not compliments. I know you think they are, but all it does is remind me that my body sucks at growing human beings. How about we just make a pact here and now that we don't make any comments on a pregnant women's body? Ok? Ok.
"Are you eating enough? Maybe that's why she's not growing?"
Unless you're my doctor I don't think you should be asking me this question ever, pregnant or not. The type of IUGR I had forced me to do a complete overhaul of my diet, and I didn't eat artificial sugar for 6 months. But believe you me, I ate every single fatty carb I could get my swollen hands on.
"Bed rest? You're so lucky! I wish I had been waited on hand and foot when I was pregnant!"
My partner worked pretty much around the clock to make up for the lack of income we had coming in and I spent most of the time worrying that I hadn't felt the baby kick in the last 10 minutes, so something had to be wrong. Oh - and all that free time to google everything I possibly could about IUGR was just GREAT. (I am of course, kidding. Stay away from Google at all costs.) However, I did make really good friends with the local food delivery guys, so there's that.
"Only 5 pounds? Wow what an easy birth!"
Ah yes, the stress that comes with the complications of pregnancy, my first birthing experience, the general unknown of what complications my child was going to come out with, and my child being whisked away to NICU before I even got a chance to blink at her. Easy is definitely the word I would use.
"Are you feeding her?"
Nah, I just throw some goldfish crackers in her play pen once or twice a day and hope for the best. Look, random lady in the grocery store, I get that when you envision babies you think of cute, chubby dimples and rolls of baby fat. And my lanky, small fry of a kid can be quite alarming to people, but that isn't going to stop me yelling at you in the fresh produce department; 'All babies are different, so back off about her size!'
So next time someone you know tells you their baby has IUGR or has being recently diagnosed, please for the love of god avoid saying these things. Be a supportive person, be a kind voice in the sea of negativity, and tell her that she's doing a kick ass job with the hand she was dealt. And please bring her trashy TV shows to watch while she's on bed rest.