A letter from Preemie Families

Dear Friends and Family,

Truth is, it makes me really uncomfortable to ask you to wash your hands when you enter the house.  I hate that I have to ask if you have had your flu shot and are up to date on your TDaP (pertussis) vaccination.  I am just as upset that I have to cancel at the last minute because someone in your family, or our family, has the sniffles.  Actually, because we have limited exposure with the outside world, I’m probably even more disappointed to miss your company.

The last thing I want is for you to feel unwelcome in our home or in any way put out because I notice when you sneeze into your hand and then try to touch my son’s hand.  And do you know what?  In most cases, I agree with you when you say that colds are just a normal part of life.  I know you think I’m paranoid.  I understand that it’s embarrassing to be asked about your hygiene. I know your suggestions about immunity building are well-meaning.

I also must tell you, I hear your exasperated sighs and see your all-knowing eye-rolls at my requests.  When you respond begrudgingly, my embarrassment dissipates and is replaced with anger.  It makes me really angry that you could put your pride in your cleanliness and healthfulness over the life of this child.

what a medically fragile child looks like

You see, Owen is doing remarkably well and has overcome so much in his 20 months of life.  He is so much better than six months or a year ago, but the fact is, he is still a medically fragile child.

This week there have been so many top news stories about the thousands of Americans in the hospital right now due to the Flu.  In Minnesota, one healthy teen has died and another is struggling to live.  As a parent who has watched my child fight to live, my heart breaks for the parents of these children.

At the same time, I am alarmed for my family.

You’ve asked in the past how you can help our family.  The biggest way you can help is this:

  1. When we make plans to see each other, volunteer that you received your flu shot more than two weeks ago.
  2. When you arrive at my house, greet me and the baby and say, “I can’t wait to hold you, as soon as I get my hands washed”.

That’s it.  Those two simple steps will make me feel more support than any other gift you can give.

Maybe, like some say, “paranoid” is the correct word, but really, I don’t care.  I’m just trying to do the best I can for my son.  He won’t always be medically fragile, and while he is, I hope you’ll bear with my requests and support and respect my best efforts to love and care for this child who we all want to see succeed.

Thank you for your understanding, and sticking by our family during this difficult time.


A Preemie Family


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© Copyright Tatum, All rights Reserved. Written For: Ain't No Roller Coaster

23 thoughts on “A letter from Preemie Families

  1. I hate that I’m lumped into this by having a former 24 weeker. I’d NEVER request that anyone be up to date on vaccines prior to seeing my child. Hand washing is one thing, but to push chemicals on to folks is a totally different realm of overbearing.

  2. I want to repost this! We are doing preemie lock down now! I am sure some friends and family think we are nuts!it is very difficult scary and at times lonely.I believe we are doing the best we can in the circumstances and I have no regrets!

  3. Another spot on post, Tatum. I love that you capture how deeply awkward and uncomfortable it is to ask people these questions, or remind them to Purell/wash. Thanks for sharing and best of luck to all for a healthy and quick cold/flu/RSV season!

  4. I was just referred to as the “flu shot Nazi” this weekend – and I’m happy to take that title if it means keeping my kids healthy! My immediate family all had to get TDaP last year, too, before Emma came home. No way I’m risking whooping cough with these lungs.

  5. Wow thank you I love your letter I thought I was the only one that felt embarrassed to ask people to please wash their hands before touching my baby. I am a proud father of an 11 month old little fighter named Willow she was born at almost 25 weeks . She has taken on everything that has been thrown her way and handled it with a smile,she was 1.4 pounds at birth today she is almost 14 pounds and doing well, she’s had her first cold and she’s done better that we expected still is nerve wrecking watching her be in distress and not being able to help much,but if she can handle heart surgery I’m sure she can handle a cold. Anyways I just wanted to thank you for this awesome letter that will help family and friends understand our situation better without being offended. I hope all goes well with Tatum and the rest of your family.

    • Thank you for the note, Moises. I’m glad Willow (beautiful name) is doing so well. Also, thanks for letting me know that I’m not alone on being embarrassed.

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  7. I have a big sign on the door that says ” STOP KILL THE GERMS OR I KILL YOU” might be mean but everyone gets the point. Father of a 27 weeker

  8. I’m a new follower and found you by searching for articles to give my family about how dangerous flu is for preemies. My baby girl is 4 1/2 months 2 corrected and it’s so hard to not become rude when family members say I’m too overbearing for always asking for them to wash their hands, asking to stay away if there has been sniffles (or any sign if illness for that matter), asking them to get flu shots, etc. We’ve been in lockdown as well and they don’t miss a chance to make some comment about us not taking her out. It doesn’t matter how many times we explain how high risk preemies are, they refuse to understand. And yet I’m the bad guy. Thank you so very much for posting this letter. If you don’t mind, I would love to use it. I’m so terrified of my baby girl getting sick and having to be hospitalized, and wish those who we love most were more understanding/proactive at protecting her as well.

    • Thank you for your comments. You are welcome to share the letter with your family. I hope it helps, but even if it doesn’t change their mind it gives you the validation that you’re supported by other families who are in a similar situation. Healthy thoughts to your miracle baby.

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