Alexa Stevenson is a writer and fellow preemie mom. Iâ€™ve never met her, but I feel like I have – I just finished reading her book, â€œHalf Baked: The Story of My Nerves, My Newborn, and How We Both Learned to Breathe.â€
Her story is a bit more dramatic than mine. Herâ€™s begins with infertility (donâ€™t they all?), before setting forth on the adventure of IVF. Stevenson discusses her journey throughout this process, and the resulting success of a twin pregnancy. With a light touch, she expresses the joys of constant arfing. She then opens her tragedy to the world.
At 22 weeks (the week I began my own adventures on hospital lock down), Stevensonâ€™s son was discovered â€œdemisedâ€ in the womb. Two weeks later, her water broke. She was immediately assigned to permanent hospital confinement (they even took away her bathroom privileges for a bit). Her daughter Simone was born eleven days later – at 25 weeks gestation.
From the beginning, Stevenson chronicled all of her adventures on a blog (FlotsamBlog.com). Infertility, multiples, panic, hospitals and prematurity – now what? Simone almost died, but she didnâ€™t. So as she approached age three, Stevenson put their story in a book.
Damn, she stole my idea.
With hilarity and grace, â€œHalf Bakedâ€ is the story of a hypochondriacâ€™s search for motherhood – and the extraordinarily untraditional route she took to get there. No matter the situation, â€œHalf Bakedâ€ demonstrates one can always survive by finding the humor within; the self-stated purpose and theme being â€œpersevering with reason and humor.â€
If I may be contradictorily philosophical for a moment, despite our differences it is amazing how similar our story is. We both panicked and fretting after learning multiples were on the way; we both insisted on weekly (if not more) ultrasounds, demanding proof of heartbeat; we both railed against medical confinement; and we both became intensely focused on raising our children – Google graduates of information and medical terminology. I even had to go back and read my own blogged experiences after completing Stevensonâ€™s description of her daily NICU routine. Apparently all tiny human intensive care units have the same mandated purple walls.
Not just an ode to her baby girl, this book is a testament to the power of parents unwillingly thrust into the Î Î¡Î•Î•ÎœÎ™ sorority (Pi Rho Epsilon Epsilon Mu Iota Eta or PREEMIE). It puts a human face on the theoretical and literal trials of learning to breathe when life throws you a rather inconvenient right cross to the chest – knocking the wind right *out* of you in the midst of your prayers for God to put the wind *into* your babies, along with the knowledge and power to continue inhaling and exhaling repeatedly for The. Rest. Of. Their. Lives.
A large part of motherhood is about relinquishing control. Generally you have eighteen years for this project, and it happens with a series of steps: the first day of kindergarten, a driver’s license, college. Gradually you accept – or try to – the fact that you cannot keep your baby from harm, not always. Being a mother int he NICU is a painful crash course in this concept, like learning to swim by being dropped into the ocean by a helicopter. In the aftermath of being dumped, flailing, into the Pacific, it wouldnâ€™t be unreasonable to experience an increase in anxiety, even to develop a fear of water altogether. On the other hand, if you were an aquaphobe to begin with, the plunge might do you some good. Itâ€™s hard to be afraid of a bathtub after that.
This book should be handed to all NICU parents upon admission. Actually, it should be standard fare alongside the ante-partum sign-in paperwork for all mothers struggling with pre-term labor. Trust me, theyâ€™ll have time to read itâ€¦
I recommend â€œHalf Baked: The Story of My Nerves, My Newborn, and How We Both Learned to Breatheâ€ to everyone and anyone touched by prematurity – no matter how distantly. This book is a must read for anyone touched by a baby born too soon.
Until my book comes out, of course…