What We Didn’t Expect: Personal Stories About Premature Birth

Melville House. Nov. 2020. 224p. ed. by ed. by Melody Schreiber. ISBN 9781612198606. pap. $18.99. MED
When journalist Schreiber faced the premature birth of her own son, among the ten percent of babies born early in the United States, she found herself turning to books. None satisfied her wish for a single source offering shared experiences that a reader could move into and out of as new challenges appeared, each time finding someone’s similar personal struggle. The result is this collection of essays by professional writers who have each been touched in some way by prematurity. Most share experiences of shock, fear, helplessness, and guilt, plus challenging interactions with healthcare personnel and with the system as a whole. Also touched on are adoption, LGBTQ issues, being the premature child, multiple births, interactions with relatives and friends, national and international political complications, and bereavement. Contributors freely share the emotions and stress they dealt with, leaving no doubt that the experience is traumatic regardless of the outcome.
VERDICT Support groups often provide listening and understanding beyond what professionals can offer. When that sort of personal contact isn’t immediately available, a book such as this can serve as a close substitute. The elegance and honesty with which these writers share raw emotions and practical knowledge make it a valuable resource.
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