Preemie (And Giveaway)

July 16, 2012 § 46 Comments

Kasey Mathews and her family

Your story and mine are sure to be different, but if hearing my story allows you a moment away from yours, if it leaves you with a sense of hope, then this story was worth writing down – from Preemie, by Kasey Mathews

So begins Kasey Mathew’s beautiful memoir, Preemie: Lessons in Life, Love, and Motherhood. I was in the passenger seat of my car when I first read this sentence and Scott was steering the car down the 395 out of Alexandria, out of Virginia, out of my life for two years and into North Carolina. We had left the boys with my parents for four days and were going down to try to find a house near the Marine base, Camp Lejeune. What I remember about that April day was the sun through the windshield and the blue sky and Mathew’s words: if it leaves you with a sense of hope, then this story was worth writing down.

The next few pages took me surely and swiftly away from my life and onto the pitching and turning roller coaster that was hers in late November of 2000 when she went into the hospital halfway through her pregnancy because she hadn’t been feeling well. Mathew’s writing is clean and sharp with intense imagery and dialogue that makes you feel as though you are eavesdropping. Add to this that Mathews is a masterful story-teller, creating not just a narrative about what happened but a thriller that will whip you around sharp corners and through the blinding chiaroscuro of light and dark that was her life the during first five years after giving birth to her 1 pound 11 ounce daughter, Andie. Before I read Preemie, I knew that Mathews had set out to write this book to comfort other women who had or will give birth to premature babies, the ones who have to defy odds in order to take a single, unassisted breath. But what she did was to write a book that is both a comfort and a tribute to anyone who has had to stare disaster in the face. In the first chapter, she writes with shattering clarity about those early hours in Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. when she found out that she wasn’t ill but in labor five months early.

“Why is this happening?” I asked. “What did I do?” My voice sounded far away.

“You didn’t do anything.” The nurse on my right held
my hand without looking at me. “This isn’t your fault.”

Their shoes squeaked as they jogged alongside me.

“I know I did something.” The nurses exchanged a look.

My body started shaking. I was so cold. “I never should have
played paddle tennis.”

“It’s nothing you did,” several nurses said at once.

I thought if I could figure out why this was happening, I
could make it stop. I searched for clues, chronicling the past
week’s activities and ingestions. The bath I took Saturday
must have been too hot. I ate sushi. Just vegetables, but
maybe it was the ginger. “I put ginger on some sushi.” They
gripped my ankles tighter. I could see their hands on my legs,
but realized I couldn’t feel them.

Finally, I clutched a nurse’s arm. She was walking back-
wards, facing me, guiding the gurney down the hall. I dug
my fingers into her flesh. I needed to know she was real. She
looked at me. Her eyes, framed in dark circles, softened. I
thought I’d found my sympathetic audience. “You don’t un-
derstand,” I said to her in a more coherent, controlled voice.
“This sort of thing doesn’t happen to me.”

She held my gaze for a moment, and I waited. A gold
cross swung at the base of her neck. She continued to look at me. And then she said, “It does now.”

The voice and structure of Preemie are as impressive as its pacing. Often while reading, I flipped the pages back, trying to determine how Mathews had managed such a skillful flashback, such sparse but evocative details, such humor, even as she depicts events that must have been excruciating to live through. She describes the smell of paint in the first house she and her husband lived in, the beer they drank in the summer, their conversations as they lied in bed, sleeplessly staring up at the ceiling. Her sense of structure is both subtle and precise. Mathews places a gentle hand on the reader’s back and loops us through the past and the future until we finally look up and realize we are back at the middle, right where we started. Preemie is a book that reads like a race car.

Preemie is also a book about growing up, about how we transform from a twenty-something into a grown-up and about how growing up is less an age or a decision and more about the choices we make, the steady accumulation of days until we realize we are no longer auditioning, but rather, that we have gotten the part. Throughout the book, Mathews writes with a raw honesty about how it took her days until she was ready to hold her newborn, how hard it was to leave her healthy, two-year old son Tucker and head to the hospital, how she was both overjoyed and overwhelmed to finally take Andie home. “We had so many dreams,” her husband says at one point. “And now everything’s changed.”

During the first precarious months of Andie’s life, Mathews and her husband remodeled their home in record time (because they could not do any construction  once Andie was home), suffered  a cancer scare, and navigated an almost-daily commute to the Boston hospital to visit Andie all while trying to maintain a normal life for Tucker. And yet, these challenges were only warm-ups for Mathew’s ultimate challenge, which was learning how to trust herself.

Mathews turns to alternative healthcare for reasons that are a mystery even for her. She pursues, Reiki, energy work, and cranial-sacral therapy first as a last resort and then later, as a believer, as someone who has learned that babies need to be protected from the bright lights of the NICU, that to truly heal requires more than hospital beds and prescriptions.

In one of my favorite sections of the book, in a chapter entitled, “Healers,” Mathews describes her first visit to Karen McCarthy, an energy healer. On the phone, McCarthy explains that we humans are not just physical bodies, that we have emotional and spiritual bodies as well. Because Mathews doesn’t understand this at the time, she tells her curious husband that they are going to “a mind-body kind of thing.” Mathews describes the Berber carpet in Karen McCarthy’s house, her turtleneck, and firm handshake. She writes about the sometimes mystical events that surround her life from the perspective of a doubter, who believes only because she can no longer disbelieve.

As Andie continues to grow, so does Mathews. She becomes in equal measures, softer and more fierce. In peeking down every dark alley that might somehow reveal a possibility for her daughter, Mathews details the elliptical journey of her own healing as she travels fearlessly into the center of her own beating heart. She writes about her own transformation with humor, grace, and gritty honesty. This is a story about what happens when the worst happens. It is not so much about rising from the ashes as it is about being reborn in the flames. It is about learning how to trust: in ourselves, in the unknown, and in impossible miracles.

To celebrate this beautiful book, Kasey is giving away a copy of her book to lucky someone. Leave a comment and I’ll randomly pick a winner on Thursday, July 19th.

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§ 46 Responses to Preemie (And Giveaway)

  • Dani says:

    My 3 sons are grown now in their 20s, but as a mother you remember those first early moments of their life as if it was Yesterday. The first glance at the new love of your life and Everything changes. The love a mother feels for their new born child is a love that rocks the universe to its core and brings the very existence of life to its knees. Thanks for sharing

  • Beaitiful story, beautiful review. And it all rings so true – especially the part about believing because we can no longer disbelieve.

    I’d love to read it – thanks, Pamela. This one had not been on my list.

  • Mary Ann says:

    Enjoyed your book review. Sounds like a great book of growing and healing. Thanks.

  • Amy says:

    You have so eloquently given Premie a 5 star review. Can’t wait to read it!

  • beautiful review! thanks for sharing.

  • I would love to read this book.

  • twohandsfull says:

    I would love to read this book

  • I’ve been meaning to write you a note, but we are also in the midst of our cross country move of chaos, I’m hoping once we get there and settle in things will slow down and I’ll be able to write to you with some more clarity! This book sounds like a wonderful heartfelt read, it has inspired me to want read more memoirs! A good friend recommended a memoir called ‘Dying to be me’, Im not sure on the authors name, have you read it? I hope you move goes more smoothly and you’re able to settle in soon xxx *hugs*

  • I’ve a lump in my throat and tears that want to spill. “It is not so much about rising from the ashes as it is about being reborn in the flames.” Oh, how I know this rebirth (though mine didn’t involve a preemie)! Thank you for this review, Pamela, and all the more for writing your story, Kasey. I’m so moved.

    • Hope it’s ok for me to jump in and say thank you to you, Kristin for your comment and noting the exact same line of Pam’s review that got me, too! XO

      • sue murphy says:

        WOW so creatively written is this review. I will forward this to my friends. I know it will convince them to read it Kasey’s book. Some have questioned why I read it because of my history of loosing a 1 lb – 11 ozs. preemie (24 weeks). But I was driven to hear a success story of someone so similar to mine, only to find that it was so much more! Kasey’s journey of her life with Andie and her family has inspired me in so many more ways that I ever thought it could. There are no words that can explain my gratitude to her for writing it…this comment is the least I could do! …and maybe now I can win a copy for one of my friends, too!

  • [...] you leave a comment over on Pam’s website, she’ll enter your name for a chance to win a copy of Preemie! [...]

  • bethany birth says:

    This is so similar to my story. I have a baby girl in the nicu now, she is 10 weeks old and was born 15 weeks early and 1 lb 10 ounces. I also have an 11 yr old and am a single mother. Can’t wait to read your book!

  • Yvette says:

    As a mother of two preemies (twins born at 27weeks, weighing 2lbs 1oz & 1lb 2oz) I often feel like I am walking this path alone. Kasey reminds me and comforts me in her FB postings, Blog & now in her book, that I am not alone. I SO look forward to reading her book. Thank you Kasey!

  • Angela says:

    I have a micro preemie as well and the journey doesn’t end when we graduate from the NICU! Thanks for writing this book.

  • Kathy says:

    I felt my heart beat faster as I read your review of Mathews’ book! My own daughter was a preemie…nothing prepares a mom for navigating the currents that follow an early delivery and the challenges to come! My own journey has also taught me to trust in myself; I already feel like Mathews is a kindred spirit.

    • Kathy, I once heard someone say that the preemies can grow up and leave their prematurity behind, but for the parents – once a preemie parent, always a preemie parent! So glad you’ve learned such a wonderful lesson about trusting yourself! XO

  • My two are both Premmie and nothing does prepare when they come early, Thanks Kasey on the Book, it shows how many people who do go though having a premmie and it is not just one country and it is many countries who go through having a premmie.

    • You are so welcome! I truly felt called to write this story because we really are all joined together on this path – well beyond premature were connected as mothers. Thanks for your comment!

  • Sheli Lowrie says:

    Thank you for this extremely beautiful description of Kasey’s book. It is top on my “books to purchase” list. I learned of Kasey’s book through Inspire. I am a mom to 2 former preemies. My daughter was born at 27 weeks and is now 7 years old. She is my true miracle. My son was born at 32 weeks after a lot of soul searching, medications, bed rest, and long hospital stays. Both of my children have made me a stronger, more patient woman. I am currently working on my Master’s degree in Special Education because if the struggles and challenges my daughter has faced. She is my inspiration and both my babies are my light.
    Thank you again!! I can’t wait to read this book!
    Sheli Lowrie

  • This is my second glimpse of Kasey Mathews. So glad to be bumping into her work because it feels like a wave saying “Howdy!” Remember to try this!

    Pamela, what an outstanding book review. I feel washed with someone’s life, drenched in hope and like I’m swimming in the Grace of the collective pool where we all come together to experience tragedy not as the thing that takes us down, but as that Refiner’s Fire.

  • I’m very interested in birth memoirs at the moment and I had my own preemie. I’m hoping to go full term this time, but you never do know…

  • phiaknits says:

    Wonderful, inspiring review. I’m an aspiring NICU nurse and would love the opportunity to read your book to learn more about the family’s perspective.

  • Patriciadolan10@gmail.com says:

    I’m in love with this book already! The words wrapped me up and I was a witness in her world. Please count me in!! I would be honored to receive this.

  • Stephanie Wharam says:

    Your review is as beautifully written as you describe the book to be written. I would not have even heard of this book had I not one day stumbled on your blog while looking for inspirational yoga blogs. I enjoy reading your posts. Thank you!

  • Wolf Pascoe says:

    The beautiful little girl in the photo came in weighing one pound 11 ounces? Jeez.

  • Angela says:

    My daughter is also a micro-preemie and the journey is something I cannot easily describe. Kudos Kasey for documenting it well :)

  • Emma says:

    I too am a preemie mama. My son weighed 2 pounds 8 ounces when he was born. I’m working on a blog about my story and I’d love to read hers.

  • [...] Walking on My Hands - http://walkingonmyhands.com/2012/07/16/preemie-and-giveaway/ [...]

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