Reviewed by Allison Martin
Born Too Soon is the touching, true story of the life of a preemie in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), as told by her mother. The author, Elizabeth Mehren, has a wealth of experience as a professional writer for the Los Angeles Times and it shows in the accuracy and fluidity of her writing. Preemie parents will enjoy the way she captures the experience of the NICU - the arrogance of a neonatologist, the emotionally involved nurse, the omnipresent machines, and the tramautic ups and downs of this fragile life.
I have to admit that I hesitated a long while to read Born Too Soon because of my sensitivity to the end of the story, as the Mehren's daugther does not survive. But now that I have finally read it I am amazed at accurately it captures the thoughts and experiences of a generation of NICU parents. The "doesn't have a clue" response from her co-workers, the overwhelming craving to touch and protect her fragile baby, the shear frustration over the lack of answers, the different ways she and her husband coped with the unrelenting stress, and the close comraderie on the front lines of the NICU will be familiar territory to parents of small preemies.
While the ending is sad, the reader is left with the feeling that little
Emily's life was truly valued by those who knew her and by everyone touched
by this book. I recommend this book for preemie parents and everyone else
who wishes to share in a bit of this life altering experience.
"So here we were once again, Dr. Friedman and I, leaning agaist Emil's isolette like a lamppost. Actually, he was doing the leaning. The whole time he was talking to me, I could barely take my eyes off my daughter. From time to time, to be polite, I made eye contact with Dr. Friedman while he discoursed on NEC or answered by questions. But Emily remained my primary focus. She was lying on her back with her fists clenched tight. Occasionally she would open those clear blue eyes and look in my direction. Even without the illness, she was withstanding daily assaults to her system that no adult would tolerate. I couldn't bear to think that this brave, strong child was being asked to face yet another sisyphean obstacle.
Around us life went on int he NICU. Nurses bulted over their babies. Bells and alarms raged. Dressed in ritual black, a family of Hasidic Jews - grandparents, a young and nervous-looking father, and ohters who must have been uncles and aunts - davened and prayed in Hebrew near the warming table where their small infant, the latest arrival here in the NICU, lay splayed out. At the isolette next to us, Mrs. Diaz stolidly maintained her quiet vigil. Carla breezed in, perfectly coiffed with a chic new haircut and nails freshly manicured with rosy pink nail polish. Dangling a little white bag, she called out to Dr. Friedmaan, unconcerned by the fact that he was in conference with someone else. "I've got the milk, Dr. Friedman," she said. "Where should I put it?"
"Each day the NICU seemed more and more to be a microcosm of hte world outside, where personalities paraded, egos cavorted, and suffering went on in silece. Each day was a reminder of just how relentless mundane events can be. At this very moment that my daughter's life lay in jeopardy, two young residents were chuckling over some private moment of mirth in the corner."
Interview with the author, Elizabeth Mehren
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