Book Review: Half Baked

Half Baked: The Story of My Nerves, My Newborn, and How We Both Learned to Breathe

Alexa Stevenson is a writer and fellow preemie mom. I’ve never met her, but I feel like I have – I just finished reading her book, “Half Baked: The Story of My Nerves, My Newborn, and How We Both Learned to Breathe.”

Her story is a bit more dramatic than mine. Her’s begins with infertility (don’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), Stevenson’s son was discovered “demised” 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 didn’t. So as she approached age three, Stevenson put their story in a book.

Damn, she stole my idea.

With hilarity and grace, “Half Baked” is the story of a hypochondriac’s search for motherhood – and the extraordinarily untraditional route she took to get there. No matter the situation, “Half Baked” demonstrates one can always survive by finding the humor within; the self-stated purpose and theme being “persevering with reason and humor.”

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 Stevenson’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 ΠΡΕΕΜΙ 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.

Excerpt:
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 wouldn’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. It’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, they’ll have time to read it…

I recommend “Half Baked: The Story of My Nerves, My Newborn, and How We Both Learned to Breathe” 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…

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