Lessons in Love, Life and Motherhood (a giveaway)
Thank you everyone who participated in raising money for the March of Dimes. (Especial thanks to the perennial lurkers who revealed themselves. That wasn’t too scary was it? I always love hearing from everyone. There is still time to leave a comment, which is the easiest way in history to raise money).
I like how money can be used to heal and protect and preserve; and I also like using words to do the exact same work. Kasey Mathews wrote the book I wish I had in my hand when I was yoga-breathing my way down the halls of University Hospital, preparing, every single time, to see my wisp of a baby whose health status fluctuated like the stock market.
I slurped up Kasey Mathews’ book Preemie: Lessons in Love, Life and Motherhood in two days. This book is the brave account of how she grew into her own motherhood through reckoning with the extreme prematurity of her daughter Andie, born at 25 weeks. It’s user-friendly and raw and honest and entirely lovely. This book is for all mothers who’ve ever found motherhood to be different than their expectations, which I’m guessing would be something like, well, all of us.
As the fabulous Katrina Kenison, author of, The Gift of an Ordinary Day, says: This lovely memoir is about letting go of assumptions, moving into the place that scares us most, and discovering that what we get in return for our surrender is nothing less than grace.”
An interview with Kasey Mathews:
1.) Were you a writer before you wrote preemie?
Writing has always been my solace, my passion, my meditation. My favorite sound in the world is a pencil scratching across paper. For years I led creative writing workshops and inspired hundreds of children to write. I wrote alongside them and delighted in the pure joy of writing. Others often urged me to submit my work for publication, but I never felt compelled to do so. It wasn’t until we moved to a quiet hillside in New Hampshire that I felt the strong calling to write Preemie. I was so naive and soon discovered that writing the book was almost easy compared to getting it published. It was a long hard road, and I continually had to return to why I wrote the book; reminding myself of all the others I believed would find healing in our story.
2) How was it, emotionally, to write this book?
Intense. Powerful. Amazing. Healing. Joyous. As you know from having a preemie, the NICU experience is a continual up and down, roller coaster ride. Writing the story was the same. I had to dig so deep and put myself right back there, standing in those same shoes, looking through those same scared eyes in all those situations that had brought me to my knees in the first place. It often took me weeks to accurately capture a particular crisis moment, digging deeper and deeper with every draft. I knew I’d finally gotten there when I was so wrung out, I had nothing left to give. The flipside were the joyous moments where I witnessed my own growth and ultimately understood the corresponding lessons. It was a wild ride indeed and would certainly have been easier if I hadn’t pulled the curtain all the way back, but I knew the story would suffer if I didn’t reveal myself wholly and completely to the reader.
3) Are there any remaining marks of Andie’s prematurity?
I was contemplating this question, staring into the woodstove, while Andie made a batch of her favorite Challah Bread French Toast in the kitchen behind me. I thought of the colds that years ago left her sleeping next to a nebulizer inhaling Albuterol every two hours, and how we still knock on wood every time we speak of the time that has passed since she’s needed a treatment. I thought of her grace and ability on soccer fields, ski courses and backs of horses, and I thought about her intensity, competitiveness and need for perfection. Were those traits of prematurity or just who she is? And just as that thought crossed my mind, Andie looked up from the griddle and asked, “Mom, do you think I freak out so much because I was a preemie?” I shook my head and laughed, telling her I had no idea, and then read her what I’d just wrote!
4) What do you want to tell every mother who has a premature child in the NICU?
- If you’re afraid, say it out loud. “I’m afraid.” Bring those emotions to light so they can’t breed and grow in the dark.
- Create a vision of your child in the future – walking on the beach, coming down the slide at the playground, running through a grassy meadow – and hold that vision.
- Remember that statistics are just numbers and don’t let others limit your child’s potential.
- Know that so many others have walked this path before you and that whatever you are thinking and feeling is not wrong and you are not crazy.
- Never, ever lose hope.
- Drink lots of water.
5) Who are your writing inspirations?
I love to learn and grow and find inspiration by witnessing the journey of others through books. A quick glance at my bookshelf would tell you that I’m partial to women writers. Barbara Kingsolver, Anne Lamott, Pam Houston and a new addition, Kristen Kimball, who wrote a fabulous memoir called The Dirty Life. Memoirs about ordinary people who find themselves facing extraordinary circumstances are often among my favorites. Right about the time I started my first draft of Preemie, I came across a memoir called Here if You Need Me by Kate Braestrup. I read that book in one sitting and knew immediately that I’d found the model for my book. It’s about a woman in her mid-thirties who’s left to raise her four children alone when her Maine State Trooper husband is killed on the job. It was her unwavering honesty and how she wove humor into circumstances that were anything but funny, that impressed me most. Her wry voice was so clear and so certain that I felt like she was reading the book to me. I can only hope I came somewhat close to achieving a fraction of her brilliance.
Kasey is giving away 1 copy of Preemie: Lessons in Love, Life and Motherhood, to a reader of 6512. Leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing. Giveaway ends December 1oth.