early birthday gift

July 29th, 2012

I’m giving away a copy of the book, Preemie, by Kasey Mathews, because my daughter was born on August 12 and she will turn 13 in two weeks.

These facts were once inconceivable to me. Equally impossible for her to be born on that date, and for her to grow up so fast. Is there any parent yet who can believe his or her own eyes?

Georgia was born early. Not as extremely early as allowed by today’s medicine, but early enough for us to ask, in the haste of emergency intervention, whether or not she would be able to breathe at birth. The answer was, “Maybe.” Because of the steroids I’d been given, she did breathe, and we were lucky, and she was fine, eventually. We went home after a few weeks in the hospital, and figured out the rest one day at a time.

But there is a whole story I’ve left unsaid.

What brings this recollection near is that I’ve just finished reading Preemie by Kasey Mathews. Kasey’s daughter Andie was a micro-preemie born four months early. In impeccably etched detail, Mathews tells the whole unthinkable story of an implausible birth, the reality, the setbacks, the disbelief, denial, and fury. What she tells most courageously are those things that are so hard to say.

She was afraid of her baby.
She was afraid to look at her, to touch and tend her.
She was afraid of what she’d done wrong and what might yet go wrong, the hidden trapdoors, the other shoes.
She was afraid of what she knew and what she didn’t know, the permanent scars and looming catastrophes, the not-yets, the maybe-nevers.
She was afraid to love.

We share these fears no matter when or how we become parents, no matter how or when our children arrive, each of us unprepared, undefended and stripped naked of all our expectations.

Our babies survive our fear and failings. They outlast our ignorance, our desperate strivings, and the virulent certainty that we, and they, are somehow damaged or inadequate.

I don’t often address my daughter directly on this page, but it’s time to tell her the only thing I know for sure, the thing she’s known all along.

You have never been too early, too little, or too late. It’s only me who struggles to keep up, who labors at the pace, who resists the steady insistence of your momentous arrival.

I can hardly believe my eyes, but you’re here already!

Kasey Mathews is offering a signed copy of Preemie to a commenter on this post. No matter where you are in your parenting journey, how old or young your children, we are all about to be born into the inconceivable, a new day and stage, and we feel frightened and unprepared. Leave a comment by this Friday, August 3 and claim your early birthday gift.


  1. I love this. I was a premie, 3 lbs 3 oz, my great grandmother harrumphed that they’d just had a pot roast bigger than me. My mom had to wave goodbye as the put me in a blanket in the front seat of a station wagon driven by a hospital lady to take me to a hospital an hour away who could make sure my lungs and systems would make it 72 hours, not able to even hold me for weeks when they visited. I’m 5’9″ and was a college athlete, no known health problems. I think of what that must have been like for my mother. As a mother now, I choke up just thinking of all of those things you say about a mother’s worry. And how she too is vibrant, healthy, and just as she should be. And how lucky i am to be in each day with her. As the daughter and the mother, I love this do much.

    Comment by Katie Murphy — July 29, 2012 @ 8:04 am

  2. Such a beautifully written post, once I’m certain I’ll find myself quoting – much like my standard answer to the “when is it normal for a baby to…” comes from you: “just in time, it’ll happen.” (thank you for that – a simple sentence and it has helped me stay relaxed as I waited for milestones to happen ‘just in time’.)

    Comment by Emily — July 29, 2012 @ 8:04 am

  3. I love the words “You have never been too early, too little, or too late…” Beautiful post, and a very Happy Birthday to Georgia!

    Comment by Jackie — July 29, 2012 @ 8:13 am

  4. If the writing in this book is as good as yours, then it will be a deliciously delightful read. Thanks.

    Comment by Mary Ann — July 29, 2012 @ 8:20 am

  5. I have a good friend whose preemie twin girls are eight months old now. I bet she would love this book.

    Comment by Kristin — July 29, 2012 @ 8:28 am

  6. My sister was a premie, born in 1982 during the war in Lebanon. She’s in Australia now! We still can’t believe it!

    Comment by Ranya — July 29, 2012 @ 10:02 am

  7. Enjoy everything that you share with us. My twin boys are also close to 12 and changing right before my eyes minute by minute. Sometime the pace creates anxiety because I am afraid. That part makes me sad as my fear of the unknown takes away from the right now.

    Comment by Erin Wheatley — July 29, 2012 @ 1:49 pm

  8. I’m almost afraid to comment because I’m almost afraid to win the book, because I know EXACTLY the desperate fear you described for the mom about, and for, her little girl. That’s how I felt when my little boy was born 10 weeks early. It was even harder since my firstborn preemie had not lived longer than 5 months. My little boy is so precious, so wonderful, and yet his life does contain challenges that we have to work with, and that he will face for the rest of this life, which means that his story from preemiedom has not been, and will not continue to be, the easy road of good health some other commenters note. And yet the tears down my eyes make me realize, regardless of whether I win the book how much more I needed this post right now, today, to help me remember to keep going, and to return to the faith that tomorrow can get better (a new medicine is making me believe tomorrow can be better, but this road has been, and still is hard).

    Comment by Anonymous in Mpls — July 29, 2012 @ 5:40 pm

  9. I have a preemie granddaughter that is our little miracle with her twin sister as a angel baby watching over her.. Shes almost 3 now and has over come so many things.. Would love to have the book for her mother…

    Comment by Debbie — July 29, 2012 @ 5:43 pm

  10. A beautiful post! I just loved how you can’t believe your daughter is 13, and celebrate that with such beautiful words! My daughter will be 24 (!) on August 21, and she almost didn’t make it (she was so big, ironically, that she blocked the amniotic fuid aptha came out as she was nailing and she never got to breathe and was in the NICU for five das. I was a wreck, I can tell you! So scared and at a hospital in a different state…. Thanks for the reminder of love and gratitude, and Kasey’s book is absolutely a gift!

    Comment by Dede Cummings — July 29, 2012 @ 6:24 pm

  11. Oops, she blocked the amniotic fluid and then inhaled it in one big gulp—bad typing!

    Comment by Dede Cummings — July 29, 2012 @ 6:25 pm

  12. Being a mother of twins, I know many mothers who have struggled with and celebrated their preemies. Kasey’s book sounds lovely. Thank you for the opportunity. My boys turn 8 this month… and my stepdaughter turns 24(!!!!!!!!!!!) on the 12th. Time, how it flies.

    Comment by Caroline — July 29, 2012 @ 7:03 pm

  13. Happy early birthday to Georgia, and to you Mama Maezen. On this, the second anniversary of Benjamin’s stillbirth (4 months early) I can’t even imagine how different my life would be if he’d lived. I have a friend whose grief surfaces every year around the time her preemie daughter was born (she’s 3 now). I’ll be sure to get her the book, as an early birthday present…

    Comment by Alana — July 29, 2012 @ 8:40 pm

  14. My twins arrived 6 weeks early 13 years ago last April. My wise dr also prescribed steroids so they were strong enogh to be healthy upon arrival. After 12 days in the NICU, us nervous parents brought them home . I am amazed every day at their beaty and development and awed by our success. Motherhood is the hardest and best job I ever had.

    Comment by Trish Thomas — July 29, 2012 @ 8:51 pm

  15. Truly beautifully written. My nephew was born at 24 weeks and all our lives changed. He has now just turned 17 and is the most kind, thoughtful and gentle soul that I know. All tribute to him, his parents and doctors for not giving up. The joy and pain have been worth every minute. xxx

    Comment by Rochelle — July 30, 2012 @ 12:59 am

  16. My first came 6 weeks early, just like Georgia. Except I wasn’t given any steroids and yes, did we fear his lungs… How I remember the pictures that Kenji made in the neonatal unit while I was still in the delivery room: his collapsing chest and his struggle to breathe.
    Here is now, 4 yrs old, and in perfect health. Singing his lungs out!

    Yes, there are many, many things in life that once seemed impossible. Blessings to Georgia and to the happy parents!

    Comment by Roos — July 30, 2012 @ 3:44 am

  17. This sounds like a wonderful book to read – I am sure there will be lessons to learn.
    Happy Early Birthday to Georgia – the time just keeps going on and this week was measured by the fact that my 7 year old’s feet grew 3 sizes since the end of last school year and my 5 year old is becoming so independent. I am always trying to remember to be in this moment.

    Comment by Barbara — July 30, 2012 @ 7:01 am

  18. I don’t need the book — have already read it, loved it, shared it. But I wanted to send birthday wishes to you and Georgia anyway, in honor of the fears that never really go away and the faith that deepens by the day. It’s so amazing, that in spite of our mistakes and mis-steps, we survive and thrive. A beautiful post, a beautiful picture of your girl, and a beautiful book!

    Comment by Katrina Kenison — July 30, 2012 @ 7:09 am

  19. I was a preemie as well. In 1971 I was born 2 1/2 months premature and came into the world just shy of 4 lbs. The doctors told my mother it was ‘touch and go’ and she wept by my incubator, uncertain that she would ever take her ‘China doll’ home. My mother smoked – a now known risk factor for premature births. I have always wondered what would have happened if I were a full-term child. Having suffered with asthma most of my life I often wondered if my early arrival played a role in my shallow breathing. As I age, I know that all is as it should be and I arrived precisely when I should have.

    Comment by Susan — July 30, 2012 @ 7:18 am

  20. […] To read Karen’s review of Preemie click Here! […]

    Pingback by Book Tour 2012 Continues… | Kasey Mathews: Author of Preemie — July 30, 2012 @ 7:19 am

  21. Thank you for sharing your insights into an area of motherhood many travel yet few describe. I’m excited to read the book.

    Comment by Susan in Indiana — July 30, 2012 @ 7:23 am

  22. I would love to win this book, if it is anything like yours.

    Comment by Anamika — July 30, 2012 @ 8:53 am

  23. You are a beautiful writer yourself!! This is a gorgeous post… I am already a Preemie memoir owner, but I am so happy that you are giving it a way to others. One of the best memoirs out there!

    Comment by Suzanne Kingsbury — July 30, 2012 @ 9:04 am

  24. As a lactation consultant in a pediatrics hospital with a level 2 & 3 NICU, I worked with mothers of premies for several years. While instructing new mothers about collecting their breastmilk, in the privacy of the Milk Bank pumping rooms, I often encountered the same intense feelings and fears expressed in this post. In the safety of the pumping room, mothers express their fears, hopes and dreams. I remain in awe of their ability to cope with circumstances they never expected to experience and thank you for putting it so succinctly. Though I am now a childbirth & parent educator at the same hospital I will share this post with my colleagues as I will also share the book. Thank you.

    Comment by Bonnie in Texas — July 30, 2012 @ 10:24 am

  25. Happy birthday Georgia and congrats momma. I have a 24.2 weeker and I can only dream of her teen years right now. Can’t believe how 7mo have flown by though, thanks for posting and hope I get to read preemie soon 🙂

    Comment by Angela — July 30, 2012 @ 10:56 am

  26. My mom was pre-mature, how much is unclear because in those days (1939) people did not know their exact due date she weighed 900 grams. She had a twin-sister who died. They survived until the hospital because their uncle was the first person in the region to have cars with heating in them (he was a taxidriver). Because my mother was the smallest she was put into the electric incubator. Her sister was put in the one with hot-water bottles.

    Love is never wasted or lost, not loving or holding back, in the end, hurts us (and our soul) the most.

    Have a wonderful day!!!

    Comment by Simone — July 30, 2012 @ 12:03 pm

  27. A momentous arrival indeed.

    Comment by Aparna — July 30, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

  28. Beautiful post. Off topic, do you have any post sesshin advice?

    Thank you.

    Comment by Loi tran — July 30, 2012 @ 11:23 pm

  29. P.s. Rereading my comment I can’t really believe my mother was really 900 grams when she was born (I was told that was her weight). But at the time a fullgrown healthy baby was around 2000 grams.

    Comment by Simone — July 30, 2012 @ 11:26 pm

  30. I’m grateful for your beautiful life-stories to retell and take to heart, for all compassionate beings, on our life’s journey. This is my story:

    I was not a premie but came to the world a day early, on the first day of August, one day before my mother’s birthday. As I came into the world, my breath stopped from the umbilical chord holding me in as I moved out and as the breach birth struggled to wiggle and turn me free. With nurses massaging my mom’s lower abdomen, I turned and moved my body, while the OB Gyn Dr. laid his hands under my head, caressing and cradling this being. As the chord of life slid off my body, freeing me into the open air, a breath of life was eagerly inhaled and exhaled. I was born. My skin was blue under the blood on entry and slowly turned purple, to fade into the redish-pinkness of living tissues. The chord that fed me, guided me, stopped me and freed me was cut. My mother could hear me cry in her crying. We are one. .

    Comment by Kim Rock — July 31, 2012 @ 4:01 am

  31. As a mother of a preemie and a friend to a two women with preemies that came much earlier than mine, I cannot wait to dig into this book! No need to give it to me though, I want one of the lovely ladies above to get it. I am going to order it off Amazon! But I wanted to comment that I loved your book and I am sure I will love this one too!

    Comment by Bonnie — July 31, 2012 @ 5:45 pm

  32. For 5 years I have spent every minute with my daughter. In 5 days she leaves the nest to attend kindergarten. She is excited. I am crushed. I am going to miss her do much. Her teacher is so lucky.

    Comment by heidi jette — July 31, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

  33. As the mom of triolets born at 26 weeks , one surviving 2 not, i relate so well to this post.

    Comment by elsje kumpon — July 31, 2012 @ 5:59 pm

  34. Oh, I so identify with the lovely and wonderful, yet totally inconvenient, path of parenthood. A thousand times over. Mama of 14-month-old Penny.

    Comment by Amber — July 31, 2012 @ 6:02 pm

  35. I am a preemie mom, and I know the NICU rollercoaster all to well. My precious Patrick — born at 33 weeks (“eh, not SO early”, some would say). Maybe not, but born via EXIT procedure, in multisystem failure, intubated at delivery, before the umbilical cord was even cut…. with a vascular tumor condition so rare it took 7 weeks to diagnose. 120 days later, against all odds, Patrick came home and is today a thriving 2 1/2 year old. I’ve tried so many times to put words to our story — I’d love to read this book. 🙂

    Comment by Rachel — July 31, 2012 @ 6:59 pm

  36. I have 11 year old twin boys who were 6 weeks early. They both spent at least twelve hours.on a ventilator immediately after birth. I was terrified and then when they were off the vent, new apprehensions set in, how were we.suspose.to nurture and raise these tiny little.bodies, whose.plates.of their skulls were still overlapping at birth, to be healthy, happy boys. And here we are now, no deficits happy and bright boys on the verge of their teenage years, oh dear….

    Comment by jennifer — July 31, 2012 @ 8:26 pm

  37. Just such joy. I think the stretch of parenting you and I are in (Anna’s 3 months younger than Miss G) may be the most challenging. Here we go!

    Comment by Kelly — August 1, 2012 @ 5:48 am

  38. This is beautiful Karen! Every single day I look at my daughter, who was born 4 weeks early, and am amazed!! ‘I can hardly believe my eyes’as you put it. She’s 8 now…I feel so very grateful and I feel so many other emotions.. have no words to express!!
    Warm birthday wishes to Georgia!

    P.S: I’ve been reading you for sometime now.. and I love your writing.

    Comment by Priya — August 8, 2012 @ 3:49 am

  39. Thank you! I just received the book today, and I’m excited to get reading.

    Comment by Rachel — September 1, 2012 @ 6:15 pm

  40. A little late, but your daughter is so beautiful, I had to comment….does she still have her American Girl dolls? 😉

    Comment by Nancy — November 14, 2012 @ 3:23 am

  41. All shelved now . . . until they pass to another little girl.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — November 14, 2012 @ 6:51 am

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