COMING TO TERM: A Father's Story of Birth, Loss, and Survival

William H. Woodwell, Jr., Author Univ. Press of Mississippi $25 (216p) ISBN 978-1-57806-374-1

Kim and William Woodwell's story is every parent's nightmare. Pregnant, Kim was rushed to the hospital with a severe case of pre-eclampsia, a condition that can be fatal to mother and baby. Doctors held off delivery as long as possible, but after only 24 weeks of gestation, Kim gave birth to twins. William, a freelance writer and editor, gives a riveting, poignant, often piercing account of these events, following the twins through birth, the death of the smaller one, Nina, and the survival and ultimate health of Josie. Woodwell gives power to his account with minute, seemingly inconsequential details such as how, on his way to the hospital where his wife has been taken by ambulance, he turned the radio on and off, "wanting but unable just to think." The hospital scene is described in similarly vivid detail: the wires, tubes and monitoring machinery, and especially the "clop-CLOP clop-CLOP" of the babies' heartbeats. "Their hearts beat on like nothing's wrong. Kim says they sound like horses.... It's hard enough coming into the world the way most of us do. For them, it will be that much more of a surprise, that much more of a shock. Fact is, we're essentially powerless to help them now, except to keep them in there as long as we can." Though the doctors in the neonatal intensive care unit did their best, tiny Nina's organs begin to fail one at a time and she finally dies. Though she has mild cerebral palsy, Josie is now four years old and is progressing well. Woodwell's honest account of the events and the emotions he and his wife shared will be felt by all readers. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/30/2001
Release date: 08/01/2001
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