Vicki Forman's twins Ellie and Evan were born at only 23 weeks and weighed just over a pound a piece when they were born. Knowing as she did, the terrible odds stacked against her babies, Forman begged doctors to let them go at birth instead of using heroic measures to keep them alive. But doctors didn't listen and the babies were whisked off to the NICU to start the fight to live. Ellie died four days later. Evan faced almost every medical challenge possible but he lived. This devastating memoir is the story of Evan's survival, the long road both emotionally and medically that the entire Forman family faced, having lost one baby and having another with multiple permanent disabilities. It is harrowing and open and anger and guilt-fueled but it is also the story of a powerful love both for the baby who died and the baby who didn't. It is primarily a memoir of motherhood, or as the subtitle says, premature motherhood, although Forman does touch on some of her husband's grief and way of coping with the overwhelming uncertainty and dread and on how they as a couple found the strength to continue on together in the face of the enormous obstacles facing Evan.
This story will leave the reader drained but impressed with the empowerment and advocacy that Forman grew into in the unexpected years of mothering her disabled but no less perfect for that boy. The winner of the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Bakeless Prize, this is exquisitely written and deeply felt. It takes the reader on the roller coaster ride that parents with medically fragile children face every day. And it gives a glimpse of the unrelentingly different sense of normal experienced by families with ex-micropreemies or multiply disabled children. Much of the memoir focuses on the first two years of Evan's life and how Forman became the mother he needed. But it also deals with the way she bottled her grief for the loss of Ellie because of Evan's daily struggle. And while there's no miracle ending here, there is still a sense of the miraculous and the beautiful. Life and death are so intimately intertwined here, ethical and moral questions abound but ultimately there's an all pervading mother love, strongly and unstintingly stated. It feels strange to say that a story so shattering can be hopeful and affirmative and yes, even enjoyable, but it is. Just be prepared to weep yourself dry when you read this incredibly worthwhile memoir.
Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of the book.