Last month, when Kate Hopper's daughter Stella turned 10, Kate wrote Stella a letter and shared it on her blog. At one point, I had to stop reading because I couldn't see through the tears. It was this part that got me:
"I couldn’t have known that you would become who you are—that’s not the way life works, of course. But I wish that on the day you were born, I could have had a glimmer of who you’d be, because then those early days and weeks wouldn’t have been so terrifying. I wouldn’t have been so afraid to love you, to lose you."
I didn't know Kate back then, but I know this story. It feels like I was there.
I feel that way, because I've read Kate's recently released memoir, Ready for Air. Immediately, the book drew me in. Kate takes me back to the day when Stella is born two months early, in a sudden, traumatic, this was never the plan kind of way. Stella's nursery isn't ready. The crib is still in the box.
Kate takes us inside the neonatal intensive care unit, to Stella's bedside:
"..when I look down at her, my stomach or chest—something in my center—tightens. A white ventilator is taped over her mouth, scrawny legs are splayed like a frog's, goggles cover her eyes, purple veins track across her skull like a spider web. I take a deep breath. This cannot be my baby. This is not how it's supposed to happen."
Shortly after that, Kate receives an email from a mom who had delivered preemie twins, someone who understands. The note includes a quote: "Live the questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into the answers."
This theme—living the questions, the uncomfortable, scary, lonely not knowing—carries the book. Ready for Air takes us into the depths of uncertainty clouding Kate's first year of motherhood and Stella's first year of life.
Ready for Air does what all the good stories do: It takes you there, and it makes you care.
And now we are in that "distant day" when this story has made its way into the world. And out into the world is exactly where it needs to be.
And today, Kate is here. Kind of.
Kate and I met online a year ago, after a friend forwarded me a link to her blog. And earlier this month, I attended the Ready for Air launch party at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.
I got to hear Kate read aloud some of my favorite passages and meet—in person—many of the real life "characters" who add so much depth and personality and honesty to the book. It was amazing to see a memoir come to life this way.
Update: Congrats to Amy Pignatella Cain. Amy, you won a copy of Ready for Air. Please contact me so we can make arrangements to get it to you!
Know a hospital that needs Ready for Air? As part of the Ready for Air blog book tour, University of Minnesota Press will donate 15 copies to neonatal intensive care units in the U.S. and Canada. If you have a hospital that you'd like to be included in the contest, follow this link for instructions: http://motherhoodandwords.com/2013/10/nicu-giveaway/