It is impossible for me to close my blogoversary month without celebrating my dear old friend’s Kasey Mathews‘ brand new book Preemie: Lessons in Love, Life & Motherhood, which is being put out on the shelves today at a bookstore near you! I’ve known Kasey since 6th grade. We were in House 3 together. We even went to Senior Ball together with our most excellent dates. (Hi Lenny & JMo!)
Anyway, Kasey’s book has been born! The premise? I’m lifting it from the back cover of her book:
In her early thirties, Kasey Mathews had it all: a loving husband, a beautiful two-year old son, and a second baby on the way. But what seemed a perfect life was shattered when she went into labor four months early and delivered her one-pound, eleven ounce daughter, Andie.
One pound and eleven ounces, people!
A can of Progresso soup weighs one pound and three ounces.
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rasj: Kase, you are brutally honest in your memoir, especially about how you did not want to touch Andie when she was so tiny. You call her a “half-done baby” and admit that – initially — you didn’t even want to see her. I imagine in anticipation of this book coming out, you discussed these feelings with her. How did you explain things so that she could understand?
Kasey: When I began writing this book, I had to put aside my worries of “what will people think,” and that meant Andie, too. I just never could have opened up as much as I did, and I think the story would have suffered. Of course that doesn’t mean I didn’t worry once it was all written down. But I decided it worth the risk of judgment to give voice to the thoughts and feelings I believe so many mothers have (not just preemie moms) but are too afraid and ashamed to say out loud.
As far as Andie is concerned, she’s such an old soul and just seems to “get” things on a different level. I haven’t read her the book yet (although I’ve recently decided to) but conversations around her birth and my reaction have been ongoing. I remember a time when we were curled up in bed together looking at the photo album of her first year. I had pointed to a photo of her just after her birth and told her how afraid I was of her. She had replied in a teasing voice, “Well, that’s really nice, Mom. What kind of parent would think that?” To which I replied, “Well, me, I guess,” and we had both laughed. But when we got serious, and I explained to her that my fear of losing her was so great and so overwhelming, and that I ultimately had to learn to choose love over fear, the look in her eyes told me that she understood.
rasj: You mention that a dog attacked you when you were 5-years old, resulting in 49 stitches and scars. You said that your father offered you plastic surgery to “fix” the scars, but you refused. Looking back now, what do your scars mean to you? And do you think you gained something from that terrible accident that actually helped you on your journey with Andie?
Kasey: Some of us have scars on the outside, but we all have them on the inside. I believe our scars tell our stories. They make us who we are. Andie’s birth was such a traumatic event, and I think I referred back to my dog bite as a frame of reference, because it was the only other traumatic episode I’d ever known. What I gained was the perspective of looking through my parent’s eyes and for the first time truly understanding how they felt not knowing what was going to happen to their child. Although the circumstances were different, that perspective gave me the strength to know that they’d walked the path before me, and that I could do it as well.
rasj: During the darkest times, you found strength in homeopathic medicines. Can you explain how non-Western therapies (like energy work, Reiki and yoga) have helped you and your family?
Kasey: Until Andie’s birth, I hadn’t known about Holistic medicine and discovered that it was truly an “alternative” way of looking at a medical situation. It differs from traditional western medicine in that it approaches the body as a whole interrelated system, such as the lungs, gut and skin are all tied together within the human body. These alternative therapies made so much sense to me, but I want to stress that we used them in conjunction with traditional medicine, and I truly believe that pursuing these parallel paths account for Andie’s tremendous success.
rasj. Did you ever contact the pediatrician who predicted Andie would always be small and that she would have learning disabilities? If you could talk to him now, what would you want to say to him?
Kasey: For years I wanted to, but felt it wasn’t worth the stress it would cause me. Recently, however, after Andie’s 11-year-old check up where her growth was nearly off the charts, I used the device of writing a letter to release those pent-up feelings. The letter was never sent but the writing of it allowed me to tell him just how wrong he was about everything. And in that same letter, I also thanked him; because what I came to understand was that as difficult as he was to deal with, his doubt was ultimately a gift. He fueled our belief and conviction that Andie would prove him so wrong and show him, and so many others, that she would not be what they wanted her to be, but what she wanted to be.
rasj: I adore the way you show Tucker and Andie interacting with each other, how he becomes an unofficial part of her physical therapy. But it isn’t always perfect, right? They fight, too, right?
Kasey: Fight? Andie and Tucker? No! Never! *laughs * Their bickering was so awful one day that I screamed at them to stop fighting and threw the apple I had in my hand straight across the kitchen. Fortunately, it missed both their heads, but… not the window! How’s that for perfect?
rasj: That’s awesome! Obviously, you have a great arm! Now tell us something wonderful that has happened to Andie since you finished writing the book.
Kasey: I think Andie would tell you the most wonderful event in her life as of late, was getting contact lenses. She’d worn glasses since she was two and started asking about contacts when she was nine. Her eye doctor (Dr. V. from the book) confirmed that she was a candidate for contacts, but needed to be at an age when she was responsible enough to care for them. The contacts were her eleventh birthday gift.
rasj: Looking back, is there information you wish you had that you would want to share with parents of preemies?
Kasey: There are three vital pieces of information I want to share with parents of preemies. First, while in the NICU, cover your baby’s isolet with a dark, heavy blanket to keep him/her in as womb-like an environment as long as possible. Secondly, allow yourself to see a vision of your child in the future and hold on to that vision. And lastly — and this is for anyone who’s experienced any sort of event trauma – remember you are not alone. Know that most likely whatever you’re thinking and feeling, someone else already has thought those same thoughts and felt those same feelings and walked that same path.
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Because Kasey is awesome-sauce, she is offering a copy of her book to one lucky winner.
For a chance to win:
Leave a comment about something regarding child-rearing that has been challenging for you.
Tweet us @rasjacobson & @kaseymathews
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Other blogoversary giveaways you can enter to win:
All blogoversary winners will be announced on June 2nd — at which point I will collapse in exhaustion.