Having a baby is a challenge for any woman, but add in a complicated pregnancy and birth, followed by a stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and a discharge to home with complex medical equipment and, well, it is enough to break even the strongest person. Yet in Life with Grace by mother and author Jennifer Schwertfeger, we see the incredible strength and determination of both a micro-preemie and her family.
In the book, the reader travels with Jennifer through her pregnancy and its various complications and then the early birth. Born at 24 weeks at 1 lb. 6.2 oz., Grace struggles from the beginning in the NICU going through what many parents of preemies refer to as the “roller coaster” of health issues, stress and anxiety. For the Schwertfeger family, this resulted in a harrowing nine-month journey, complete with Grace coming home with a tracheostomy and a feeding tube. It is one thing to be in the hospital for a lengthy period; it is a whole other scenario when one’s home transforms into a medical setting.
Schwertfeger tells the story with great honesty and does not shy away from the frustrations of every day life surrounding a child who is medically fragile, and how that challenges the parents, siblings and more. Yet anyone, whether your average citizen, a preemie parent or a special needs parent, can understand this enduring struggle of humanity over adversity.
And while the general public would do well to read this, the smartest thing any Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or Pediatric Intensive Care Unit could do is to have several copies this book in their family support libraries. Giving the real-life story can do a lot for a family facing similar circumstances. It is crucial not only to helping get the baby get needed treatment and discharged, but also helping that family understand that their situation may be challenging but not impossible to handle. Giving any family any type of tool that provides real experience and real information will give them great hope.
This book is equally useful for the NICU and PICU staff member for training purposes, due to the fact that it will help them have a solid sense of how to best educate the family as they navigate the hospital setting and prepare for a medical home setting. And it will also provide an understanding of the incredible sensitivity needed to help a family make such serious life-changing and hopefully life-saving decisions.