Reams have been written about the awesome beauty of labor and birth, but far less about the emotions churned up when something goes awry. Kathryn Rhett, editor of a remarkable anthology entitled Survival Stories, distills the suffocating days she stumbled through with her husband, Fred, after their newborn daughter, Cade, was swept off to the neonatal intensive care unit. "I had a baby and six days later I held her," Rhett writes. "I had a baby and nursed her seven days later. Eight days later she held my finger."
Although the reader knows from the beginning that Cade survived, Rhett's supple prose channels the ragged edge of fear dredged up by watching a baby hooked up to life support with no guarantee of a happy, or even tolerable, ending. Questions of blame naturally arise: Was Cade's trauma caused by the pain-relieving epidural Rhett begged for, the incompetence of an unseasoned intern, the lack of basic resuscitating equipment in the labor room? Although Rhett describes herself as somewhat distant emotionally, she faithfully records the welter of feelings that crop up as medical personnel are patronizing or stingy with information and family members bring their own problems to the mix. --Francesca Coltrera