“From Hope to Joy” by Jennifer Degl: Reviewing the second half

Last night I finished “From Hope to Joy: A Memoir of a Mother’s Determination and Her Micro Preemie’s Struggle to Beat the Odds” by Jennifer Degl. Earlier, I reviewed the first half. (Family events were preventing me from doing the whole thing at once.)

This book does a good job of educating other parents what they might be in for if they have a micropreemie, or for what friends are going through in their time in the NICU. We finished up the first half of the book with things looking quite bad — Jennifer had been hemorrhaging huge amounts of blood because of severe placental previa. She needed an emergency c-section and a great deal of transfused blood. Both she and the baby came out of this on ventilators.

But, both made recoveries, and Jennifer’s book goes in to several chapters that are very accessible and explanatory about the needs of a premature baby and the structure of NICU care. She summarizes several weeks of challenges that Joy has in one chapter, which gets you all the information about her conditions quickly, but it also omits the day-to-day slog and trial that is intensive care. She makes friends with other parents, including one couple who loses their baby. She talks about the scrapbooking program that the hospital puts on as a therapy program. Joy gets an infection, which throws Mom and Dad for a loop.

Eventually Joy does go home, and starts a regular baby life of babbling, picking up objects and growing. Jennifer includes a chapter reflecting on how the experience challenged her views on abortion, which is something a micropreemie experience will do to a parent, when your child is just a couple weeks past the point where a loss would be called a miscarriage.

The book is readable and it introduces character elements that are quite interesting and do get explained as the story goes on. Both Jennifer and her husband claim to be stubborn, and that does come through very well as Jennifer does things like go camping while in danger of a hemorrhage, and then having a hemorrhage, and driving herself to the hospital and passing out in front of the door. Additionally, after getting out of the hospital partially recovered but still low on blood, she agrees with her husband that she’ll drive, but not with the kids in the car. (Ok, so who dials 911? And what about the other drivers out there?) And then they add a room on to the house while the baby is still in the NICU, a project I simply could not imagine in those circumstances.

There are a number of topics the story brings up that would make very interesting questions of “what do you think and why?” For example, when they get the baby home, they’ve had the past six months as a medical crisis — what’s it like having your life back? And, the c-section involved a hysterectomy. Earlier in the book, Jennifer was talking about how she grew up an only child and wanted a bigger family, and that was driving her to have pregnancies even when conditions weren’t ideal. Now the childbearing years are permanently over, so how has that changed things?

In sum, a good book. By all means buy it. You’ll learn stuff, and be engaged with the story of a remarkable recovery.


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