Newspaper article

Kate Hopper's Rough Start on Motherhood Is Redeemed by Writing

Newspaper article

Kate Hopper's Rough Start on Motherhood Is Redeemed by Writing

Article excerpt

When Kate Hopper's first child arrived eight weeks early, she and her husband were unexpectedly plunged into an alternate universe where brain bleeds are normal and parents help revive their babies when they stop breathing, over and over again. Her new memoir, "Ready for Air" (University of Minnesota Press), chronicles her daughter's frightening first weeks at the Children's Hospital's ICU unit and looks unflinchingly at the psychological realities of learning to be a parent when other people are in a charge of a baby that can't come home.

At one point, Hopper notes a study that found parents of premature babies in ICU wards suffer high degrees of post-traumatic stress disorder -- incredibly, on a level near that experienced by veterans. New babies and warfare shouldn't be in any category together, but as this book shows, profound stress is a normal part of the ICU experience.

"I wanted to have this honest look at motherhood and how intense and hard it can be sometimes, especially when things don't turn out the way you expect it them to, which happens more often than anyone thinks it does," said Hopper in an interview. "But people don't want to admit that reality can be very normal. One publisher read it and said, 'She's a deranged mother!' But look what we were going through. Of course I was. We were constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, never knowing what would happen next. Her life, and ours, were totally in the balance and we had no control over anything."

Stressful balancing act

Hopper, along with her husband, Danny, navigate their daughter's medical challenges, while balancing work, extended family and changing roles. Hopper cuts herself little slack, recounting episodes in which stress and postpartum chemicals collide in cringe- worthy breakdowns. She also declines to suffer fools in the hospital setting. Doctors and nurses of Children's Hospital, consider yourself warned.

"I know the people at Children's will read this, and I'm sure some people will recognize themselves. They are part of the story, and I definitely have criticisms of the way we were treated at times," says Hopper (who will be the keynote speaker at a Children's Hospital and Clinics' annual meeting this winter; all has been forgiven). …

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