Half Baked: The Story Of My Nerves, My Newborn, and How We Both Learned to Breathe Paperback – Aug 9 2010
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Alexa Stevenson's Half Baked is one of the best memoirs I've read in years: it's unbelievably sad and funny about some of the saddest, scariest things in the world. A book about love and worry, honesty and denial, beautifully written. Though she’s original, her work reminds me of Calvin Trillin’s, in the depth of its comedy and its generosity of spirit. Serious and hilarious, endearing and biting. Alexa Stevenson is the real thing.
A.J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically and The Know-It-All
"This is a book for all those who have had kids, or plan to have kids, or who ever were a kid themselves at one point. What I’m trying to say is: it’s for everyone. It’s that lovely. Other adjectives that come to mind: Funny, moving and beautiful."
Library Journal, 10/7/10
A much-wanted pregnancy gone tragically awry is almost too painful to read, but Stevenson's appealing voice and her transformation from neurotic worrywart to competent mother and advocate for her extremely premature daughter carry readers through her tears, laughter, IVs, and grotesque medical procedures. Entering the Neonatal ICU with her micro premie, Simone, while grieving the in utero death of Simone's twin brother, the normally anxious Stevenson is forced to get over herself. She would never call herself heroic, but it's OK if we do.
About the Author
Alexa Stevenson is author of the popular blog Flotsam, where she writes about everything from parenting to procrastination with a trenchant wit that has earned her a devoted following. Flotsam has won praise from Jezebel, the California National Organization for Women, and the London Sunday Times, and has readers spanning dozens of countries and all 50 states. Alexa has also written for Wondertime Magazine and been a commentator on NPR's Morning Edition. She lives in St. Paul, MN.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
It's quite a story. Stevenson takes us through defining her infertility, tackling it, and coping with the difficult pregnancy and premature birth that follow. Through the (literally) dark days of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, she shares the process of finishing the baking (to borrow her metaphor) as her micropreemie matures.
One of Stevenson's strengths as a writer, and I rather suspect as a person, is her unflinching self-reflection. She does not sugarcoat her story. While she may, like all good writers, pick and choose her details in crafting her tale, she does not paint herself as the tragic heroine or even the plucky survivor. Some of her story presents her in a good light, some is considerably less flattering, but it combines to make her feel human and real.
Another of her key characteristics is her irreverent sense of humor. Sometimes the book is as grim as the situations that inspired it, but Stevenson's ability to laugh seems irrepressible. It inevitably resurfaces. She is not afraid to poke at sacred cows, and she can find funny in some pretty dark places. I suspect, honestly, that this may challenge some readers. If the ability to laugh while hurting is not one you share (or at least admire), you might want to find a more somber memoir. For me, I found it delightful. I've chuckled my way through a number of tragedies in my own life, and it was just one more way I felt connected to her. And in my opinion Stevenson never crosses the line. Her humor may be irreverent at times, but it always has heart.
There is nothing half baked about Stevenson's book. It's a well-crafted work of non-fiction. She draws her readers in with evocative prose, balances tears and laughter, teaches and touches. I recommend.
* She makes it ok to laugh at some of the ridiculousness and high drama of it all.
* She does a great job of showing how personality differences affected how people coped with the constant fear a NICU can bring. She admits upfront that she had a lot of anxiety about everything before this ever happened, and had often coped by over-researching (nice to know I'm not the only one!), but you also get to see other people handling it in different ways. There are too many books out there where it seems like the author is insisting that their emotional reaction is the only valid one, and that's fortunately not the case here.
* You really get to see the bond and relationships that develop with the different nurses and doctors, and how some of those relationships are much smoother than others.
* She talks about what's going on in the medical sense without getting bogged down in all the clinical and technical details.
Definitely a book I'd recommend -- although probably *not* to anyone currently pregnant or dealing with a more run-of-the-mill, short and uncomplicated NICU stay.
The basic story---Alexa Stevenson goes through infertility treatment, gets pregnant with twins, a boy and a girl. The boys dies during the pregnancy, and the girl, Simone, is born at 25 weeks. This is the story of the pregnancy, NICU stay and first few months at home. It's a story that's been done a lot, but not like this. The best thing about the writing is how funny it is. You wouldn't think there'd be much humor in this situation, but there is, and I was laughing my head off over and over during my reading. There are also many amazing phrases and insights. I often do the evil thing of folding over a page to remember the best parts of a book, and this book is all folded up. A few examples...my favorite---Alexa's reaction to people who say "I could never do what you did". I HATE that. I get it a lot, as I have a low-functioning autistic daughter. The answer is, as Alexa says, of course you could and would. What choice do you have? I loved her honesty about anger she felt at nasty nurses, and her extreme love of nice nurses. I've been there---my older son is almost 16 now, but a few remarks made by jerky doctors or nurses while he was in the NICU still are fresh and still can make me furious. Her great line "I prepared for the wrong thing. I didn't prepare for this". She is a worrier, a tribe I also belong to, and I know just what she means. You prepare through research and reading for all kinds of scary things, and then the thing that comes along is something totally different. And since she is like me, a believer in jinxes, of course that makes it all somewhat your fault.
All I can say in conclusion is READ THIS! If you have a child that was in the NICU, if you had a difficult pregnancy, if you have a child with special medical needs, or if you just like to read very well written memoirs, READ THIS!
It's a story that needs told. As the sister of someone dipping her toe (or opening her cervix) to the world of infertility, this story was of particular interest to me. She's alternately whip-smart (her medical knowledge is vast) and freshly-born kitten vulnerable. She's scared, hopeful, nervous, neurotic, strong, and genuine. She's witty and dry (wry?). She uses humor as both a defense mechanism and a life preserver. While I recognize the humor (and profanity) may strike sensitive readers as vulgar, it's clearly a big part of who she is. Again with the honestly, that Alexa. And, to be honest, I would much rather have a drink (make it a Sidecar!) with Alexa than an easy-to-offend flower who wants the sometimes gruesome story of a NICU survivor wrapped up in a blanket woven of the eyelashes of a thousand baby lambs.
As an atheist, she bristles at the idea that there is a greater good to come from her son Ames' "demise" and I share her religious (non) beliefs and have never read such a gracious and commonsense (albeit brief -- a few paragraphs here and there) defense of atheism -- and I took many graduate-level religion classes! However, I hope it gives her some comfort to know that his story is being told -- along with his sister's -- to help women.
She hates when mothers say, "Oh, I could never done have done what you did." She's right -- yes, you could. That's what a mother does. She's her child's first and fiercest advocate. That's what Alexa is. Simone is lucky to her -- and lucky to have this glorious and gutsy tale of how she came to be. We're all lukcy to have this tale shared with us.
That's what this is, ultimately, brilliant and witty writing aside: a mother's love letter to her child(ren). Every sentence is a gift in this funny, touching, generous tale.
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