Every year in the United States, 12 per cent of all births are preterm births, 5 per cent of all babies need help to breathe at birth, and 3 per cent of neonates are born with at least one severe malformation. Many of these babies are hospitalized in a neonatal intensive care unit. Annie Janvier and her husband, Keith Barrington, are both pediatricians who specialize in the care of these sick babies and are internationally known for their research in this area. In 2005, when their daughter Violette was born extremely prematurely, four months before her due date, they faced the situation "from the other side" as parents. Despite knowing the scientific facts, they knew nothing about the experience itself. "Knowing how a respirator works did not help me be the mother of a baby on a respirator," writes Annie. She did not know how to navigate the guilt, the uncertainty, the fears, the predictions of providers, and the responses of friends and family. In a society obsessed with goals, performance, efficiency, and high percentages, she discovered that the daily lack of control that new parents of sick babies face changes their lives. And that, for physician parents, it also changes the way they practice medicine.
Most of the articles and books written about premature babies and neonatal intensive care units examine the technological and medical aspects of neonatology. Breathe, Baby, Breathe!, however, is written in the voice of a parent-doctor and tells the story of Violette and her parents, alongside the stories of other fragile babies and their families with different journeys and different outcomes. With the story of Violette at the core of the book, the interwoven stories and empirical articles provide essential insights into the medical world of premature birth. This original and clever blend of narrative and evidence provides a new, experiential view of the way forward during a parental crisis.
"Breathe, Baby, Breathe! is incredibly honest, and there are times when you are brought to tears. Dr. Janvier not only discusses what it is like to be the mother of a premature baby, but its impact on her own sense of self-worth and the challenges to her family."- Lainie Ross, Professor of Clinical Medical Ethics and Pediatrician, University of Chicago
"Breathe, Baby, Breathe! is a book about resignation, resilience, and transformation."- Nicolas Krawiecki, MD, Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics, Emory University
"Annie Janvier has written the best book by far about prematurity for parents and health care providers. As a neonatologist, bioethicist, and mother of an extremely preterm infant, her voice is unique, and we should all listen to her wise and eloquent words. Her intensely honest account of giving birth to Violette at 24 weeks’ gestation and her subsequent experiences as a mother in the NICU is quite remarkable. This amazing book is written from Annie’s heart but also from her brain and her gut."- Edward Bell, MD, Vice Chair for Faculty Development, Department of Pediatrics, Professor of Pediatrics – Neonatology, University of Iowa Health Care
"This moving, funny, heartbreaking, and insightful glimpse into the mind and heart of a preemie parent is all the more remarkable because it is written by a neonatologist. The book shows the limitations of mere facts and the importance of wisdom in helping parents whose babies are critically ill." - John D. Lantos, Director of Pediatric Bioethics and Professor of Pediatrics, University of Missouri Kansas City School of Medicine
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