In Twenty-three Weeks: The Story of a Micro-preemie Baby and Her Mother, local author Karen Fraser-Morris tells the harrowing story of giving birth to her baby girl four months early, after only 23 (out of a normal 37-42) weeks of what seemed until then to be a normal pregnancy. Named Cosette, which means victorious, and Adeline after the author’s grandmother, the baby weighed only 1.5 pounds at birth—which took place in the back seat of her car outside the Emergency Room because she simply could not believe she was in labor so early, and delayed going to the hospital.
Told in journal form—both Fraser-Morris’s personal journal and a baby journal directly addressed to little Cosette—the riveting story of her shock, pain, love, and perseverance will leave you awed at the determination of the human spirit to survive, and of a mother to give her baby every chance at normalcy. Fraser-Morris’s writing style is direct and matter-of-fact, which only makes the account feel more real and affecting. As Fraser-Morris reports crying a great deal, the reader cries right along with her. “Ben sleeps unless I sob so hard that I move the bed. I have failed Cosette and him. I could not bring his daughter into the world in the right way. I wonder if he regrets meeting me and marrying me because I am deficient” (p. 50).
Anyone who has been through a similar experience or miscarriage knows this feeling well: I have let down the family, it is all my fault, there is something wrong with me are ideas that haunt you. Fraser-Morris accurately describes the entire ordeal, from the emergency team helping her to give birth in the parking lot, to Cosette’s complex care in UVA’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), to the unfailingly kind nurses, to the endless milk pumping, and to the Caring Bridge website and outpourings of support from friends and family. Fraser-Morris remains not stoic—she feels much heartache and seeks help from various therapists, birth trauma specialists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, etc.—but strong, devoted, and loving throughout the difficult months of her preemie’s slow growth.
A teacher at the Charlottesville Waldorf School, Fraser-Morris is also the author of Girls Who Write (2018).