“Tell me a story,” Juniper French asks her parents, “tell me about when I was a baby.”
This is her tale, “Juniper: The Girl Who Was Born Too Soon,” a heartfelt, humorous tribute to her parents’ desperate fight for the salvation of a daughter born 24 weeks premature — the most vulnerable and least viable time a child can be born. This is a tale not only of parenthood but of the supreme love and dedication that it asks of those who wish to pursue it.
At the outset the story seems so simple: A couple meets, falls in love, gets married and tries to start their family — though the latter is much harder to obtain than the rest. There is no lack of obstacles. In a seamless back-and-forth narrative, authors and journalists Kelley and Thomas French share their arduous struggle to conceive, the personal strain of undergoing in vitro fertilization and their long climb toward parenthood, all to realize their long-held, cherished dream of a daughter.
For the lucky, this was the hardest part; for the Frenches it was only the beginning.
What follows is a candid chronicle of a parent’s worst nightmare — the Sisyphean task of keeping a premature child alive. Kelley undergoes a troublesome and complicated pregnancy, constantly bedridden and sick, then a stalled labor, and then the final terrifying, nearly fatal birth of “a glass shrimp” with skin so fragile that the beat of her heart was visible.
Baby Girl French had arrived, all 20 ounces of her.