By Laura June
New York Magazine
Juniper French was born in 2011. Her mother, Kelley Benham French, was just 23 weeks pregnant with her at the time. Juniper was born so early that almost nothing about her was finished: She weighed just one pound, four ounces, her eyes were fused shut, her skin translucent. She wasn’t ready to be born, and yet, here she was, on what is known as the “edge of viability” — one of the babies born so early that their very existence is controversial. Should we try to save them? Twenty years ago, the answer was always “no.” Even today, a baby born before 22 weeks is almost always allowed to die, and considered a miscarriage. But Juniper lived.
Kelley and Tom French were both respected journalists before their daughter was born. They both worked at the Tampa Bay Times, where Tom won a Pulitzer and where Kelley published a 20,000-word piece on her experience having Juniper, “Never Let Go,” which became a Pulitzer finalist. Juniper: The Girl Who Was Born Too Soon expands that story to book-length, with both parents as authors. Because they were journalists before they were parents to what many would call a “miracle baby,” the Frenches bring an unflinching, exceedingly painful clarity to a story of already excruciating anxiety. In the background, of course, is the reader’s knowledge of the most important truth of the story: Juniper is okay. She is healthy. She is happy. And the story of her birth, four months early, is told with love and brutal honesty, by her parents.