Mehren, a correspondent for The Los Angeles Times, went into labor in her sixth month of pregnancy while flying from L.A. to N.Y.C. Baby Emily was born shortly afterward, weighing less than two pounds; this moving book chronicles her 53-day life. Emily's entire existence was endured in the neonatal intensive care unit of Mount Sinai Hospital, and Mehren spent most of her time there too, bonding with her baby and taking encouragement from the mothers of the other infants and from some wonderfully supportive nurses. Fathers were for the most part absent, as was Mehren's husband—a New York Times reporter—for which she bitterly resented him even as she rationally understood that men's coping style is typically to distance themselves and immerse themselves in work. Mehren maintained only the most tenuous connection to her own work, normal life, other people, the outside world. Finally, Emily had gained enough weight to undergo an operation to assess the seriousness of an intestinal problem she had developed soon after birth, and the news was devastating: Her intestines were almost completely destroyed and could not be repaired or regenerated. There was no choice but to let her die, a process whose surprising duration—several days—was taken by her parents and loving nurses as evidence of the baby's uncommon courage and fighting spirit. Regrettably, Mehren's caustic tongue, often turned against obviously well-meaning medical personnel, and her harsh judgments of the motives of co-workers and friends who expressed interest in Emily's progress, may distance some readers, understandable though these reactions may be in the face of such overwhelming stress. Still, little Emily's saga is heartbreaking and powerful.
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