A Must Read Preemie Story - Anchored Book Review

NICU Nurse Trish Ringley reviews this heartwarming preemie story.

Anchored Preemie Book Review
Kayla Aimee [shared with permission]

To listen to Trish's interview with the author, visit the Every Tiny Thing podcast page.

     In the US, over 500,000 babies are born prematurely every year. Perhaps you’ve heard a statistic like this before, maybe on a March of Dimes banner or as a teaser on the nightly news.  That’s a lot of babies, isn’t it? 

But can you imagine what that’s really like? Have you really ever tried to let yourself consider - deeply - what it feels like to have a baby born far too early?

If you’ve had a preemie yourself, well….you know. You know what a heart wrenching, emotionally crushing, scary experience it truly is. 

The truth is it’s quite difficult to describe the reality of prematurity and of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where babies tinier than you can imagine are engulfed in buzzing, alarming equipment keeping them alive.

Yet it’s harder still to describe the extraordinary trauma it is for the parents of the babies. It’s hard for any preemie parent to adequately paint a picture of just what it’s like and how devastating the experience is.

Author Kayla Aimee has done a fantastic job of it in her memoir Anchored. In this impressive first book, Kayla captivates the reader from the very first page as she recounts her experience having a micro preemie.

Prematurity is an emotional, difficult subject, yet she shares her story with an incredible sense of lightness and humor.

And this is a good thing, because hers is a pretty daunting story, and it would be difficult to imagine reading about it if it weren't for that fact that her voice is refreshingly witty and honest, relaxed and real. She’s a fantastic story teller. 

Right from the start, you get a sense of her playfulness.

For example, she shares this about her husband:

“He thought it was going to be a girl all along, my husband. He is often right about things like that but don't tell him I admitted to it in print. My current plan is to spill something on this page in his copy of the book.”

And yet she’s definitely not afraid to mix humor with introspection, reflecting insightfully on the enormity of it all. 

“That's the thing that marks tragedy–the completely unexpected nature of it all. One minute you are sitting in the passenger seat singing along to the radio and the next minute people in white coats are standing over you spouting off the statistics of survival rates for your baby. At just twenty-four weeks the odds were not, as they say, ever in our favor.”

And this is all by page 11! She takes your hand and whisks you into the story right away, and because of the way she tells it, you can’t wait to hear the rest. 

What I really loved about this book was how I found myself in tears one moment and then laughing out loud the next, all within the short span of a single page.

 You wouldn’t think prematurity would lend itself to humor, but she finds a way and it makes the read enjoyable. 

Often, her introspection relates to her faith, and how this experience shook her faith to the core.

“Why my baby? Why did this happen? Why did a good God allow such severity of suffering to fall upon the innocent?… I didn't have any answers to the whys. My faith was as broken as the little girl lying under the lights, and we were both struggling just to make it out alive."

If you’ve never had a preemie, I suggest you give it a read. You’ll be delighted by her masterful storytelling, you’ll better appreciate just what prematurity really means, and you’ll enjoy a good true story. 

If you’re a labor nurse who cares for expecting mothers, you’ll appreciate her insights. Heck, you’ve got to read it if for no other reason than to read the priceless Mag Sulfate hallucinations she recounts!  Hilarious!

If you’re a NICU nurse, you absolutely should put this at the top of your must-read books, for two reasons. First, it’s a captivating story you’ll enjoy just as anyone else would.  

More importantly, NICU nurses should read this because it will make you a better NICU nurse. When you understand - deeply understand - what NICU parents are going through, you are better equipped to offer them meaningful support during what is “just a job” for us but is a genuine crisis for parents.  You’ll be able to relate and offer compassion better than before. And did I mention she’s funny?

The only audience I might hesitate to recommend this to is parents of preemies who are still struggling through the journey of prematurity in the NICU. It may bring up an emotional intensity that is too much if you're still feeling raw from your experience. It may trigger memories you’re not ready to relive. (Put it on your must-read list for after your baby is home)

Don’t get me wrong - many current NICU families will absolutely love it, because it will feel as if you have a thoughtful and amusing friend who understands what you’re going through and can help you see the positivity and humor in spite of it all. It can be healing to feel understood, and you’ll likely relate a lot of her anecdotes: the grief she feels over her body’s inability to carry her baby to term, the heartbreak of celebrating holidays in the NICU, the frustrations at not knowing what to expect, the meltdowns in the NICU. 

In fact, I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t enjoy this memoir. Anchored is a captivating and poignant story about the real-life experience of beginning a family in the most frightening of ways.

Even though it’s clear right from the start that this story has a “good” ending, it will keep you turning the pages, in delight, and wondering… what’s next?

So, clear a little time on your calendar, because I’m pretty sure you won’t want to put this down. I know I couldn’t.

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I had the opportunity to interview Kayla Aimee about her experiences as a preemie mom, an author and a NICU parent advocate. To hear that interview, visit the Every Tiny Thing podcast page.

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