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Coming to Term: A Father's Story of Birth, Loss, and Survival Hardcover – August 21, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kim and William Woodwell's story is every parent's nightmare. Pregnant, Kim was rushed to the hospital with a severe case of pre-eclampsia, a condition that can be fatal to mother and baby. Doctors held off delivery as long as possible, but after only 24 weeks of gestation, Kim gave birth to twins. William, a freelance writer and editor, gives a riveting, poignant, often piercing account of these events, following the twins through birth, the death of the smaller one, Nina, and the survival and ultimate health of Josie. Woodwell gives power to his account with minute, seemingly inconsequential details such as how, on his way to the hospital where his wife has been taken by ambulance, he turned the radio on and off, "wanting but unable just to think." The hospital scene is described in similarly vivid detail: the wires, tubes and monitoring machinery, and especially the "clop-CLOP clop-CLOP" of the babies' heartbeats. "Their hearts beat on like nothing's wrong. Kim says they sound like horses.... It's hard enough coming into the world the way most of us do. For them, it will be that much more of a surprise, that much more of a shock. Fact is, we're essentially powerless to help them now, except to keep them in there as long as we can." Though the doctors in the neonatal intensive care unit did their best, tiny Nina's organs begin to fail one at a time and she finally dies. Though she has mild cerebral palsy, Josie is now four years old and is progressing well. Woodwell's honest account of the events and the emotions he and his wife shared will be felt by all readers.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


(Woodwell) offers a personal account of one of life's greatest challenges, giving families a glimmer of hope and unwavering courage. --

... Refreshingly direct and honest ... a true story of life, reality and hope." --

A personal, emotional documentary written by a man experiencing fatherhood for the first time. -- The Informed Parent (

A rollercoaster of hope and despair, told with emotional honesty and couched in suspense. -- Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2001

Preemie parents and others who are interested in the journey of premature babies will find this book a compelling guide. -- Premature Baby, Premature Child (

Woodwell weaves an intriguing story about courage and survival ... reminds every parent to not take their healthy children for granted. -- Twins Magazine, July/August 2002

Woodwell writes with a simple and honest voice ... nowhere are his feelings made more plain than in his journal entries. -- The Preemie Place (

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi; First Edition edition (August 21, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578063744
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578063741
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,963,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Anne Garrett on October 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
While there are many books that address the trauma of prematurity and loss, there are few that discuss preeclampsia and its devastating ability to suddenly, and without warning upend lives. Fewer still consider the impact on the father. William H. Woodwell Jr.’s new book, Coming to Term: A Father’s Story of Birth, Loss and Survival (University of Mississippi Press)shares a father’s journey through the tidal wave of that experience and into the silent devastation that is the aftermath of preeclampsia and HELLP Syndrome.
Woodwell does not shy away from the painful reality of this trauma... he explores carefully and with great conscience the day to day toll of preeclampsia, prematurity and loss. I cannot recommend this book enough for women who have been through this, to better understand their husband's perspective, to fathers who don't know how to express what they are dealing with, and to families, friends and co-workers who don't know what to think or say.
There were only two things I found missing, not wanting, in this book.
1) more information about the disease and its prevalence; and
2)Woodwell's wife's perspective, Kim's story, the story of 200,000 US women each year whose pregnancies are seriously compromised by preeclampsia.
One can be found in Woodwell's Washington Post article about preeclampsia and its prevalence and both can be found at our website ...
The Preeclampsia Foundation is a 501(c)(3) dedicated to funding and supporting research, public awareness, and support to women and their families impacted by preeclampsia and related hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. Preeclampsia is the second leading cause of maternal mortality in the US each year and a leading cause of infant death and prematurity.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Daniels-Campbell on November 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
What happens to a family when, looking ahead to celebrating the birth of twins, they are suddenly faced with the loss of one daughter and the questionable survival of another? How does a father support his family emotionally and deal with his own feelings of loss, guilt, and fear, when his children enter the world after only twenty-four weeks in the womb?
Despite the difficulty most parents experience in sharing their struggles, William H. Woodwell successfully tells his story in a way that informs, validates, reassures, and even inspires other parents confronting similar horrors. In "Coming to Term: A Father’s Story of Birth, Loss and Survival", he describes in detail the events surrounding his wife’s life-threatening pregnancy and the subsequent early birth of their twins. With an honest prose and candid tone, Mr. Woodwell successfully conveys the sense of loss and despair felt by parents who suddenly find themselves on the emotional roller coaster of prematurity. Parents will appreciate his frank disclosures about how he felt regarding Nina, the more fragile twin, and her early death. His candor and empathetic understanding will help parents facing similar situations to garner strength. Mr. Woodwell superbly expresses the painful emotions of a husband whose wife is critically ill, of a father whose children face an uncertain future. Confronting a terrible predicament, he openly questions his roles as provider, supporter, and defender of his family, and allows the reader to glimpse his grief, uncertainties and feelings of helplessness. He illustrates the surreal atmosphere that surrounds high-risk birth and neonatal intensive care units, simultaneously discussing the bittersweet aspects of the experience and the crisp medical prescriptions for his family.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nancy M. Neuman on February 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Coming to Term helped me understand the day to day struggle of my nephew and his wife whose twin daughters were born very prematurely one month after Kim and Bill Woodwell's babies. One of the twins died a month later, and the guilt and grief these parents felt was made more real to me by Woodwell's story. I also finally understand why my nephew's wife was pumping and storing her milk for many weeks before her baby could breastfeed, and how difficult it is to wean an extreme preemie to the breast. The story is especially poignant told from a father's point of view. Woodwell opens his emotions and vulnerabilities as we follow his journey from skeptical father-to-be to a father and husband who now greets each day as a gift. In addition to its educational value, Coming to Term is a truly inspirational book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Oltmanns on November 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
While this is certainly a profoundly important book for families of extremely premature babies, I think it's almost as valuable for all parents of kids of every age. When you get mad at your teenager, frustrated at your eight-year-old, stressed out from the demands of juggling work and day-care, or just about any challenge that comes with parenting, reflecting on what William and Kim Woodwell did go give two little infants a shot a life will put everything in perspective for you. After reading this book, I gave my perfectly healthy nine-year-old daughter a bear hug and couldn't let go.
And if you're in a position to give counsel or advice to new parents (hospital social worker, physician, clergy), you'll better understand the incredibly complex range of emotions that parents in this situation are trying to cope with.
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