Local Author Launches Moving Memoir

A Book Review

Jess Witkins

Almost a Mother Author, Christy Wopat. Photo: Contributed.
Almost a Mother Author, Christy Wopat. Photo: Contributed.

When someone you love dies, it’s difficult to know what to say. Grief is a complicated and heavy subject. For local author, Christy Wopat, grief became her constant companion after experiencing the loss of her twin children, Sophie and Aiden, in April 2009. Her book, Almost a Mother: Love, Loss, and Finding Your People When Your Baby Dies, is a heartbreaking and heartwarming memoir that comes out March 29, 2018.

Exceptionally well written, Wopat chronicles the emotional ups and downs of learning she was pregnant with twins, suffering from preterm premature rupture of the membranes (PPROM), laboring and giving birth to twins at 24 weeks, and losing them both only hours later. And that’s just the first few chapters.

Throughout her grief process, Wopat encountered unbelievable comments and reactions from the people around her, including everything from grief gawkers and neighbors who ran away, to those who attempted comfort by telling her it could always be worse. One shocking individual suggested to Wopat and her husband that their babies would likely have been serial killers had they survived.

Book Cover Image Courtesy of Orange Hat Publishing.
Book Cover Image Courtesy of Orange Hat Publishing.

Almost a Mother is much more than a story of grief. It’s clear that Wopat wrote for more than herself. She is so often contacted by people asking how to comfort friends who are mourning that she knew a book about grief, and one told from the griever’s perspective, was needed. Her book is a validation for any parent who has experienced the unspeakable loss of a child. But it also connects us all as humans who experience grief in a variety of ways. She talks about her darkest moments and her light. It’s a real, raw look at anxiety, dueling emotions, relationships, healthcare, how we talk about (and don’t talk about) our dead, and the many ways there are to heal a person.

You should know, there’s also a happy ending. While sadness and the loss of her twins will always be a part of Wopat’s story, it was crucial for her to let other parents who have experienced loss of a child know that there will be light again. In her own words she writes, “I will not apologize for being sad about this. I am living a beautiful life, a messy one, sure, but still beautiful.”

Wopat’s book will make you cry. But her incredible combination of vulnerability and hope will keep you turning the pages. As her story unfolds, so too will your heart.

Excerpt From Almost A Mother By Christy Wopat:

They pushed me to the delivery room closest to the NICU, and the NICU team came in to meet me and ask me some questions. Everything was instantly chaotic as they moved bed parts to transition my bed from a hospital bed to a delivery bed. I tried to follow directions as the team shot questions at me.

“Do you want your children to receive heroic life-saving measures?”
“Would you like to know the survival rate statistics at this point?”
“How important is it to you to hold the baby while he or she is still alive?”

“We. We . . . guess so. Yes. We think so. Yes, we do want heroic measures,” I tripped over my words. They sounded insane coming out of my mouth. Heroic measures? What the hell does that even mean? I almost laughed, picturing Superman swooping in to save my babies.

They told us they would do everything they could. I didn’t really understand what I was saying ‘yes’ to. I mean, I understood the questions. I could comprehend the words being said to me. But, there’s no way to really know what they are talking about. Who could ever be prepared for this? I really had thought that since I had stayed pregnant, it wouldn’t be this way. I had passed twenty-three weeks, which I thought meant things would be better. Those of you reading this who have had a preemie or know what a twenty-three-week-old baby looks like, you’d know that of course things were dire. Of course you would know that having a baby that tiny would involve something devastatingly heroic.

Everything they could. Well, what couldn’t doctors do? You could give someone a face transplant, or a new leg, or something to pump his heart. But, as it turns out, there’s just still a lot we can’t do. There are some things that were ONLY up to me, my body, and I had failed at that. The job of growing those babies had been mine.

My nurse was an absolute and complete angel. I cannot remember her name, and I have only a very fuzzy recollection of what she looked like. But I remember her calming voice and her soft hands. I remember her skin smelled a little like baby powder. Mostly, I remember screaming over and over, “I can’t do this. Please don’t make me. I can’t.” And every time, without fail, she would grab my hand and look me right in the eyes and state, “Yes. You can. And you will.”

Jess Witkins  author

Jess Witkins is a writer, blogger, and sometimes funny. Her mission: making pathetic look cool since 1985. She can be found in the Coulee Region's many coffee shops and wordmongering at Jess Witkins's Happiness Project.