(October, 2013 by University of Minnesota Press)
There is no denying that motherhood changes a woman’s life forever. But when a child is born prematurely, the journey into new motherhood is a rocky one, full of worry, tests, and lonely nights spent miles away from your new baby. Ready for Air is the story of the premature birth of Kate’s first daughter, Stella, due to severe preeclampsia. From the break-down of Kate’s pregnancy to Stella’s harrowing birth and the roller coaster month she spent in the neonatal intensive care unit to the months they spent in quarantine at home, isolated from Minnesota’s cold and flu season, Kate leads the reader through her journey into motherhood with grace, humor, and an honesty that will leave readers nodding their heads and laughing out loud.
Any mother who has spent time in a NICU will relate to Kate’s story—they will find comfort in knowing they aren’t alone in this scary and isolating experience, and they will feel a kinship with Kate’s voice as she recounts her fears, concerns, and insecurities about parenting a preemie. But Ready for Air will also appeal to parents of healthy full-term babies who are interested in honest portrayals of motherhood and in writing that doesn’t simply reinforce the still-perpetuated myths of “perfect” motherhood. Kate’s voice is candid and engaging and will draw readers into her story, which on many levels is a universal one. Ready for Air is a story about navigating the dark side of motherhood, learning to live with uncertainty, and discovering love. And ultimately it’s a story of faith, friendship, family, and the power of narrative to connect us to one another.
Praise for Ready for Air
“Hopper’s memoir can be seen as a comfort to some and an explanation for others, but for her it is proof of her own strength as she writes, ‘As long as I have words, I’ll be strong enough.’ [An] emotional, informative memoir.” — Minneapolis StarTribune
“After severe preeclampsia derails Kate Hopper’s birth plan, the author confronts her fears of preemie parenthood with brazen honesty and an occasional fitting expletive. Her memoir, a testament to the delights and uncertainties of motherhood, reads like a novel, though you won’t forget for a second that her story is true.” —Pregnancy & Newborn
“[Hopper] is a multifaceted narrator whose complex reactions to the relentless challenges of her daughter’s premature birth are raw, uncensored, unapologetic, and unladylike…Ready for Air [is] a story that bucks the traditional narrative while offering women a model of what it means to be a mother and be wholly, incorrigibly yourself.” —Literary Mama
“I had a hard time putting this book down.” —NPR, Wisconsin Public Radio, Judith Siers-Poisson
“Hopper articulates the difficulties her family experienced but also shares the stories of others she encountered along the way with Stella. Strangers in restaurants, ‘roommates’ in the neonatal unit, and friends and poets all had words that gave her strength. Hopper’s own words will appeal to others in similar straits.” —Therese Nielsen, Library Journal
“Ready for Air looks unflinchingly at the psychological realities of learning to be a parent when other people are in a charge of a baby that can’t come home.” —MinnPost
“This [is a] beautiful, brave book. [Hopper’s] story is sure to be a crucial one for parents of premature babies, but it’s also a book for anyone who has ever had her life go a bit askew. As Kate writes in her memoir, ‘I followed the rules, I did what I was told, and it didn’t matter.’ Parenting, after all, ends up being about learning how little you can control things.” —Mutha Magazine
“Ready for Air is an urgent memoir that plumbs the depths of the narrator’s interior as she grapples with the premature birth of her daughter and with her own identity as mother. It is a book of truths that pulls back the curtain on a rarely talked about experience—preeclampsia and premature birth—and strikes a universal truth about what it means to be female in today’s world.” —Writing Women’s Lives, Marilyn Bousquin
“Ready for Air is a breathtakingly honest account of the first months of motherhood with a premature newborn. There is no writer I’d rather follow this journey with than Kate Hopper. Her storytelling skills are stunning. You will be rooting for her and her new family all the way.” —Hope Edelman, Motherless Daughters
“Hopper’s raw, hopeful memoir—about the harrowing days leading up to the premature birth of her daughter, and the harrowing weeks in the NICU that follow—is all paradox and ambiguity. Which is exactly how it is to become a parent: time stands still and gallops off; the world telescopes into microcosm and flings itself open; aching uncertainty meets unprecedented fortitude. Hopper takes us on an epic journey with her tiny baby—a stunning, breathless journey that shines with sincerity—and you’ll be so grateful that you came.” —Catherine Newman, author of Waiting for Birdy
“In Kate Hopper’s Ready for Air, a new mother is shoved to the brink of tragedy. There on the edge, she discovers her own resiliency, her own version of faith, the strength of her marriage, and a heart-bursting devotion to her premature infant daughter. But don’t fret that this is some sentimental journey. Hopper does not soft pedal. Instead, she’s a writer willing to acknowledge the most visceral human responses to trouble, including pain and fear, bristling impatience, and the pure fire of anger. She bravely explores what happens when we expect joy and instead are handed harrowing challenge, and she does so with a fresh, piercing, and, at times, humorous voice. I can’t imagine a parent who wouldn’t relate to this compelling story of a child nearly slipping away. –Debra Gwartney, author of Live Through This
“Kate Hopper’s Ready for Air came to me at a moment in life when I needed her unabashed, beautiful description of this unmarked breathless territory: a birth plan gone awry. Hopper does not simply chronicle her experience as a new mother; she stakes a claim with her edgy and wise renderings of a woman admitting every limitation, from money to energy to health to hope. By sharing on the page what cannot be said aloud, Hopper’s gorgeous words make room for more real women in the nursery.” —Sonya Huber, author of Cover Me: A Health Insurance Memoir and Opa Nobody
(May 2012, Viva Editions)
Begin to write the stories you need to write.
Each chapter of Use Your Words focuses on an element of craft and contains a lecture, a published essay or poem, and writing exercises that serve as jumping-off points for the readers’ own writing. Unlike comparative titles that encourage journaling about motherhood, Use Your Words is a book for both beginning mother writers and more advanced writers who want to improve their writing ability as they process the gritty, mundane, often-funny, and sometimes heartbreaking nature of parenthood. The book includes writing by Cecelie Berry, Jill Christman, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Chitra Divakaruni, Beth Kephart, Catherine Newman, among others.
Advance Praise for Use Your Words:
“Part writing workshop, part anthology, part mothers’ group between two covers, Use Your Words is so much more than an instruction manual. It is also a readable, powerful call to the page for every woman in the process of giving birth to herself as a writer. If you have ever wondered whether motherhood is a viable literary subject, or whether you have a mothering story worth telling, Kate Hopper’s beautifully written book will answer that question once and for all – with compelling excerpts, exercises to inspire you, and clear, practical teachings on matters of voice, structure, and style.” —Katrina Kenison, author of The Gift of an Ordinary Day and Mitten Strings for God
“Kate Hopper has been teaching writing for years, and she brings all her experience to bear in Use Your Words, a writing guide that’s a pleasure to read. The book is both deeply personal and quite rigorous, offering examples from a range of writers to illustrate how good writing works, plus targeted exercises to let readers practice their craft. Use Your Words will help any writer, beginning or experienced, reckon with the messy stuff of life and shape it into memoir.”—Caroline Grant, Editor-in-Chief, Literary Mama, co-editor of Mama, PhD: Women Write About Motherhood and Academic Life (2008) and The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage: True Tales of Food, Family, and How We Learn to Eat (forthcoming fall 2012)
“Use Your Words brings a unique voice to the world of writing guides: honest, forthright, funny. Reading it felt to me no different than sitting down to have a writing tête-à-tête with a literary friend and practicing writer. Because it is real, the voice welcomes beginners with trustworthy invitations to reach deep, and it also speaks to the practicing writer with new levels of insight about writing motherhood literature. It’s totally original in that it covers the specific areas where the experience of motherhood fires—and complicates—the task of writing. The true brilliance of USE YOUR WORDS is voice. When a teacher/author takes a risk with voice and really bares herself, her students/readers can do no less than rise to the same challenge. Also, the book is funny! I thought I was reading it just for fun, and the surprise for me was the spur in the ribs I got to write and write well.” —Bonnie J. Rough (Carrier: Untangling the Danger in My DNA, Counterpoint, 2010)
“Though Hopper filters her valuable information and help through the lens of writing about the transformative experience of becoming a mother, her words are, in fact, a course in creative nonfiction for anyone writing in this genre.” —Sheila Bender, founder of Writing It Real and author of About a New Theology
“Finally a book to teach parents how to write! In readable, interesting, practical prose, Use Your Words gives moms what they need to know to write about their children’s most precious moments. A tremendous resource for bloggers, teachers, lay and professional writers.” —Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D., former contributing editor to Mothering Magazine and author of Toddler: Real-Life Stories of Those Fickle, Irrational, Urgent, Tiny People We Love
For more of Kate’s writing, please visit her website.