Friday, August 14, 2015

Deanna Fei's "Girl in Glass"

Deanna Fei is the author of the award-winning novel A Thread of Sky. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Fei has received a Fulbright Grant and a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Huffington Post, and other publications.

Fei applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new memoir, Girl in Glass: How My "Distressed Baby" Defied the Odds, Shamed a CEO, and Taught Me the Essence of Love, Heartbreak, and Miracles, and reported the following:
The scene unfolding on page 99 of Girl in Glass is a fateful one: the birth of my first child. At this moment—what seemed to be my umpteenth hour of contractions--all of my meticulous preparations for the delivery are collapsing against the primal reality of the pain.
Peter suggested trying the alternative labor positions we’d practiced, but nothing could have seemed more ludicrous to me at that point than getting on a ball or into a tub or onto all fours, let alone slow dancing with my goddamn husband. When he attempted a few of the massaging techniques we’d learned, I yelled at him not to touch me.

When I finally asked for the epidural, Peter asked me if I was sure. This was the procedure we’d agreed to follow when we read The Birth Partner. Yes, I was sure. I’d never been surer about anything in my life. I wanted it now. Actually, now was much too late. I wanted it to have happened already. I wished I’d reserved it the day I was born.
And then, just as I was starting to despair, I delivered the baby with a triumphant push: Here was my son, exactly the way he was meant to be—born on his due date, no less. “Everything about him was an unforeseeable mystery and everything about him was like home.” From that day on, I thought I understood the most ordinary miracle of all: the radiant perfection in the birth of a new baby.

Then, thirteen months later, my second child exited my body much too soon and was rescued by doctors, encased in glass, and attached to machines. This baby, my daughter, seemed fated to be a tragic outcome—unless, by an act of divine intervention, she turned out to be a miracle child.

A preemie: It sounded so common, even kind of cute. Just like a regular baby, only in miniature. Yet the odds against my daughter overshadowed her very existence. Her life was suspended between birth and death, hope and fear, nature and science. Each moment that she survived carried her not toward a promised future, but further into limbo.

And everything about her birth and the harrowing months that followed forced me to question everything I thought I knew about how life is supposed to begin. Girl in Glass is my journey to the heart of this question. Along the way, I explore the worth of a human life: from the insidious notions of risk surrounding modern pregnancy to the history of how we care for sick babies to contemporary cost-benefit analyses of what their lives are worth—and finally, to the depths of my own struggle to make sense of my daughter’s arrival in the world.
Learn more about the book and author at Deanna Fei's website.

--Marshal Zeringue