What We Didn’t Expect

Personal Stories About Premature Birth

From the story of being the “miracle baby” of undocumented immigrants to a NICU nurse who finds herself having two premature sons, this anthology represents the diversity of experience with preemies and will be a welcome resource for many who need these words.

Every year, 400,000 families in the United States have a premature baby. Ten percent of American babies are preemies. There are textbooks, medical-ish guidebooks, and the occasional memoir to turn to… but no personal essay collections from the many types of people who have parented, cared for, or been preemies themselves.

Until now. In What We Didn’t Expect, Melody Schreiber brings together acclaimed writers and thinkers to share their diverse stories of having or being premature babies, including Representative Pramila Jayapal, Tyrese Coleman, Anne Thériault, Sarah DiGregorio, Dan Koboldt, and many more.



What We Didn’t Expect is a beautiful and necessary addition to the pregnancy and parenting canon. The stories so generously shared in this anthology will be familiar to many who do not always see their experiences, traumas, and joys acknowledged or honored in literature about childbirth.”—Nicole Chung, All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir

“Vital and vivid, What We Didn’t Expect is essential reading for families dealing with premature birth and its aftermath. These poignant essays span the spectrum of this experience, in all its pain and hope. Deeply compelling.”—Vanessa Hua, A River of Stars 

“This remarkable collection gives voice to the families of babies born prematurely—a group that’s larger and more multifaceted than one might expect. Melody Schreiber has deftly combined their stories into a compendium for families facing their most vulnerable time. This book will help anyone understand what it means to be a parent.”—Olga Khazan, Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World

“Premature birth is given a moving consideration in this rich anthology… Despite the often troubling emotions covered, this collection will predominantly leave readers with a sense of inspiration and gratitude, as summed up by [Rep. Pramila] Jayapal when she writes that pain or fear are “usually drowned out by the (mostly) joyful chaos” of life with a new child. Any parent struggling with the fear and uncertainty that can accompany premature birth will find comfort and inspiration.”Publishers Weekly

“The elegance and honesty with which these writers share raw emotions and practical knowledge make it a valuable resource.”Library Journal

“Emotional… affecting essays reach out to new and prospective parents.”Kirkus