Spot 12: The Story of a Birth is a graphic memoir by Jenny Jaeckel, of her daughter Asa’s time in the NICU. Jenny was planning a home birth, goes to the hospital for an ultrasound, and leaves five months later. This is a story of how an unexpected hospital stay can turn your world upside down, and how “do no harm” is more complicated than we would like to believe.
Although none of my children have had a NICU stay this long (Miss R was there for a little over a week), there were definitely aspects of Jaeckel’s story that I could relate to. I also found myself wondering repeatedly if this was how my mother felt during my NICU stay and repeated hospitalizations (I spent more of my first 2 years in the hospital than out of it). At one point Jaeckel writes about a nurse who didn’t want her to touch Asa and how it caused some contention. I had a nurse like that in Miss R’s NICU. You’re in this high-stress situation already with having a sick child, you’re trying to help them get healthy, and bond with them, and respect the professionals, and then you get conflicting instructions from said professionals and it can just feel like Too Much.
There’s also this part where the author writes, “You have to let your baby go, into the hands of the surgeons, and her own destiny, whatever that is. When you have a child you give birth to your own heart. Your own heart goes under the knife.” J has only had outpatient procedures but I can’t think of a more true statement than this. That moment your child is laying on the gurney, being wheeled down the hall away from you…Jaeckel captured that moment perfectly.
Not to spoil anything, but you’ll see how medicine is an imperfect science, and measures that should be healing can actually be problematic. This is exactly what parents of medically complicated children worry about. When I was a child, I’d have one surgery, only to require another 2 to fix troubles that arose as a result of the first. Even now, as I’m preparing for another surgery, the surgeon gave me some general statistics on the procedure, then cautioned, “but I can’t assess YOUR risk percentage.” Being a parent, and a surgeon, is about trying to make the best decisions possible while realizing there is only so much that can be controlled. That is really difficult to acknowledge to yourself.
The one thing that threw me initially about Spot 12 is that all the characters are animals. I’m curious to know if there was any particular reason that Jaeckel chose this way to illustrate her graphic novel. It’s kind of cool! If you haven’t figured it out already, I highly recommend Spot 12 to anyone who has dealt with medical issues in themselves or their children, especially if there was a NICU stay. That said, it may be triggering, so proceed with caution.
* I was given this book to review, and no compensation for my words. All views are my own.