I’ve known Kathryn for probably nearly 15 years now—she was the graphic designer that created most of the paper printed for the University Catholic Center when I worked there. We became friends through her amazing design, my knack for untangling technical issues, and what became our common reality of a lot of kids under one roof.
Even though I know her, Scott, and the family, the book still contained many surprises. Kathryn, in a very real way, discusses her faith life and how, in particular, it was impacted by her fifth kiddo, Luke, who had a pretty crummy hand dealt to him in his early days resulting in premature birth, 40+ days in the NICU, and a litany of post-NICU specialists and surgeries over the last decade.
I gained another commonality with the Whitaker clan when our fourth and fifth kiddos, the twins, were premies and spent time in the NICU. Add on Olivia’s too-frequent hospitalizations for asthma and becoming more familiar with Dell Children’s Hospital than I ever wanted to be, there were a lot of aspects of the book that hit home.
Kathryn’s story with Luke and his medical needs absolutely blow my kiddos’ needs out of the water. Even though I can picture so much of what she describes from her NICU experience from my own and her words bring back a flood of memories, there was never any real mortal fear with our girls after the initial intake. But nevertheless, Kathryn shares her experience in a very real way that definitely led me to closing the book, taking a deep breath, wiping away a tear, then opening it up to keep going.
A returning theme in the book is how trying to maintain the perfect life is often what prevents us from living a perfectly real life. What impresses me with her telling is many of the things her family did in their quest to recenter themselves on things that matter is many of these things I’ve wanted to do myself but have been chicken. It sounds like a great idea to take a semester off from everything to reset, but actually doing so? Ha, I don’t think I would have thought it actually possible if I was being real with myself. But, if they can do it with six kids, well then, maybe so can I.
A small gem—the quotes on the chapter cover pages. The book’s forward was from another friend, Paulist Father Dave Dwyer, and the first three quotes were from Catholic religious figures, so I started to expect them all to be religious in nature. There were a couple that surprised me and reminded me that even the most faith-centered life is not exclusively religious—there is still the intersection with the secular world. And as an aside, one of the quotes is what is inscribed in my wedding band. Spoiler, it isn’t the quote from the BBQ Editor of Texas Monthly.
If you’re looking for a faith-centered but real account of how a family worked through difficulty, critically-sick kiddo, failing marriage, and able to come out stronger on the other side, this is a great read. Without getting too deep or going off into the weeds, the realness of her story makes it accessible.
Note: The links above are affiliate links. While I know the author, I purchased my copy off the virtual shelf like a regular Joe and Kathryn doesn’t know this post is being written, so I’m definitely not being paid or being given other considerations to write it.