Woodwell, William H., Jr.
WOODWELL, William H., Jr.
PERSONAL: Married, wife's name, Kim; children: Nina (deceased), Josie, Dean.
ADDRESSES: Home—Maurertown, VA. Agent—c/o University Press of Mississippi, 3825 Ridgewood Road, Jackson, MS 39211-6492.
CAREER: Freelance writer and editor.
(Editor with Janette M. Woodwell) A Watershed Primer for Pennsylvania: A Collection of Essays on Watershed Issues, Pennsylvania Environmental Council (Pittsburgh, PA), 1999.
Coming to Term: A Father's Story of Birth, Loss, and Survival, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 2001.
Also the author of "Choosing the President: The Citizen's Guide to the 2000 Election." Contributor to periodicals, including the Washington Post.
SIDELIGHTS: American writer William H. Woodwell, Jr. earned critical praise for his 2001 book, Coming to Term: A Father's Story of Birth, Loss, and Survival, a personal account of his wife's problematic experience delivering twins in 1997, and the sadness that followed when one of the babies died. The book, which a contributor for Publishers Weekly called "a riveting, poignant, often piercing account," describes wife Kim Woodwell's battle with a condition called preeclampsia, which is often fatal to pregnant women and their babies. The condition forced Kim to give birth to the couple's twin daughters almost four months before they were due. Kim survived the experience, as did Josie, the larger of the two babies. However, Nina, who weighed a little more than a pound, died two days after being born. A freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, Woodwell decided to write a book about his family's ordeal as a way to give expression to his own emotions as well as to help others in the same situation. He explained this decision in the book. "As time went on . . . I came to feel that this story had meaning beyond our family. I was so affected and so moved by what had happened to us—the experience had forced me to think anew about so many of my assumptions, so many things I felt like I had already figured out—that I imagined it might somehow affect others in a similar way," he writes in the book. The book is filled with detailed descriptions of the couple's reaction when learning of Kim's condition, as well as the birth experience. After the girls were born, hooked up to ventilators and hanging onto life, Woodwell was forced to realize that he could do nothing to help them survive. "Their hearts beat on like nothing's wrong. Kim says they sound like horses," Woodwell writes. "It's hard enough coming into the world the way most of us do. For them, it will be that much more of a surprise, that much more of a shock. Fact is, we're essentially powerless to help them now, except to keep them in there as long as we can." Throughout much of the book, Woodwell focuses on Josie's long struggle for life. She spent four months in the hospital before she was able to come home. The only lasting effect of Josie's early life troubles is a condition called hemiplegia, a form of paralysis, which causes her to wear a brace on her left leg. Throughout the entire ordeal, from the time Kim went into the hospital, until Josie came home, Woodwell kept a journal, in which he jotted down his thoughts and fears. He used these notes when writing Coming to Term, which was critically praised for its frank portrayal of the family's traumatic experience. Charlotte Bruce Harvey, writing in the Brown Alumni Magazine, felt the book revealed Woodwell's "growth from a young man fearful of parenthood and uncertain of his own utility on this planet, to a father awed by his tiny daughter's resourcefulness and will to live." Harvey went on to write that Woodwell "tells this story plainly, without self-congratulation or self-pity." In late 2000, before the book was even published, Woodwell's wife gave birth to a healthy son named Dean. During the birth, Kim Woodwell showed no sign of the condition that had threatened her life during her earlier pregnancy.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Brown Alumni Magazine, January/February, 2002, Charlotte Bruce Harvey, "Josie's Song."
Publishers Weekly, July 30, 2001, review of Coming to Term: A Father's Story of Birth, Loss, and Survival, p. 75.
Washington Post, August 24, 1999, William H. Woodwell, Jr., "A Deadly Pregnancy," p. Z10.
About.com,http://specialchildren.about.com/ (May 6, 2002), Donald R. Mattison, review of Coming to Term: A Father's Story of Birth, Loss, and Survival.
Paternity Angel,http://www.paternityangel.com/ (April 12, 2002).
UVA Top News Daily, (March 13, 2002), http://www.virginia.edu/ Mary Jane Gore, review of Coming to Term: A Father's Story of Birth, Loss, and Survival.*