In the winter of 2002, Jenny Minton delivered her sons, Sam and Gus. She was thirty-one weeks pregnant, and her boys, conceived through in vitro fertilization, were more than two months early. Both boys were placed on immediate life support, and for sixty-four days they hovered, critically ill, in the neonatal intensive care unit of a New York City hospital. The Early Birds is a record of their time there and the story of Minton's harrowing, triumphant quest to bring her sons home.
Minton, a former senior editor at Knopf, was 30 and unable to conceive. She and her husband tried various infertility protocols before finding success with in vitro fertilization. Minton's twin boys were born dangerously premature, at 31 weeks; they went immediately into neonatal intensive care, where they stayed for two months. Even after going home, they were medicated and monitored because they tended to stop breathing when feeding. Eventually their health stabilized and, 21 months later, Minton and her husband decided to unfreeze another of their fertilized eggs, producing a third son. While there are many infertility memoirs on the market, Minton's advantages set her work apart. She was young and healthy enough to undergo infertility treatment. Her employers were flexible. Her husband was able to support her with his generous paycheck, and her insurance company was willing to pay the $1 million she estimated the twins cost. Although the book's first half is riveting, Minton's comfortable situation turns the second half when the twins are out of danger into a sentimental monologue. Infertility memoirs are variations on a single plot: the struggle to give birth to viable babies. Once the mission is accomplished, mom's better off sharing the routine child-rearing stories with immediate family only.