A while back, I received an email to review a book on my blog. I do not blog for money or perks nor normally do I promote anything that I do not have a personal connection with, although I get asked to frequently. Kelle's book was very personal for me because her walk happened simultaneously with mine, down the street from me, and a lot of my healing came from reading hers through her blog while Fiona was still forming in my womb. But after reading about the author of this book, I decided to break my normal and do a review for someone I do not know.
A Good and Perfect Gift is the memoir of a mother who unexpectedly gave birth to a baby with Down syndrome. Sometimes, as a mom who has a child with Down syndrome, it can be hard to read other accounts of the beginning of the diagnosis because it becomes an unavoidable comparison. Honestly, why it has taken me this long to finish the book is I struggled to connect with the authors experience at first.
There is a great difference in knowing prenatally and finding out after. I am on the prenatal end while she (and Kelle) went through the shock while her baby was in her arms. I was able to start my road to recovery much sooner and had some opportunities to connect with people who brought me to a place of acceptance much faster. Some of the things she was saying I just did not think or experience. I started letting those differences pull me out of the book. This was also her first baby and my experience there is also way different. My first were twins. I can't even beginning to explain what having twins as your first is like.A lot of moving, a lot of crying, everything done twice... you become efficient and relaxed and easy going or you simply do not survive, or at least that's what I felt worked for me to survive. I had nothing to compare to, so I didn't see how one baby is so crazy. Having just Fiona seemed like a piece of cake in comparison (Key words, in comparison). I know everyone is hating me right now, defenses are up on why it was so hard to have their first baby, but I am being honest. If you had twins first, you would feel the same way. I can't relate in many ways to new baby experiences. But, also in all honesty, I barely remember the first 6 months with the boys, so maybe I was more like a normal new mom then I give myself credit for. Those that really know me can let me know :)
Then there was the intelligence aspect. The author is far more educated then me, as far as institutional studies, and had a lot more concern over the mental retardation then I ever did, at least right off the bat. She valued educational achievement much more then I do- while I was a great student, I didn't and still do not see the almighty importance of education.... don't hear me wrong, its pretty high up on my list, but definitely not number one. Life should not revolved or be measured successful simply by that, in my mind. I value character, relationships and love much higher then education. And I also value a hard working person, whether that be white or blue collar. Really, I was more concerned with the fears of her not ever experiencing being loved by a husband or the joys of being a mother, the mean girls in school, and that she might never live independently far over her getting her masters. The author eventually gets to this point, so I am glad I kept reading.
When I finally did pick back up the book, the read was no longer a struggle. Both because I went at it with a different mind set then my judge and comparing way I did at first, and also because the authors thoughts started to sound a lot like my own. Amy Julia's book is honest, well written and a great incite into one family's journey to accepting. There is a great disappointment and pain that comes when life hands you an unexpected card. No amount of intelligence or understanding can dull that initial shock when it happens to you. But its also amazing, this thing called love, what it can do. In the last 80 years, the potential life of a person with Down syndrome has greatly improved simply because the power of love. Research has proven that a loving and caring family can improve the cognitive and physical abilities of their child. The average IQ of someone with Down syndrome has risen from 10-20 to 60-80, in that time. I appreciate all the accurate, up to date and insightful information she provides in the book. Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, being pro-correct information is something everyone should get behind.
The more that share their story, the more people will be reached with the message that life with Down syndrome is not a burden. It is no ones cross to bare, its no ones punishment or something to be pitied. It is a rockier path with a whole lot more flowers to enjoy. Amy Julia Becker paints this perfectly.
The end of my copy of her book is filled with things I underlined and circled. Just like anyone who starts off on the journey of a Down syndrome diagnosis, most of us all seem to end in the same place.
"I didn't know what she would be able to do, but I hoped for more and more. I understood that this extra chromosome of Penny's would slow her down sometimes. But I was no longer willing to trust the experts who tried to tell me exactly how she would be slowed down, or to what degree. Instead, I was willing to wait and see. I didn't have specific expectations for her athletic endeavors as a teenager or her college degree or her spouse. I simply expected that over and over again I would be surprised, and delighted, by our daughter."
I have only read Bloom and, now, A Good and Perfect Gift out of the many memoirs out there about Down syndrome, but I am looking forward to reading, open minded, other's journeys. The stories all vary, but the message is all the same. ALL life is precious.
I highly recommend A Good and Perfect Gift to everyone- both parents just starting off on this journey, those who are farther down the road, but really to everyone who does not have a connection to Down syndrome. We, families with a loved one with Ds, are blessed to be enlightened by our children, but you can be blessed by glimpses of the beauty we experience daily through Amy Julia's words. Beauty of growth, strength and undeniable love.