Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected-A Memoir
I wasn’t planning on doing another “book review” yet but I started to read this book and felt the need to respond to it (honestly, I have only made it through the introduction and first chapter). This review/response comes from a completely different direction than the first review I did about the book Count Us In. The author, Kelle Hampton, is a mother of two girls and also has a blog called “Enjoying the Small Things.” She provides a young mother’s perspective on having a child with Down syndrome. From what I have read so far I can see that the author paints a clear image of the thoughts and feelings that are involved in this journey. What amazed me was how similar the author’s story was to my own.
I think it is important to hear other people’s stories. It is good to be able to see a different point of view or maybe find points of common ground within those stories; it can be a way of feeling part of a community. One of the reasons that I began reading this book is because I knew it provided a mother’s perspective. Sure, my own wife has expressed her own thoughts and feelings to me but because I am emotionally tied to both her and Treyton it can be difficult for me. The communication gap is one of the big strains that having a special needs child has on a marriage. So, being able to listen to a story that I am not connected to can help me better relate to Leigh Ann.
There are two things that really connected with me in these early pages of the book. The first has to do with the transition that takes place during the birth of a child with special needs. The transition from “all is going to plan” and then BOOOM! Life is different forever. The author writes, “I hear the sound of our birth song filling the room,” and shortly after that, “they put her [Nella] in my arms and I knew.” This was a strong reminder to my own experience. I remember seeing Treyton for the first time and being overwhelmed with joy and wonder. I had this same feeling three times before -Bailey, Taylor, and Lindyn. The difference this time was Leigh Ann asking me repeatedly, “Rob, is everything alright? Is he o.k.?” Yes he was okay; it is just that we were suddenly headed down a different path in life – one I had never thought I would be headed down.
We did not have a pre-natal diagnosis but there was a point in time where an ultrasound showed some extra water around the heart. We were told that this was one indication of Down syndrome but that the indicators almost always come in multiples and there were not any other indicators. Also, later in the pregnancy a pediatric cardiologist performed some tests and told us, “If your doctor saw what I see today he would never have asked me to run these tests. Your baby’s heart is fine.” Another difference between a man and a woman: when the doc told us the baby’s heart was fine that erased everything else. I did not care about the water around the heart. However, Leigh Ann took some solace from the doctor but never fully let go of the “water issue.” So in the delivery room she still had suspicions about something like Down syndrome when I had nothing of the sort.
The second thing that really hit me was what she said about her husband’s response, he handled the news. The author states, “I know the daddy of our babies, and I know that he knows nothing but to love them with all his heart. And he has done so from the beginning.” That was how I felt from the beginning as well. I did not care that Treyton had Down syndrome, it never fazed me. I could not separate my son from the diagnosis; all I could think was that I was just blessed with another beautiful baby. When talking to other parents of children with Down syndrome I have felt alone because I have not found anyone else that has felt that way I do until this book.
I think I was sitting alone in a restaurant eating breakfast and reading this book when I just sat back in amazement. Prior to giving birth to her second daughter, the author had a miscarriage. Her and her husband already had one child together when she became pregnant for their second child but miscarried. Then, after working through that pain they were blessed with another pregnancy. However, this child was born with Down syndrome.
The story that the author tells is very similar to my story. It was our 4th child that we lost; losing that baby was extremely difficult. It was hard on our entire family. At one point our 4 year-old offered to use a balloon to float up to heaven so she could get the baby for her mom. Such an honest desire to help ease her mother’s pain. That loss was amplified by the fact that we had been told that we would no longer be able to have kids. Babies are miracles no matter what but there was an extra helping of the supernatural involved with that little one. For me, the pain of losing a baby was so much greater than I had ever imagined it would be.
Then, similar to the author’s story, Leigh Ann became pregnant again. After the pain of losing a baby it was another miracle for us as I am sure it was for the author as well. And, both of these women would give birth to beautiful babies both of which were given one tiny extra chromosome. Things that make you say, “HUH?”
If you take the time to read this book, which I believe you should, you will see how candid the author is about the feelings she with which she struggled. I have only read the first few pages, however, those pages resonated so strongly with me that I wanted to express some of those feelings. For me it was more about how similar the story was. How the mother (the author) was pained by the diagnosis. She painted a vivid picture of how time seems to stand still for her but that life continued around her. She felt alone in her pain. Thing I have appreciated the most thus far was her statement about her husband. How he knew only to love his little baby and did so from the beginning. I have felt alone in this fact. I never once felt like I was “short-changed” or that my Treyton was anything less than perfect. I have not struggled with the fact that he has Down syndrome, he is my child.