I inwardly groaned when I read the book description of New York Times Bestseller, Bloom – Finding Beauty in the Unexpected:
“There is Us. Our family. We will hold our precious gift and know that we are lucky . . . From the outside looking in, Kelle Hampton had the perfect life, a beautiful two-year-old daughter, a loving husband, and a thriving photography career. When she learned she was pregnant with their second child, they were ecstatic. But when their new daughter was placed in her arms in the delivery room, Kelle knew instantly that something was wrong. Nella looked different than her sister, Lainey, had at birth. As her friends and family celebrated, a terrified Kelle was certain that Nella had Down syndrome – a fear her pediatrician soon confirmed. Yet gradually Kelle embraced the realization that she had been chosen to experience an extraordinary and special gift.”
Been there. Done that. Over it. (Most days.)
The name Kelle Hampton was familiar to me; yes, she’s the one who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Down syndrome research on her blog, Enjoying the Small Things – http://www.kellehampton.com/, the picture perfect, clothes to die for, cutest children in the world, Kelle Hampton. Curiosity got the best of me, and here I am a few weeks later with a read copy of Bloom in hand . . . actually two copies of Bloom in hand – one to keep, one to give away at the end of this review.
The first thing I noticed about this almost 300-page book is that it is heavy – the pages are luxuriously thick, and Kelle’s beautiful and intimate family photos are spread generously throughout. This is much more than one woman’s memoired experience mothering a newborn and then infant with Down syndrome; this is her family scrapbook along with the penned details that fed each moment, the details that are usually left out of those perfectly orchestrated coffee table scrapbooks for all to see.
Bloom‘s prologue opens with Baby Nella’s birth story and Kelle realizing before any one else did that Nella had Down syndrome. Heartbreaking moments. Total devastation. Yes, I remember that place.
But Kelle ends the chapter on a high note – Day 2 of Nella’s life Kelle falls in love hard with her new baby, and by Day 5 she is leaving the hospital with this synopsis: “And so, we came home . . . happy. In fact, walking out of the hospital with our new baby girl and our proud new big girl, all crowned up, gripping the handle of the car seat with Daddy, it was just how I had imagined it.”
Really? I can’t quite relate to that fast of a transition.
To Kelle’s credit, the prologue does end a bit more realistically, “Life moves on. There have been lots of tears since and there will be more. But there is us. Our family. We will embrace this beauty and make something of it. We will hold our precious gift and know that we are lucky. I feel lucky. I feel privileged. I feel there is a plan so beautiful in store, and we get to live it. Wow.”
That theme of on the one hand being able to relate to so much of Kelle’s emotions, and on the other hand feeling at times she left me in the dust on her way to some emotional nirvana, was a constant throughout the book. Yet even in that I can relate as through one lens I feel so blessed to be raising a child with Down syndrome and through another I grieve for what my Noah (6 – with Down syndrome) will never have, what he may never do.
Bloom takes us through a brief tour of Kelle’s childhood and family relationships that serve as the backbone of her support system before moving forward to the first year of Nella’s life. This power of family and friends in the midst of trauma, in the midst of crisis, is the story behind the story. Kelle’s family and friends prove to be the support system all parents of children with special needs wish we had. They say the right things and do the right things, always keeping Kelle in the center of their consciousness.
Kelle’s many descriptions of celebrations and the part alcohol played in them left me a bit disconcerted. I also was disturbed by a reference she made to an early miscarriage, “This is what women do. We have complex bodies that create beings from microscopic cells, and when everything isn’t just right, our bodies take over and do what they know to do.”
Whether the author intended to or not, I think that statement is reminiscent of the attitude that it may be best for certain “less than perfect” babies to come to an early demise. In this day and age of abortion advocacy, that’s a very dangerous attitude to promote, especially in the realm of Down syndrome.
Yet my overall impression of Bloom is that it is a beautiful, artfully written story, full of beautiful word pictures – some so familiar it is eerie to see them in someone else’s book. Certain peculiarities – the compulsion to tell anybody and everybody about the Down syndrome before they noticed it for themselves, the crushing blow of knowing your children’s lives have been forever changed in a way no one expected or planned, the growth that comes only through the soil of grief watered by the tears of our soul – yes, I’ve lived those same moments.
Bloom resides in a permanent slot on my bookshelf now. This story, this family, no matter how differently they live their outward lives, live an inward life similar to mine when it comes to loving their child with Down syndrome. This book is especially valuable to family and friends of women who are expecting a baby with Down syndrome or who have just delivered a baby with Down syndrome. It offers significant insight into what we special needs mothers feel, what we fear and what we hope, and what we need from the people who love us most. I look forward to hearing more from Kelle Hamilton as she and Nella travel further through the peaks and valleys of Down syndrome.
The publisher has gifted www.wordsofhisheart.wordpress.com with two copies of Bloom in exchange for an honest review of the book. Sooooo I get to keep one, and the other I’m gifting to one of my lucky readers. Leave a comment below, short or long, and you’ll be entered in a drawing for your very own copy. The drawing will be held on April 29th, 2013, and the winner will be notified by email and on this blog. Good luck!