Last week I finally finished Kelle Hampton's book Bloom.
And I have to admit, although I was looking forward to it, I appreciated her book even more than I thought I would.
I was introduced to Kelle's blog the week that Cora was born. Within a couple of days, one of my friends e-mailed me Nella's birth story. Since I was a brand new mom struggling my way through the beginning of my baby's NICU stay, still reeling and aching from a surprising diagnosis, Kelle's account of her own daughter's surprise Ds diagnosis hit home. While I had been feeling so alone in my feelings, reading about Kelle's shock and grief really helped me to accept how I was feeling. To know that I wasn't the only mother who had felt that she had been given the wrong baby, to know that the feelings of grief and shame and sorrow were not unique to me was so important to my own healing process. I was happy to find that Kelle was able to bond with her daughter so quickly in spite of her tumultuous feelings and was able to express her love so purely.
As life with Cora progressed, I enjoyed occasionally getting my fix of Kelle's beautiful blog; perusing her gorgeous photos and reading stories of the joyful moments with her daughters. But sometimes, especially when I was despondent over not being able to feed Cora, or quaking with fear over heart surgery, I couldn't relate to Kelle's happy and normal posts. I just wasn't quite there yet. After Cora's surgery, as our lives indeed began to feel normal, I was able to get back to Kelle's blog. I know that there are people that feel that her outlook is too positive and not very true-to-life about the stress involved in a life parenting a child with special needs. But, I don't really agree. Yes, she is mostly positive. And for me, I need perspectives like Kelle's. I need to be reminded about the myriad of beautiful moments to be appreciated if you choose to look. I need to catch glimpses that remind me of the importance of perspective, even if my own photos aren't quite as flawless, and my own Northwest weather not as accommodating year-round, and our own activities often more mundane.
Yes, Kelle is inspiring to me. So when her book came out, I was excited to read it. I was ready to feel motivated and inspired.
And although Bloom delivered that, it also delivered much more. Kelle's book was not so much about Nella, but about her own journey during Nella's first year. It delved into the details of her process into acceptance and revealed more raw emotion and a longer grieving period than I had expected after reading her birth story. She talked about a health scare with Nella, which as any parent who has shared this kind of fear knows, puts your true values into perspective fast. She talked about her nervousness meeting older people with Ds, and the worries about what life will be like when her daughter is no longer in the "cute baby" stage. She wrote about wondering what to say to strangers, and even initially whether she had used the beautiful name she had chosen for the wrong baby. All of these worries and thoughts were part of her process, even after falling in love with her girl. And they are not unique to her. Many of the mamas I have met in person and online since Cora's birth have struggled with similar things, myself included. So it was really nice to gain insight into this side of Kelle.
I also really appreciated seeing how big a role her friends and family played for her. My own network of friends is considerably smaller, but just as important. And although I may have held people at arm's reach for a little while as I gathered my bearings, the support of my family and friends was crucial. I will never forget the night that my mom and my youngest sister stayed with Cora at the NICU while I rested, being too loud during quiet time and partying with my wee girl as they somehow coaxed her to drink a full bottle. Nor will I forget how important Mira's pep talks have been to me; always offering me a new way to look at things and the insight to actually appreciate my circumstances. But certainly most important to me is the absolute love that has been shown to my girl from the second she was born. Yes, hearing about Kelle's appreciation for her friends and family really reminded me how very thankful I am for my own.
And while my own enjoyment of Bloom was affected by my own similar experiences, it is a beautiful book that can be thoroughly enjoyed by readers that haven't been through something similar. In fact, I am sure that a great many of the people reading this best-selling book don't have children with special needs. But they are certainly gaining insight into at least one such life. And this is a great book to offer that glimpse. It is a beautiful book with a wonderful message and it does an excellent job of conveying how beautiful life can be, even when it takes an unexpected turn. And that, my friends, is a great lesson for everyone to learn.