Monday, June 19, 2006

New Book

I am halfway through reading The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards. Oh, man, talk about an intense subject. It's starts in the 1960's, and a doctor and his wife can't make it to the hospital and he delivers their baby in his office. Back then, women were traditionally hit with gas while in labor, so they only have vague recollections of the actual birth. She delivers a healthy son, but the twin daughter is an unexpected surprise, and she has Downs Syndrome.

The father makes a split decision to have his nurse take the baby away to be institutionalized, and in doing so, he hopes he'll save his wife from years of heart ache. Keep in mind, back then, institutionalization was very common, and the thought process back then was that babies with Downs would die soon from heart or other ailments. Completely different support system back then. He tells his wife that the baby girl died.



The nurse can't bear to put the baby in an institution, and ends up running away with it. She occasionally writes the doctor to tell him how she is doing.

I'm only halfway through, but it's a good read, although hard to stomach. When Zack was born, he needed resuscitation, and who knows what could have happened. And we also opted not to have the tests you can take to see if our baby would have Downs or some other ailment. We knew that after all that we'd been through, we would end up with the baby we were supposed to have. I can't even imagine giving him away. But so many people did just that! In my Medical Ethics class in college, we heard of (I use the term loosely) parents who had a baby with Downs. Her esophagus and stomach didn't meet. A simple operation would have fixed it and all would have been fine. But the "parents" didn't want a baby with Downs, and declined medical treatment. This meant the baby was going to slowly starve to death. Again, this was in the '60s. Can you even imagine, being a doctor or a nurse then, having to listen for days to this poor baby cry, and not be allowed to do anything to help?

Whew.

I can appreciate the immense change your life would take if you have a child with a disability. But wow.

Anyway, the book is quite good, the subject is one that poses a lot of thought, and I guess none of us can say what we'd do if we were in someone else's shoes at any given moment. But I do know that the main theme of the book is regret, and how that changes so many people's lives.

Going to go upstairs and hug my little boy.




(photo of Zack's feet taken by Jen Fariello)

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