Friday, May 25, 2012

"Bloom" by Kelle Hampton, Reviewed by Emily Cornell

Last week I promised a book review of Kelle Hampton's Bloom. It seems as soon as I make promises, life gets crazy. Sickness, spring break, and the craziness of raising three kids has gotten in the way this past week. Most nights I fall onto the couch to relax after my crazy days, exhausted, and aimlessly flip through the channels or web surf because it doesn't require any extra effort. In actuality I should be diving into the textbook sitting on my end table ("Effective Methods of Inclusion"...for my teaching license renewal, though there will be some personal gain from this class I am sure!), but I haven't mustered up enough energy to start that one yet. Soon. Instead, I will blog.

So, what did I think?

I didn't preorder the book, and I wasn't sure if I would want to read it as soon as it came out. I actually had a lot of mixed feelings about it. I found Kelle Hampton's blog shortly after Charlotte's birth. At the time, it was exactly what I needed. While digging through website after website of scary statistics and all the health issues my newborn may face, Kelle's blog was a breath of fresh air. Beautiful pictures, a carefree approach to the world, and words that painted a picture of a joyous life. Her blog showed me that I would feel okay again one day, and joy would return to my life.

I did end up buying Bloom for my Kindle the day it came out. My apprehension about reading the book came from knowing that reading someone's account of their birth experience of a child with Down syndrome would hit pretty close to home for me. Kelle and I have a few things in common; we were (are) both teachers, both in our early 30's when we had our child w/DS and both have older children. I relate a lot to what she writes and I was worried that reading her book would force me to revisit feelings I have since put behind me.

I read the book in two nights. It was a quick, easy read and it delivered everything the book trailer promised. It was hard for me at times; more than once I found myself dabbing away tears. I appreciated Kelle's honesty as she recounted Nella's birth and early days. I was most touched by her description of the first time her older daughter met Nella, and how at first it was hard for her to witness because all she could think of was the "sister relationship" she had built in her head for her girls and how it wasn't going to be at all like she imagined. This was something Mike and I struggled with in the beginning; Mike having three sisters, me having three brothers, neither of us had experienced the bond of a same-gender sibling and were excited to witness this relationship between our girls. We mourned this in the early days, only to realize later that we didn't need to.

I have read a few posts about reactions to Bloom on the Down syndrome message board I frequent. Some are turned off by Kelle's approach to her blog and, really, to life. Some thinks she makes life look too perfect, and doesn't give an honest account of what raising a child with a disability is like. Kelle's blog existed before the birth of her daughter Nella, and I personally enjoy how she has kept it pretty much the same, while including advocacy and awareness when she sees fit. I believe Kelle is doing a lot of good for the Down syndrome community, and Bloom (which was #11 of the best seller list last week!), is bringing awareness to Down syndrome that wasn't there before.

I tend to be an optimist when I blog. I enjoy reading blogs and books written by other optimists. When I write about  raising Charlotte and what a joy it has been, I mean it. This doesn't mean I am not constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. It is hard not to think about those scary statistics and wonder what health concern we will have to deal with next. It doesn't mean that I don't already have anxiety about sitting through my first IEP meeting...and it is still a year away! It doesn't mean that I am not freaked about the future, the unknown of what adolescence and adulthood will be like for my daughter. It also doesn't mean that I don't constantly think about the first time any of my children have to face ignorant bully.

However, I tend to focus on the joy, because frankly, why wouldn't I?! Everyone has fears and worries about future problems that one can't control. I, like Kelle, try not to focus too much on the negative, because I would rather concentrate on the pretty awesome things happening right before my eyes.

I recommend Bloom to anyone looking for a good, heartfelt story. Check it out.

Blog: Charlotte's Web(site)

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