MotherTalk Blog Book Tour, Day 4!

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“She wants you to call her cell phone.  She’s on vacation in Hawaii.  She gave me the number,” said Tracy, my editor at NAL/Penguin.

“She” was Martha Sears, author and co-author of numerous books about parenting, including my very favorite ones from back when I was a new mother to Carter.  I’d dog-eared so many pages that the books no longer laid flat, but curled up in the corner so that if you stacked them, they threatened to avalanche.

Tom was home, so I locked myself in our bedroom (with the piles of clean laundry dumped on the bed, waiting to be folded) and dialed the number.  I couldn’t imagine what Martha Sears might have to say to me; that she’d agreed to read my book had been thrilling enough. 

But a phone conversation?  On her vacation?  I immediately began to fret.  It’s about my failed attempts at breastfeeding Avery, I thought.  Or maybe she’s calling to tell me writing this book was a big mistake.

The phone rang and rang, these pesky thoughts going through my head all the while.  Then someone picked up.

“Hello?” I said.

“Hello!” she answered back.

And that was the beginning of a long conversation about my book.  She was warm, she was patient (“What are you doing now?” she asked.  “Folding laundry,” I answered, “oh, you mean work-wise!  I’m still working on my book.”)  Occasionally, she’d interrupt in the politest possible way, saying things like, “Bill just ordered breakfast, can you hold on a minute?  I need to order now, too.” 

She’d taken my book (then still just a manuscript) with her on her vacation and read it thoroughly and carefully.  She had excellent questions, and shared wonderful suggestions.  She’d wanted me to call so she could give me these gifts–her time, her experience, her expertise.  And though she’s a dozen years ahead of me as a mother to a child with Down syndrome, and dozens of books farther down the publishing trail, she reached out to offer me a hand up. 

It felt like a dream.  When I awoke, I knew exactly what I needed to do to make my book better, and I did it.

Today is also a ParentDish day and as you might guess, I have a lot on my mind.  This week’s column is called “My Life is a Laundry Line” and it’s about, well, all of YOU.

On we go to MotherTalk!  Yesterday’s winner is #17, trisomymommy.  Congratulations!  (And if you didn’t win yesterday, there will be another drawing for a $20 Gift Certificate at the end of the day today, just enter your name in the comments.)

Today’s Reviews

Terri of Barriers, Bridges and Books felt that my book brought her back to the early days of her own experience, when she was a mother to “3 kids under 4.”  She also brings up the issue of comparison between the twins, and amongst all 3 boys.  She writes, “This book is a beautiful read for new parents of children with Down syndrome, it is also a touching reminder for parents of older children—each of our stories are different in the details, but connected at the core.”

What Was I Reviewing? enjoyed the prose and says my book was well-written, but felt that my actions and reactions were self-indulgent.  She had difficulty relating to my experience, as it was very different from her own.  For this reason, she gives the book a “pan.” 

Anne of Archie’s Room writes about looking back, and wishing she could tell herself about how good life with Down syndrome will be (how I wish that, too!).   She recognizes her story in mine, and mine in hers.  She writes, “My familiarity with her story makes me think she’s telling each of our stories, unique as they are, all of them rolled together, then tied-up with our common threads.”

Stacy of Blessed Chaos writes about the misconceptions, and misinformation she and her husband faced in the beginning.  She remembers quickly realizing that parents of children with Down syndrome were often the best sources of information, and she found support and hope at forums like Downsyn.com, a place that helped give back her pride in her family.  She writes, “I have found myself nodding in agreement and understanding as well as filling up with tears as her account throws me back to our own early days of confusion. If only I knew then what I know now I wouldn’t have been so scared.”  She also has a book to give away; to enter, go to her site.

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22 thoughts on “MotherTalk Blog Book Tour, Day 4!

  1. Margalit’s review was unfair. She was comparing her experience to yours. After reading through her blog a bit, I have to say that your experiences just ARENT comparable. Hoping this comes out right, but…her children were not born with something that the vast majority of the world fears. She never had to deal with terms like “MR” and “dependant”.

    Whatever disability her child may have, they are active, typical teens. They have friends, they make decisions, they talk back. They dont come with the same sort of baggage, the same sorts of fears. There is a distinct difference, I think, in a kid “with a disability” and a kid “with a cognitive disability”, especially a kid with the innocense and openness of Down syndrome. Our kids are so much more vulnerable, and our reactions to them are so much more overwhelmingly protective and fearful. We are told from the earliest days that they wont amount to much, and even if we fight that belief with everything in us, it takes TIME and introspection to discover that the STUFF doesnt matter, the LOVE is what matters.

    I dont mean to be unkind in ANY way, but what I read on her blog is a difference in personality, a difference in the weight of parenting. You and I parent with all of our beings, who we are as parents defines us. We fret about every move, every bit of what we put into them. She seems to fret more about what they take FROM her than what they give. What a mess they are, what a draw on her time their friends are, how she wishes they would go away and let her be. So much negative, so angry and so quick to find their flaws, while failing to see her own. Different parenting styles, I guess. (And I HAVE teens, I know they arent always fun, but I sure as heck dont wish them away, and I am honored when ther friends decide to hang out here.) I think what you wrote about were not AVERYS “flaws”, but your own.

    I guess her perspective as a parent is just very different, and she doesnt get the psychological aspects of parenting a kid who emotionally depends on you to feed his spirit and keep it alive long enough to make him want to fight and survive, or the fight in yourself that you feel when society tells you your child isnt good enough even to be born. I think that the word burden is not the right word, but something like it maybe…the “burden” of the emotional attachment to a child whose life is in your hands completely and totally. You just want to do it RIGHT. And you wonder if you have it in you to do it the way it needs doing.

    I dont think you are in any way self-indulgent. I think you are intrinsically aware of the power of yourself as his mother. You measured yourself, discovered you had “it” and moved forward. Having watched your journey unfold..I am absolutely sure you are the BEST parent for Avery and his brothers. You arent angry, bitter, or condescending. You value and respect them as individuals, and you are absolutely up to the task of raising them VERY well. Ok, Im done. Can you tell it really ticked me off to read that?

  2. Jennifer – I always enjoy your column on Parenting Dish – but I LOVED this one – sucha great analogy and as usual so beautifully written. I loved the fear of hte sun fading … line – just as much I love the special lived in patina that comes from a quilt, much loved that is faded and worn after countless cuddles and washings. Thanks.

    PS – I am enjoying the reports back on the book tour – I have told my husband he better organise my copy for me this weekend – I can’t wait to dig in!

  3. How neat that Martha took time on her vacation to speak with you on the phone and discuss your manuscript!

    I read that review and wow that was a bit harsh. I know not everyone will like reading the same books, or come away with the same thoughts and feelings, we all have our own opinions and that is fine. But I think her review was a bit personal and uncalled for in places. Saying she honestly couldn’t understand why you felt the way you felt. Really? Not everyone is so accepting of their child’s diagnosis right off the bat, for some of us it takes a while to digest. I’m sorry she doesn’t get that. Anyway, I liked your response to her – it was very diplomatic and well-written.

  4. If the way you are is “self indulgent” than I’m right there with you sister in that club too (in addition to the DS club, lol.)

    I don’t see how any parent who doesn’t have the first hand knowledge, experience and up-to-date, accurate information about the diagnosis could face the responsibility of a child with a “disability” without a huge amount of uncertaintly about the future and their ability to handle what was coming at them. Maybe because I’ve lived what you have, I read on almost every single page in the book the love you felt for your family – EVERY member of your family, and the amazing journey you have had since you were told you were having twins!

  5. Congratulations on such an important achievement. I’m really very impressed and look forward to reading your book. I’ve asked our local library to buy it, and our Ds group here in Nova Scotia. Thank you so much.
    Alice

  6. hey Jennifer, I got my copy of your book yesterday — I’ve already plotted out a weekend getaway in the Miami sun where I get to read your book cover-to-cover, poolside (preferably with a tropical drink in hand). Thank you so much for telling your story — in so many ways, our collective story. Because of Lucas’ DS, I have found a whole new world of amazing people and I’m proud to befriend so many courageous, inspiring moms.

    Congrats again!

    Sandhy

  7. Oops, PS, does it matter which place we order it from. Email me if you get a chance to let me know where’s the best place to order. Thanks! Carey (Chelsea’s mom)

  8. Hi Jennifer, I just saw on Amy’s blog (Mayson’s mom) that your book was for sale! Now I’m going to figure out how to buy my copy! Can’t wait! Congratulations!

  9. I can’t wait to read your book. It’s on my list! And I also really love Martha Sears. I swear to god, she got me through breastfeeding.

  10. i read your book and applaud your honesty. it didn’t strike me as self-indulgent in the least. it was courageous to acknowledge the fear, shame, grief, feelings of being broken that came up at first. what the reviewer missed, i think, was how much of your initial reaction was a response to the way Down syndrome was presented to you, the heaviness, the suggestion that you could give your child up for adoption, the general misperception by the public, etc., what i think may also have been missed by this reviewer is that we, as parents, as people, go through something when we discovery our children have special needs that takes us somewhere new. the courage to speak about the journey is vitally important for all of us. it’s part of unspoken and unacknowledged shame to brush the process under the rug.

  11. Jennifer,

    I just have to let you know that you are an essential presence on the web for me, and that your book is on my birthday list. My beloved son is on the spectrum and doesn’t have Down Syndrome (did I find you through Kyra? I think so) but I love your writing and find your insights so moving and sustaining. I have to say I found Margalit’s review astonishing and I utterly disagree with it. Your honesty gives all of us permission to have the feelings we really have–the beatific feelings and the others. And how can we attend to our wonderful children if we don’t first attend to ourselves? You’re a real role model for me–thanks for your work.

  12. I haven’t read your book, yet, but I have read your column on Mamazine for a while, and have just recenlty discovered your blog. Every word you’ve written in your has been so beautiful and heartfelt, so I’m sure your book must be too. It is so difficult to talk and write about the complicated feelings that go with mothering–not all of them “good” or “right” in society’s eyes. I imagine that this is even more true for a mother of a special-needs child. I think it was unfair of your reviewer to judge you for this honesty–it was incredibly courageous of you to write your book and I look forward to reading it.

  13. Oh! Martha Sears! I have chills just thinking about how it would be to talk to her in real life. (I’ve had several on-sided conversations with her in my head over the past few years.)

    I haven’t read your ParentDish post yet, but am headed that way now.

    I have been reading your book. It arrived in the mail late yesterday afternoon and I’ve stolen moments to read pages here and there. I did manage to finish your first chapter and as I did I cried all sorts of tears, mostly ones filled with the memory and recognition your words stir inside me. It seems as if you’re telling each of stories, all of them rolled together and tied up with our common threads. Thank you for that!

  14. I’m really enjoying reading all the different conversations and events that happened while you were working on your book. How cool that you got to speak to Martha Sears!

  15. I received my books yesterday. One to keep and one to give away. I am already well into my copy and I must say, Jennifer, I am grateful. If only I had this when Wil was born. Chapter One’s title grabbed me as did all that followed.
    In part I feel like you are writing some of my story from the early delivery by c-section to the surreal NICU experience and diagnosis to the transition from an Avent hand held pump to the mammoth hospital grade milk syphon and more.
    I have laughed and wept through these first few chapters, nodding my head along with you and finding the circular nature of grief sneaking back in.

    Congratulations. This book is going to impact many people. Thanks for your vulnerability in sharing your story.

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