Saturday, August 22, 2009

Another Review of Sorts: This Lovely Life by Vicki Forman

"Grief sucks, don't it?"

This is the reaction I got from a friend to a recent GEMM entry. And she nailed it on the head. As a mom of some special kids of her own, she gets it way better than I do. It was a revelation to me when she said it.... AH YES this is Grief! DUH!! Why didn't I see it before?? This angry, sad, frustrated, lonely, searching, seeking, grasping, fighting, treading water, pushing against gravity feeling... this is Grief.

And so, in honor of grief, I wanted to spend a little time "reviewing" a wonderful book about confronting parenting grief at its very core. Allow me to state that I am not a book reviewer. I just have an opinion, actually lots of them, and I thought I would share this one (I will do my best to refrain from sharing specifics from the book... everyone hates a spoiler!).

The best part of Vicki Forman's memoir is its honest brutality. The experience of parenting a micropremie is... unfortunately... not a singular experience. And Ms Forman's book could have focused on her heroics... the sacrifices, the successes, the 'triumph of the will' stuff. But instead, she paints a brutally honest portrait of herself, her experience, her son, and the medical establishment as a whole. She doesn't pull any punches, but... as a part of that "medical establishment" I don't feel personally hit. Many, many, many of the ethical and moral issues she presents in this memoir are not new concepts for me... I grapple with these issues every time a baby like this is born...

... how much is too much? when do you stop? what are the consequences of stopping, or not stopping care? what are we doing to families, and these children? why is that we (the medical community) can impose care on these patients, but when it comes time to remove care we require that parents be the ones to decide (nice position to put them in, ehe???)

The list goes on and on.

She is angry. Angry that she is put in this position, angry at the doctors, nurses, with choices that she can and cannot make. Angry at the situation, at the course her life has taken. And with a loss of perceived control that she feels she had (we all have this idea of perceived control... it really bites when you realize there is no such thing). With that anger comes overwhelming sadness, soul-numbing guilt, frustration, denial, vacillations between hope and fear, and emotional highs and lows that wear down any soul.


She builds up and tears down her own arguments, her straw men.... and I found myself simultaneously agreeing and disagreeing with her. She presents her experience as a special needs parent... warts and all... and does not allow the reader (or me) to raise her up on high. There are failures, and successes, and everything in between. She is a real person with real feelings, real reactions... and they are not always nice and not always friendly and not always 'good'. But they are REAL.

And that might be what I loved MOST about this book. I don't need any saintly martyrs to tell me how to be a special needs parent. I don't need anyone saying "count your blessings" and "he has a special purpose in God's plan'". Nice thought, but thoroughly unhelpful. And frankly, I really don't think that... if God exists ... he is a micro manager. I love my son more than anything... probably more than myself, to be honest.... but I hate his disability. I hate the being scared all the time: of today or uncertainty of tomorrow. I hate the fact that I... as his mommy.. may never get to experience "normal" parenting (if that even exists... apparently it does at ECFE). My worries will always be different, and our fights for the J-man will always be MORE.

And that straight up pisses me off.... and that's okay. It is okay to be this human that I am.

This Lovely Life is truly lovely. Not in a traditional way, or easy way, or a safe way. But in a very, very human way.


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