Sunday, March 09, 2008
This book, When the Bough Breaks by Julia Hollander, has been causing a lot of controversy on the web in the last week. The story of a mother who gives her profoundly disabled baby up into foster care, it was done no favours by a distinctly sensationalist feature in the Mail on Sunday last week.
To be honest I wasn't going to read the book because it feels far too close to home. I know a little about Julia's daughter Immie and there is absolutely no doubt that she is in a very loving and caring foster environment where she is thriving. Julia and her partner were also lucky that such a suitable carer was available in their own county so they could keep close contact with Immie. That wouldn't necessarily be the case everywhere.
But deep down I do have some slight misgivings. Giving away a disabled child so young could send the wrong message to her siblings. No one has a right to a 'perfect' child, it is a risk that is taken with every pregnancy. Even children who seem healthy can later become disabled by accident or illness. If that should happen to one of Immie's siblings, or if they should go off the rails in adolescence, what would the parents do?
I didn't expect to be a carer to both my children as teenagers. But if son 1 had already seen us put son 2 into care, would he have worried that we would do the same to him when he had his breakdown? Fighting for both of them has worn me down, has affected my own mental and physical health. But I wouldn't have done otherwise. Son 2 has made progress beyond all expectations and we have so far managed to keep son 1 out of psychiatric hospital. For me that is reward enough and yes, I too have had to have counselling because I felt that I was not a 'good enough' mother.
As I said, I wasn't going to read the book. But having now read a much more balanced feature in The Guardian and knowing the background that I do, I've changed my mind. Unlike many of the commenters on the web, I will not judge Julia Hollander's actions until I have read her whole story.
Three notable things:
1. A tutorial in London yesterday gave me a chance to browse in the Gower Street Waterstones, where I purchased this book.
2. I finally managed to get a piece of work together to submit to the bloggers' War Child anthology. In the end I edited a piece from some life writing I did on my OU writing course two years ago. I was surprised at how much rewriting I needed to do, a sign I think of the improvement in my writing.
3. I caught up with an old friend for coffee on Friday.