Sometimes you find a book that fits everything you've ever thought a book should be. No one told me about "The Memory Keeper's Daughter," by Kim Edwards. But I knew I was about to undertake a grueling several days and I wanted a good book to escape to. So I walked into Borders, and strolled right to the book in question and bought it. My days would be taken up with an Advanced Cardiac Life Support course coupled with oral and written tests, plus having to know things I already knew but needed to feel more confident about knowing, such as the recogniton of cardiac rhythms, knowledge of cardiac drugs in the event of sudden cardiac arrest, stroke or collapse. The book immediately reveals the story line, most all of the characters, and pulls you in by the end of the very first chapter with poetically beautiful narrative.
Throughout the book, the author brings all five senses and mixes them with nature images and mind dreams to illustrate points, develop the character and story line. The book begins with a young married couple deeply in love and nine months pregnant, going into labor in the middle of an unexpected and rare snowstorm in Kentucky. The husband is an Orthopedic doctor. When his wife goes into labor, they arrange to meet the Obstetrician at the husband's Orthopedic clinic. The Ob doctor crashes in the snow storm and the husband must deliver the baby.
His nurse is also present to assist in this momentous occasion. The first chapter ends dramatically when the mother delivers not one but two babies. One is a healthy baby boy, the other is a girl with Down's, or Trisomy 21.
The year is 1964. This is a moment that changes the course of everyone's lives; the doctor, his wife and nurse for the doctor decides the baby girl must go and live in an institution and he gives the baby to his nurse to take the baby there. He tells his wife that the baby is dead. The nurse cannot follow through with leaving the baby at the institution, so she leaves town with the baby and raises her.
All this in a few short pages. Much has changed since 1964. Now we perform a marker test for Downs between 16 and 19 weeks.
If the baby does have the marker, an amniocentesis is offered. If this is definitive for Downs, the parents have the choice to terminate the pregnancy. Markers in early pregnancy have also been developed but most health insurance carriers will not pay for this expensive test.
If parents decide to keep the baby, they have time to prepare mentally, spiritually and psychologically for what is sure to be a challenge. This book is about a secret that hangs like a thunder cloud, following these pivotal characters throughout the book. Mom knows subliminally but does not know consciously.
Her husband becomes distant and unreachable from the time he tells his wife this lie throughout their entire marriage. Demons, shadows, nightmares. I spoke to a former head of Pediatrics who is now retired. He said years ago, when a Downs baby was born, the Pediatrician routinely counseled the family to give the child immediately over to an institution. Usually the husband made this decision often over the wishes of the mother. My friend said this caused huge conflict in families, and many of these couples eventually divorced, at a time when divorce was not popular.
Conflict, angst, total sadness and great loss. So our character in The Memory Keeper's Daughter acted as others acted at the time and made a decision that was commonly made. At this point, we could discuss such ethical issues as eugenics, abortion, and infanticide, but these are beyond the scope of this article. As a Labor and Delivery nurse, I also serve on what is called the Bereavement Committee, serving those parents whose babies have died. We have more than our share of pregnancy losses, premature babies who teeter on the edge between life and death, and yes, several Down's babies are born every year, as well. The main concern is whether a family has the resources to care for these beautiful and loving children.
Do they have the family support, dedication and committment? Waldorf educational methods are tailor made to help special needs children. Walforf education was developed by Rudolf Steiner in Europe in the 1920's. There are currently more than 500 Waldorf schools worldwide, and Waldorf has been in North America for 75 years. Waldorf is based on the view that the human being is a being of body, soul and spirit. The Waldorf approach to education attempts to bring together all elements of a child's development: intellectual, artistic, and spiritual. Its goal is to produce individuals who are able to function independently and create the meaning for their own lives themselves, and not have to rely on others to do this for them.
Waldorf educational methods are diametrically opposed to those that forms the basis for most public school systems. Waldorf education is intended to preserve the integrity of the individual student; not to turn them into conformists. Waldorf educational methods are effective for all students but are particularly helpful in the case of special needs children. Special needs children will have strengths in areas not developed in the standard public educational systems. Waldorf methods will address these strengths, and child will experience significant increases in self-esteem as a result of their success. Special needs children often have very limited experience in being successful in a school environment and respond rapidly and positively when they are given a chance to demonstrate their competence.
But the most profound benefit of using Waldorf educational methods to help special needs children is that they encourage the children to develop as independent, self-reliant individuals, able to function and meet life on their own terms, rather than passively looking to others for guidance. This paves the way for a lifetime of successful self determination for the special needs child taught by Waldorf educational methods. On the East Coast, Beaver Run and Spring Valley Waldorf Communities serve Special Needs People from youth to old age and death. What a wonderful alternative to an "Institution." This is an enlightened alternative to an otherwise bleak life of dependence. The Memory Keeper's Daughter was alive and wonderful.
Read it if you haven't already. And In-Joy!!.
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=--=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- Kate Loving Shenk is a writer, healer, musician and the creator of the e-book called "Transform Your Nursing Career and Discover Your Calling and Destiny." Click here to find out how to order the e-book: http://www.nursingcareertransformation.com Check Out Kate's Blog: http://www.nursehealers.typepad.com -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-