Dreams Change by Deanna Smith
I’m not sure why I keep reading every memoir about having a child with Down syndrome that I come across. I’ve read many, and only a very few stand out as anything that had a lasting, positive impact on me, or one that I would recommend. At this stage in my own journey in raising a child with Down syndrome, I guess I’m not so much looking for stories that comfort me and make me feel less alone; I’m farther down the path than that, and so I think I tend to look at these memoirs with a much more objective, critical eye than I might have earlier on.
This book is only available in digital format through Amazon’s Kindle. However, at $1.99, you can’t beat the price. It’s only 60 pages long, and so a very quick read. It’s also another self-published book, and in all honesty, I have yet to read a self-published book that wasn’t hugely lacking in substance, writing quality, and/or editing. This one is no exception; it feels very quickly thrown together, as if the author (who admittedly never had any interest in writing until she started blogging about her experience having a baby with Ds less than two years ago) impulsively decided to publish a book because self-publishing opens that door to every Tom, Dick and Harry out there.
Who am I, though, but yet another aspiring writer with dreams of having my story about having a child with Down syndrome published?
In 60 pages (consisting mostly of posts from her blog), Ms. Smith manages a lot of repetition and swinging wildly back and forth between despair over her daughter’s diagnosis and complete acceptance, and back again, and forth again. So it goes with many of us, perhaps, but I guess I didn’t get anything unique or special out of her very condensed story. I think she was extremely brave to be so candid about feelings and thoughts she has experienced along the way – things a lot of people might never admit to – but she’s not an especially talented writer, and so I didn’t find her story especially compelling. Her “voice” is very much that of a very young woman trying to write like a grownup.
And she is young: she was 25 when her daughter, Addison, was born not quite two years ago (something that confused me was the final “entry” of her book being dated February 6, 2012, when obviously the book was published before February 2012 has even rolled around). Diagnosed with Down syndrome prenatally, Ms. Smith falls into complete despair, even wishing her baby would just die. Her Christian upbringing prevents her from aborting (and she says in the book that had it not been for her strict Christian upbringing, surely she would have aborted. I’m not sure how to take this; does she assume that non-Christians are aborters?), and her daughter is born with a host of serious health problems, spending five weeks in the NICU, nine months on supplemental oxygen, an undefined time with a G-tube, and undergoing multiple heart surgeries, to name a few. It’s understandable that her emotions would run the gamut during all of this, but I’m not sure what’s particularly inspiring about it. I don’t think this is a book I’d give to a new parent facing a diagnosis of Down syndrome. Also, this is yet another memoir with a strong Christian slant to it . . . sigh. It just doesn’t resonate with me. We need a memoir about having a child with Ds that is completely devoid of the whole God slant!
Kudos to Ms. Smith for putting a story out there that’s not polished and shiny, but rather, candid and honest, and kudos to her for wanting to be a “serious writer.” I think she has some work to do, though.