What if you dreamed of having a beautiful child and in your mind you saw the life you'd share with that child. First steps, little league (or ballet). Maybe the child would play piano or make you proud on the Honor Roll. There'd be eventual graduations, college, even marriage and grandchildren. You might dream it out that far. Or not. Every parent has hopes. No parents wish for pain—their own, or a child's.
Then you had a premature delivery in a foreign country. And the words swirling around you said a different kind of "what if." What if something was wrong? The dream was at risk—or so it seemed. Would you be ready for that? Could you make peace? Or would it take you down?
These are the questions author Gillian Marchenko faced as she woke up after an emergency C-section in Ukraine. Only her newborn child could answer them, in time. But first she had to find a way to hear more than the words "Down syndrome."
Stephanie on Goodreads wrote:
Gillian Marchenko's Sun Shine Down is the lyrical and heartfelt story of a mother's hard journey away from shock and denial at her newborn's Down's syndrome diagnosis toward acceptance and love. Marchenka's struggles after her daughter's birth are exacerbated by the brutally cold reception her child receives from doctors and nurses at the Ukraine hospital where Polly is born.
"That's what you get for assuming you could have three normal children," scolds a nurse. A visitor prays for the baby to be healed from her Down's syndrome. The doctor orders Marchenko to stop crying after her cold and abrupt announcement of Polly's diagnosis. While passages of Sun Shine Down resemble poetry in their attention to feeling and telling detail, the raw emotion of Marchenko's resistance to her new role prevents any glossing over of the very real challenges of special needs parents. Highly recommended for any parent or lover of good writing.
As a mother of a young son with Down syndrome, I have read my fair share of memoirs from other parents of children with Down syndrome. This one was so real, so raw, and so filled with emotion that I felt I was there with the author, reliving her experiences.
The most interesting parts of Gillian's story are the ones that most people would prefer not to hear about--birthing a child in a foreign country that virtually shuns all people with disabilities, making a tough decision to leave a life you have been enjoying for several years, and turning to the drink in order to shut off feelings and depression. I found her candor refreshing; her honesty about knowing that secretly drinking in the basement and sleeping all day was not a great choice but the only one she felt she could make at the time was something that most mothers would not speak privately about, let alone write it for all to read.
This memoir is a must read for anyone facing a Down syndrome diagnosis, but also for those of us who have been on this journey for some time