Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Review: Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected

Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected
By Kelle Hampton
Harper Collins 2012
272 pages
Birthday gift to myself

Kelle Hampton thought she was prepared for the birth of her second daughter. At thirty-one years old, she was the mother of one daughter, stepmother to two boys, and thrilled to be expecting again. The nursery was finished, the favors were ready for friends who came to visit, and she had the perfect outfit picked out for the soon-to-be-big-sister Lainey. Kelle delivered her daughter, ready to rejoice over her perfect baby girl. But…

“I knew the moment I saw her that she had Down syndrome and nobody else knew. I held her and cried. Cried and panned the room to meet eyes with anyone who would tell me she didn’t have it. I held her and looked at her like she wasn’t my baby and tried to take it in. And all I can remember of these moments is her face. I will never forget my daughter in my arms, opening her eyes over and over…she locked eyes with mine and stared…bored holes into my soul.
Love me. Love me. I’m not what you expected, but oh, please love me.
That was the most defining moment of my life. That was the beginning of my story.”

In Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected, Kelle shares her experiences as she learns that her baby Nella has Down syndrome and realizes what that will mean for her daughter and for their family. She candidly shares her pain as she waits for the official diagnosis, her sorrow over the loss of the relationship she dreamed of her daughters sharing, and the agony of that first dark night in the hospital room. I think it’s easy for the reader to judge Kelle for the moments when she couldn’t process that Nella was her baby, when she wished to send her back, when she cried out that she wanted to go back in time to a moment before she held this knowledge. Instead, I think it’s incredibly brave of her to share the depths of her pain. We all know that joy and pain often reside in the same moments, and the honesty of her pain also serves to highlight the positive spirit that she comes to call her own.

Kelle is a photographer by trade and this book is complimented throughout by the beautiful photos she has taken of her family. It’s somewhere between a memoir and a coffee table picture book. The pictures combined with Kelle’s easy writing style make you feel as if you are sitting in the living room of an old friend, paging through her photo albums, as she candidly tells you the most important stories of her life.

I think this book speaks to all of us. While many of us do not have a loved one with Down syndrome, all of us can relate to a defining moment when the thing we were expecting was not what we received. This is decidedly a book to read with a box of tissues nearby. It will make you cry, make you thankful for the ones you love, and show you a very unique brand of courage. Kelle and her family inspire us all to grieve, to rearrange, and to move forward in this one beautiful life we have been given. 


  1. I can't imagine the feelings she must have had after giving birth. My sister is pregnant with her first child at the moment and as a family member, you just assume everything will be healthy and normal.

    1. I loved that she was so honest about her experience. I think that there is still an incredible stigma towards any mother who is not instantly in love with her infant, whether there are complications or not.

      Hooray for being an aunt soon! Do you know if it will be a boy or girl?

  2. I have so many feelings about this book (I read it recently, too). I have followed Kelle's blog for a long time and I love it but I always was a little put off by how easy it seemed for her to overcome her fears and disappointments about Nella's future. I was inspired by her and wanted to achieve the same kind of acceptance over issues in my life that I didn't plan for...but it seemed unrealistic that I could ever get there the way she had. After reading the book, I know it wasn't easy...and I am even more inspired by her story.

    1. As I have been reading her blog for a while as well, I worried that there would be nothing new in this book. But we got so much more of the weeks after Nella's birth than we read about online. We really see her adjustment as a mother in the book.
      I admire her attitude and her willingness to admit that it is a choice, easier on some days than on others.

  3. I remember visiting her blog after her baby was born .. I felt so much for her, but I also saw that, like many of us with a differently-abled child, there's so much extra love to pour.

    1. I think that is one of the greatest things about human relationships - there is always room for more people and more love. :)