by Cathy Shields
My heart alternately broke and blossomed while reading Cathy’s Shields’ book, THE SHAPE OF NORMAL: MOTHERHOOD, DISABILITY AND EMBRACING A DIFFERENT KIND OF PERFECT, about coming to terms with her daughter’s neurological disability.
The up-and-down nature of hope and despair — of wanting normal instead of different — strongly resonated with me. My aunt had Down syndrome, two of my husband’s relatives had significant developmental disabilities and members of my immediate and extended family have other neurodiverse conditions including autism and mental illness.
I recognized everything Cathy describes in her book. The stress on the entire family from trying to cope with a child who needs a lot more time, attention and services. The grief of wishing the child could have a “normal” life that includes a job, romance and independent living. And worst of all, the “I’m a bad mother” syndrome because everything didn’t turn out as planned, so it must be Mom’s fault. While the last is often self-imposed criticism, the feeling is made worse by society’s snippy response when children don’t behave in public as they should.
Despite the emotional roller coaster Cathy and her husband and three daughters had to take, however, her steadfastness in doing right by all of them held strong. What I loved most was the internal shift Cathy experienced that allowed her to not just accept her daughter’s uniqueness, but delight in her light.
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THE FALCON, THE WOLF AND THE HUMMINGBIRD a historical novel
BLISS ROAD, a memoir
WINTER LIGHT, a novel
THE WIND THIEF, a novel
GROWING GREAT CHARACTERS, a resource for writers