Life As We Know It (Magill Book Reviews)
Michael Berube and his wife, Janet Lyon, both English professors, had no reason to fear that their second child would be born with major defects. Sonograms detected no problem. The parents declined the procedure of amniocentesis, which would have revealed the condition of the fetus, because the chance that this invasive procedure could result in a miscarriage is about equal to the chance that one will produce a Down’s syndrome baby.
When Jamie entered the world in September, 1991, he was barely alive. Choked by his umbilical cord, he had a purple hue. His heart was defective, he had no sucking reflex, and his neck bent to the left at a twenty-degree angle. His survival was questionable.
Jamie did survive, however, in a world that often does not treat people with his condition very well. “Mongoloid idiocy,” the old name for Down’s syndrome, carried with it pejorative overtones that helped to justify the institutionalization and inadequate care that such babies frequently received. Jamie’s parents would not be parties to such mistreatment.
Rather, they kept Jamie at home with their older son, Nick, nurturing the newborn to the point that he became a real person, a child full of mischief, enchanted with life. Jamie will never have the mental capacity of his superintelligent brother, but he is being brought up in ways that encourage the development of his natural capacities to their fullest.
LIFE AS WE KNOW IT is...
(The entire section is 353 words.)
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Life As We Know It (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Virtually every page of Life as We Know It: A Father, a Family, and an Exceptional Child resonates with love as a brilliant, sensitive, well-educated father of a Down syndrome child writes a book for the express purpose of representing the interests of a child who cannot, and perhaps never will be able to, represent himself adequately. The ethical base from which Michael Bérubé, a celebrated figure in critical theory and a political activist in much of his writing, works will be immediately apparent to anyone who reads this admirable account of coping with heartbreak and conquering it through love.
A great deal of the book is a personal memoir about the aftermath of James Lyon Bérubé’s birth in September, 1991. The delivery was difficult. The newborn, its umbilical cord wrapped around its neck, was purple from oxygen deprivation. A nurse attending the birth remarked that the baby looked “downsy” around the eyes.
Once the umbilical cord was cut and oxygen administered, the baby’s color improved. Jamie came back to life, but he did not cry. Both parents instantly faced the possibility of losing the child, whose heart was defective and who had no sucking reflex, making it impossible for him to nurse. This difficulty was exacerbated by a twenty-degree bend in the baby’s neck.
Michael and Janet’s older son, Nick, at five was a uniquely gifted child who had followed the course of his mother’s pregnancy with...
(The entire section is 1905 words.)