Grieving The Gift: Experience The Journey Through Eyes of A Parent by Dr. Jamie McClintic is an extraordinary book on many levels. It defies any attempt to pigeonhole it.On one level, it's an expertly told tale of the struggles the author faced when she gave birth to her daughter Maddox who has Down Syndrome. The book also chronicles the emotional rollercoaster that followed the birth. But even that attempt to summarize is feeble. It neglects to salute a remarkable personal narrative produced by McClintic and a book filled with pages of helpful clinical information and advice that other parents dealing with impacts of having a disabled child might face.
A little reviewer self-disclosure is required. McClintic's father, journalist Greg Awtry, is a good friend, though I have never met Dr. Jamie McClintic in person. Nor have I met her daughter Maddox, whose birth and first decade of life fill this book. That said, after reading Grieving The Gift closely, I feel like I'm part of the family.
Grieving The Gift is not easy reading. The author is painfully honest and frank about her thoughts, reactions and struggles from the moment of Maddox's birth through the astounding challenges of her early years. Today Maddox is the love of her mother's life. It wasn't so at first at all. And therein lies the title.
It's might be as emotionally charged a book as I have ever read. And the writing? Compelling from start to finish. I'm not usually a weeper when reading. But this book in places had me groping for the tissues. I would rate it a two-Kleenex box book.
Take chapter 6, titled Fake It Until You Make It: Three to Six Months.
McClintic writes about her realization that the denial and anger she experienced immediately after Maddox's birth - and depression over what having a Down Syndrome child could mean - denied her the understanding that her first child was, in truth, a gift.
"I never recognized the gift of acceptance until Maddox turned five years old. I was late," McClintic writes. "This revelation made me sad. That was part of my personal motivation for writing this book. I don't want any of you to miss as many years as I did. While wallowing in my depression, I ended up missing some really amazing moments in Maddox's life."
The details of those moments, many of which are chronicled across the 11 chapters, are best left to readers to absorb themselves from reading Grieving.
Besides being a well-written, compelling tale. the book's photos, layout and design are engaging and dramatic. The design makes it like looking at a family photo album, one with margin notes written by a narrator who doesn't pull any punches, but who still manages to demonstrate vulnerability, strength, compassion as well as the ability to learn and adapt.
Grieving The Gift does not have to be read straight through in marathon sittings. But McClintic's writing makes it difficult to put the book down.
One very important final note: You must read the Epilog carefully and in its entirety. Really. Every word. OH! And for sure, please keep that tissue box nearby in those final pages.
(Review By Michael J. Fitzgerald)