Professor Liz Whiteacre and Dr. Lyn Jones invite you to the release party for the book they have co-edited, Monday Coffee and Other Stories of Mothering Children with Special Needs. In the post below, Prof. Whiteacre discusses the details of the book and its significance for all mothers. Join the release event Saturday November 9th in the Ruth Lilly Library at the Indianapolis Arts Center from 4:00pm – 6:00pm.
By Liz Whiteacre
I have yet to meet a pregnant woman who’s said she wishes her baby is born with a medical condition that will bring her child pain, loss of faculties, early death. In the new anthology, Monday Coffee and Other Stories of Mothering Children with Special Needs, Ann Bremer writes, “special parents aren’t chosen, they’re made.”
This collection, which I’ve had the privilege of editing with Ball State University professor Lyn Jones, is testament to Bremer’s insight. Essays, poems, and art chronicle mothers’ experiences raising their children with special needs, and readers are taken “behind the scenes” of these complex lives—punches are not pulled, hard truths are not ignored, and smiles are not plastered on these families’ faces.
The book is divided into three sections, grouping the mothers’ stories into themes: challenges, purpose & providence, and joy. These themes stem from Lyn Jones’ doctoral research, a response to the years spent working in a writing group of mothers whose children have disabilities. Lyn noticed that these mothers returned, piece after piece, to stories that explored the challenges they face mothering their children, or their understanding of why there were “chosen” to parent their children, or the joys they experience because of their children. When I read her dissertation, I was hooked. We both knew that these stories of mothering were extraordinary and must be shared. In the fall of 2012, we put out a call to invite mothers to share their stories with us.
The submissions we received were outstanding. What I noticed first was that they were about mothering. They gave voice to the thoughts that bounced around my head at four in the morning when I pumped breast milk or when I stared at my feverish three-month-old baby in the hospital as the nurse decided the best place to take a blood sample was a vein in her head. What I realized second was that these mothers couldn’t follow along the chapters of the Academy of American Pediatrics’ Caring for Your Baby and Young Child, which was gifted to me at my shower. They were handed stacks of books (or in some cases, few to none) designed not only to help them navigate mothering their precious babies, but also to help them quickly learn a new language imperative to caring successfully for them. Each was indoctrinated quickly into a high-pressure world of medical-ese, sometimes iffy diagnoses, and scary (often endless) medical procedures—a hazing that did not end when they and their children were released from the delivery room and NICU. Some mothers who submitted had been negotiating this system for over thirty years. As I read, I learned this was high-stakes mothering, day after day, on which the lives of their children depended. And in the midst of my education about these mothers’ worlds, I discovered moments to which any parent may relate: the joy they felt snuggling their babies or at their children’s first steps, first words; the pride they felt tackling a challenge; the heartache they felt if they failed to overcome a challenge; or the sorrow of losing their children too soon.
At first glance, we might make the mistake of thinking this book is just for other mothers who have children with special needs. But I invite you to consider the people you know who may be parenting someone who has special needs or living with a disability themselves. To consider how you might respond if you, your sister or brother, your cousin, your friend, your co-worker…is faced with a diagnosis that a beautiful, well-loved child will face challenges for which no one is prepared. Challenges that aren’t “fair.” Special parents (and grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, caregivers) are made. As she says time and again as she chronicles her daughter’s struggle with the public school system, Claudia Malcrida’s mantra, promise, lament “whatever it takes” haunts me. It speaks to my own fierceness to protect the people I love. This anthology gives us a glimpse into these worlds, which seem impossible to navigate at times. It shares the darkest moments that make us feel like terrible people and shows us how to transform them into learning moments that make us stronger. It shares moments of laughter and silliness that bring joy in the midst of adversity and prove to us our struggles are worth it. It challenges us to look at mothering and caregiving in new ways.
I hope you’ll join Lyn, me, and other contributors at this unique collection’s release party on November 9 from 4:00-6:00 pm at the Ruth Lilly Library at the Indianapolis Arts Center, located at 820 E. 67th Street. Light refreshments will be served, and the book will be available for cash purchase.
Can’t join us in Indy? Join us online at https://www.facebook.com/mondaycoffeemoms and post a message to contributors on Facebook on November 9 (the page will be live during the party).
Want to learn more? Visit http://motheringkidswithspecialneeds.wordpress.com/, which houses information about the anthology and a blog to which mothers are submitting new pieces.
As Lyn invites in her essay, “Gather, please.”
Monday Coffee and Other Stories of Mothering Children with Special Needs
Edited by Darolyn “Lyn” Jones and Liz Whiteacre
© 2013 INwords Publications, publishing division of Indiana Writers Center. All Rights Reserved.
c/o Indiana Writers Center
PO Box 30407
Indianapolis, IN 46230