Barker’s debut memoir recounts a five-year maelstrom of tragic events that she and her husband endured in their attempts to start a family.
In 1986, after an uncomplicated pregnancy, Barker and her husband were stunned to learn that their newborn had a serious heart condition requiring immediate surgery. Not only that—their tiny daughter, Lauren, also had Down syndrome. Both issues came as a complete shock to the couple, as neither had a family history of genetic problems. Yet this was only the beginning of what Barker aptly describes as a “vicious cycle of misfortune.” Lauren was admitted to a subpar hospital, Barker says, because of their restrictive HMO, and she tells of frequently enduring callous, even negligent care from staff members. There were angels along the way, however—people who provided understanding and key assistance at just the right times. Despite this, the family’s apparent bad luck continued. After surgery for an ectopic pregnancy, Barker discovered that she had contracted hepatitis B, most likely during the procedure, she says. Later, she delivered a healthy baby boy, but the joyous occasion was clouded by Lauren’s upcoming heart operation, which was complicated by infection (also likely the hospital’s fault, the author says) that led to the child’s tragic death. Fate was not yet finished, however: after Barker learned that she was again expecting, a cancerous lump was discovered in her breast. The first doctor instructed her to terminate the pregnancy; appalled, she pursued a second opinion and eventually delivered another strong baby boy. The experiences in this book seem almost too harrowing to be true, yet Barker’s intelligent, clear prose will keep readers grounded. The author writes of events that took place over several decades, which seems to have provided her with the necessary perspective to make sense of a tumultuous time. Readers who might scoff at the author’s consultation of an astrologer will likely change their tunes after she tells of how the traditional medical community repeatedly failed her. When she poignantly declares that “Never again will we take any medical professional’s advice unquestioningly,” it’s food for thought for every reader.
A heartbreaking, inspirational story of perseverance through unbearable circumstances.