Journalist Ryan (Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters, 1995, etc.) recounts the unexpected positive consequences of her son’s traumatic brain injury.
Until her adopted son was 16, parenthood had never flowed naturally for the author, and she viewed herself as an incompetent mother to a child with significant developmental challenges. First diagnosed as a toddler, her son had an underdeveloped central nervous system that caused him to meet the demands of daily life with irrationality and inflexibility. A kindhearted and complex child, he couldn’t tell time or recount a story in chronological order by middle school, but he had insights into God by the age of four. Ever the journalist, Ryan approached him as she would an assignment, with notes and research instead of acceptance and understanding. But when a skateboard accident caused a near-fatal skull fracture with bleeding and swelling in his brain, Ryan was forced to meet acceptance head-on. When her son awoke from his coma, Ryan experienced the emotions of a mother at the birth of her child as she couldn’t before, giving herself over for the first time, wholly and completely, to her son. During the nearly 100 days of his hospitalized recovery process, Ryan chronicles the literal rebirth of her son, as he relearned to speak (his first word was “Mom”), to stand and to walk. Reborn herself, Ryan became a new mother, watching her child reveal himself to her, consumed by the palpable love of a parent and becoming the nurturing mother her son had always needed. While exposing the exhaustive and unpredictable nature of brain injuries, Ryan illustrates the ways in which catastrophic events produce acceptance, revealing gifts amid destruction and the healing energy of thought and prayer.
Ryan tells this touching story of survival, love and absolution as only a mother could, while sparing none of the journalistic details of a child in trauma and a family in grief.