BLOOM by Kelle Hampton

Bloom, by Kelle Hampton, is a memoir about the first year of the author’s daughter’s life. When Nella was born, Hampton and her husband were devastated to learn that their second daughter had Down Syndrome. They hadn’t tested her in utero, so the news came as a shock to them. In Bloom, Hampton, author of the blog Enjoying the Small Things, chronicles that first year of coming to terms with the fact that her expectations for Nella and Nella’s reality would be two very different things.

I am 36 weeks pregnant today, so this book naturally resonated with me. I found it moving – sad at times, but ultimately hopeful and affirming as Hampton learns to find the  joy in her daughter’s life. It must be incredibly difficult to imagine your child inside you being one way, and then having her turn out to be as beautiful and special as you’d hoped, but still different from what you’d imagined.

Some readers may find Bloom a little over-the top. Hampton spends a lot of time talking about her friends, and all that her friends did for her in the days and months after Nella’s delivery, from parties and sleepovers to long, indulgent crying sessions. She certainly has a remarkable support network that clearly helped her through those times. But the end result is that the book is pretty self-centered, focusing almost entirely on Hampton’s own sadness and how she coped. I’d have liked to have learned more about how her husband and older daughter fared during those 12 months, and less about the girlfriends who came to her rescue. I’d also have liked to have learned more about Nella and what it’s really like to have Down Syndrome – as an infant, at least. I am assuming that the book is an adaptation from her blog, which explains its self-centered nature. After all, that’s what blogging is. I write two blogs myself – I get it.

At one point, Hampton even acknowledges her selfishness. She says, “We’re all in some way selfish beings, and the good of the world depends on that fact – that someone, somewhere will wonder what it might feel like to be in someone else’s shoes, to feel their pain and, in doing so, attempt to do something about it. Our selfishness is ultimately what transforms us to be altruistic. And so, in the end, I accepted that that my need to change how the world perceives my child is what fueled me to take the next step – to want to change the outcome of how the world perceives every child.”

I’ve actually found Hampton’s more recent blog posts more rewarding than Bloom, probably because Hampton is now fully accepting of the diagnosis, and Nella is older and doing more things. Hampton’s photography is beautiful, which shines through in both Bloom and her blog. And, I have to say, Hampton makes living in Florida sound really amazing.

I am not sure that I’d have picked up Bloom if I weren’t pregnant or perhaps a new mom, but it was definitely a compelling read that I enjoyed over the last week of sleepless, third-trimester nights. I recommend it with the caveats noted above.

Thank you to William Morrow for the review copy.