[Originally posted on September 5, 2013 here]
Sun Shine Down: A Memoir
by Gillian Marchenko
“I know of other mothers who have children with disabilities, and right away they loved them and decided to fight for them. that isn’t my story.”
In this slim little gem of a memoir, Gillian Marchenko recounts the birth of her third daughter by emergency c-section in Ukraine – far away from her family in her native Michigan. Soon after her daughter’s traumatic birth, Gillian and her husband learn that not only is their new baby very ill, she also has Down syndrome – and this in a country where babies with Down syndrome are still routinely institutionalized from birth.
After leaving their missionary work in Ukraine and moving back to the states, Gillian struggles to come to terms with Polly’s diagnosis. Weighed down by depression, she turns to alcohol for escape and solace, all the while trying to keep up appearances as a good mother, and a pastor’s wife.
Stark and beautiful in its honesty, this is a very human story of a mother struggling to cope with a new reality, and ultimately of a baby who lights the way.
I’ve read a lot of Down syndrome memoirs, and this jewel rises to the top as one of the better ones.