Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected by Kelle Hampton

Bloom is a beautiful memoir about one mother’s journey after she gives birth unexpectedly to a beautiful baby girl that has Down Syndrome. Kelle Hampton tells her journey from the pain and struggle to coming to terms with her daughter’s prognosis, to acceptance and rejoicing in her daughter.

I need to start with just how beautiful this physical book is. Hampton is also a photographer and this book is an oversized paperback with glossy paper pages filled with beautiful pictures of Kelle, her daughters, family and friends. My two-year old daughter loved this book as well. Whenever I was reading it, she had to sit on my lab and turn the pages looking at the “mommy” and “baby.” The photography alone makes this book worthwhile.

I admire the way that Kelle Hampton puts it all out there in this book and is brutally honest. She is honest that she might be more concerned about what people think than she ought to be. She was brutally honest on after the birth of her second daughter, Nella Cordelia, that she immediately knew that something was wrong. When she found out Nella had Down Syndrome, she was brutally honest in her feelings of disappointment and feeling that she had “wasted” a perfect name on an imperfect baby. This sounds harsh and was harsh at times to read. This overall made me value that Hampton did not shrink from putting things out there that she knew would not put her in the best of lights. The value in this story to me is that she was honest about her feelings and also honest on her journey to acceptance and to really valuing Nella as herself.

One of the most poignant passages to me was when a mother stopped by to visit Hampton in the hospital to see the beautiful clothing Hampton’s mother had knitted for the baby, or so she said at first. But then the mother admitted that she herself had just given birth to a Down Syndrome baby that didn’t make it because of a heart defect. This made Hampton realize just how lucky she was that Nella had survived, and it really brought a tear to my eye. Hampton writes a moving blog post about Nella’s birth and soon becomes an advocate for Down Syndrome children and families. I loved that she explored Down Syndrome not through printed materials, but by meeting other mothers and children, and by attending functions with adults with Down Syndrome. She really learned how to value everyone and to value that life that Nella will lead.

The one aspect of this book that I didn’t like is that it did focus a lot on the birth and not so much on Nella’s life afterwards. I would have loved more on the growing pains of Nella through the first year (when this book ends). Also at times, Hampton’s need for perfection was a bit off putting at the start of the novel. Seeing the how she had to have each thing perfect, from the welcome home sign, to the champagne glasses, seemed excessive. Her room during and after birth was a constant girlfriend party complete with beer cooler. But it is different strokes for different folks, and I am just more of a privacy and quiet minded person during birth. The one purpose this did serve though was to show how it was a struggle for Hampton that she was really used to trying to have the perfect everything, and to unexpectedly not find perfection was hard for her to work through.

Overall, this was a good memoir and I would love to read more about the Hamptons as Nella grows older. Some of my favorite quotes from this book are as follows:

“They made life big for us, and we learned early on, that pouring yourself into activities to make life special for your kids is worth all of the sweat and tears and helps chisel grooves into their personalities that will later find beauty in living big too.” Kelle Hampton about her parents. I found this quote to be inspiring and true. I find myself doing special things with my kids (family bike rides, movie nights with popcorn, special holiday celebrations) that my parents did with me. You realize when you are older how much work it is to make things special and you appreciate it, and hope that your kids appreciate it too.

“I don’t think it ever stops being surreal when you become a mother. It’s just this constant state of I can’t believe I had a baby, I can’t believe I have a two-year old, I can’t believe I have a kindergartener, I can’t believe I have a teenager, and then one day you wake up, hopefully not sooner than later, and ask yourself, When the hell did I become a grandma?” This is how I feel, but I’m not to the teenager state yet!

“It’s incredibly disappointing when our reality contradicts our ideals, but the challenge and beauty of growing older is realizing that when our ideals embrace what’s really important in life, our ideals and reality can dwell harmoniously more often than not.” One of the major points of this memoir.

“I asked myself difficult questions. Do you care too much what people think? Are you hung up on perfection? How painful will this be? How did this happen? Is this a coincidence or did God do this on purpose?” I thought Hampton’s struggle here really opened up some underlying issues that she had that she worked through.

“I’m not crying because I don’t love her, I’m crying because I do love her, and I don’t ever want anyone to make fun of her.” Brandyn, Hampton’s Stepson, on meeting his new baby sister. This made me want to cry, and really brought out to me how society does make fun of people that are different and make their road so much more difficult.

Book Source: Review copy from William Morrow – An Imprint of HarperCollins Publisher. Thank-you!


  1. I thought this book was gorgeous too and really appreciated Hampton's honesty. I'd love to know how Nella's doing now.

  2. Every review I read of this book mentions how honest the author was, which is a good thing if she is now a strong advocate for Down Syndrome children and families. I think all the details of perfect birth prep would have been too much for me too.

  3. Laura, I also read and loved this honest and beautiful memoir. I like the quotes you chose from the book, and your review is excellent overall.

  4. Sounds like a heart-warming memoir. Great review!

  5. I agree - I'd love to know how Nella's doing now and also how Hampton is doing on her journey. I hope she writes another memoir!