I'm honored to introduce you to Gillian Marchenko and her new memoir, Sun Shine Down.
Sun Shine Down is a gripping memoir of parenthood. Marchenko's clean prose and raw confessions drew me into the book; I lost myself in the story and, when I was done, I reflected deeply on how parenthood has changed me. Whether or not you are the parent of a child with special needs or have become a parent by adoption (both topics are explored in this book), Sun Shine Down will grab your heart from the first pages. I highly recommend it to you!
An excerpt from Sun Shine Down:
Sergei showed up at the hospital around eight o’clock that morning, about an hour and a half after I had woken up from the surgery. Unshaven, wearing the same clothes from the previous day, he bent and kissed me like I had seen him kiss his mother countless times. Just a slight brush of the lips. Taking a closer look at his face, I noticed his eyes were puffy. What is going on? Had he been crying?
“How are you feeling?” he asked, standing over me, concerned.
“I’m sore. I still can’t feel my legs from the epidural.” I peered down at the sheets covering my motionless legs. “Sergei, where’s our baby?”
“She’s on another floor in an incubator,” he said. “She was in a bad shape when they took her from you.” Though a native Russian speaker, my husband's English is excellent. If he makes a mistake, he is either tired or nervous.
“She was all shriveled up, and she wasn’t breathing when she came out. The doctor resuscitated her. She has some kind of blood infection too.”
I tried to focus on his words, but the black circles underneath Sergei’s eyes kept distracting me.
He and his mom both get dark circles under their eyes when they are tired. It happens often. I am used to seeing my husband with raccoon eyes. He’s busy. His time is spent caring for people. I had never seen the skin under his eyes so black.
I glanced away. A light rain splattered drop after indifferent drop on the window by my bed. I was quite taken with the tiny, perfect bodies of water. They’d freefall and then break open and slide down the pane. I tried to comprehend what Sergei had just said: not breathing when born, blood infection, all shriveled up. He can’t be talking about our baby. The day we conceived this child the sun beat down on us. The night when we came together was beautiful and clear. How could her first day out of my womb be this dark and wet?
There were people outside of the hospital getting out of the shower, having coffee, leaving their apartments for work.
“The doctor said she wouldn’t have made it 'til morning. At this point they’re still not sure if she will make it today.” Sergei looked past me. “I have something else to tell you.”
My body tensed.
“They suspect the baby may have Down syndrome. They sent her blood work off for testing this morning. The head pediatrician is coming to talk to us at nine o’clock.”
After Sergei spoke those words, I stared past him. I felt nothing. Even now, years later, when I recall that moment; the very first time the words Down syndrome were uttered, the memory is barren.
Hooked yet? (I was. I could barely put the book down.) Order Sun Shine Down from your favorite independent bookseller or from Amazon.
Gillian Marchenko is an author and national speaker who lives in Chicago with her husband Sergei and their four daughters. Sun Shine Down was published with T. S. Poetry Press in the fall of 2013. She writes and speaks about parenting kids with Down syndrome, faith, depression, imperfection, and adoption. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Chicago Parent, Thriving Family, Literary Mama, Today's Christian Woman, and MomSense Magazine.
Gillian says the world is full of people who seem to have it all together. She speaks for the rest of us.
Follow Gillian and her family at gillianmarchenko.com.
by Jennifer Grant
I'm a writer (two works of nonfiction are out; two more will be published in 2014.)