"There is no such thing as reproduction. When two people decide to have a baby, they engage in an act of production." So begins Andrew Solomon's Far From The Tree
, a large (literally, it's 700 pages without the endnotes) and largely captivating book that deals with the flip side of the age-old adage to which its title refers, asking: What if the apple does
fall far from the tree? After all, for all the planning and dreaming and designing we do as prospective parents, there's really not a whole lot we can control about the people we give birth to. No amount of speculation or projection prepares us for the undeniable fact that, no matter who we are, "parenthood abruptly catapults us into a permanent relationship with a stranger."
So what happens if we don't get the child we expected, or the one we think we deserve? What if we have a different, an "exceptional"...
Beyond the Book
One of the stories Solomon tells in Far From The Tree
is about Ashley X (the last name is to protect identity), a disabled girl whose story generated a lot of controversy about disability and its treatment.
Ashley X, born in 1997, was diagnosed in infancy with static encephalopathy, a brain disorder that is similar to cerebral palsy. Ashley was labeled "Permanently Unabled," which means that she would remain at infant level, mentally and physically, for the duration of her life. Ashley cannot walk, talk, feed herself, raise her head, or turn over. She can sleep, she can wake, she can breathe, and she can smile. Ashley's parents call her their "Pillow Angel," and dedicate the majority of their days to caring for her in every way - tube-feeding, changing, bathing,...