Babyface: A Story of Heart and Bones

Jeanne McDermott, Author, Nancy Burson, Photographer Woodbine House $22.95 (261p) ISBN 978-1-890627-15-7
In 1990 science writer McDermott (The Killing Winds: The Menace of Biological Warfare) gave birth to her second child. Although a prenatal amniocentesis had indicated she was carrying another healthy boy (her eldest, Jeremy, was then three), Nathaniel was born with a craniofacial abnormality and webbed fingers and toes (Apert Syndrome). Based on a journal she kept during her baby's first year, this book artfully combines fact and feeling to illuminate how McDermott and her husband, Ted, dealt with the drastically altered circumstances of their lives, and how they struggled to keep Nathaniel and themselves healthy. McDermott describes the crippling anxiety that engulfed her and Ted as Nathaniel underwent four operations in his first year of life--operations intended to make room for his growing brain, to protect his eyes and to improve his impaired respiration. She also explores the effect caring for her son had on her marriage: when the stress of Nathaniel's condition began to take over every aspect of their lives, McDermott and her husband decided they had to carve out time to be alone together. Without that down time, she writes, their relationship might not have survived. She also writes about her agonized response to strangers who stared at or commented on Nathaniel's appearance (""That baby looks like a space alien,"" she overheard one person say). Nathaniel is now a happy third-grader, comfortable with himself and others, but his struggle isn't over; his condition will probably require more operations. Still, McDermott notes, ""the syndrome ceased to be the center of our lives [and] Nathaniel's."" This insightful and expressive account will serve as an important resource for families struggling with Apert Syndrome. Agent, Michele Rubin, Writers House. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
Paperback - 261 pages - 978-0-14-200033-5
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