Book Review: Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson

desperate book review cover for blog

Cover Image provided by Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze program

I began reading Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson while waiting to find out if Our Boy was autistic. I had a lot on my mind and I found that Desperate was written in an easy to follow format.  Each chapter begins with a short letter from Sarah, to her mentor, Sally, whose letter follows.  Both ladies “flesh out” the material in the rest of the chapter.  The chapters end with a few study questions as well as a QR code and web page address that leads to a short video that features the authors.  The study questions and video content make this a great book to read with a friend or a small group because it doesn’t require the purchase of additional videos or study guides in order to use it for this purpose.

Surprisingly, I found this book to be a great encouragement to me in dealing with mild depression.  Sally provides a short checklist to use whenever one feels a case of “the blues” coming on:

1.    Do I need sleep?  I need to do whatever it takes to restore physically.

2.     Have I been reading my Bible?  Even if it is putting an app on my phone with a voice I can listen to while still in bed in the morning or at night, I need to hear from the God who walks through these valleys with me.

3.     Do I feel alone?  I need to call someone who is a spiritually engaging friend, one who loves God, loves me, and whom I can completely trust.  I will meet that person for coffee or lunch to share my heart and to ask for prayer.

4.     Am I watching my health?  Exercise is a stress reducer and helps happy hormones to develop.  I have developed the habit of walking and hiking.

5.     How can I get help?  Is there someone who can help me clean my home?  Do I have a friend I can ask to keep my kids, so I can have a little time away?

6.     What do I need to invest in the joy factor of my life?  Am I creating spaces of beauty for my own soul-candles, music, fresh flowers and other such life-giving things?  Perhaps it’s as simple as going to a movie with my husband or friend, or buying a new scarf. (Loc 1136-1151)

However, one of the two primary concerns that I had in reading this book is that it doesn’t mention knowing when to seek professional help while dealing with depression.  The authors seem to treat it as just a spiritual case of “the blues” instead of a potentially serious, multifaceted (spiritual/medical/mental) issue. In the paragraph following the checklist, Sally writes:

There are so many different personal issues to consider, but I have found that sometimes when we choose to look away from the mountains of anxiety and stress that have endangered our souls, and instead attend to our souls, we will find that the depression will quickly dissipate. (Loc 1151)

My second concern  is the mention of autism in the Q & A section of the book.  To paraphrase the question, a mother is concerned about her children being clingy and overly shy.  After encouraging the mother to know her children and to help them work to overcome their fears (as she should), Ms. Clarkson writes:

Also, if some of these areas persist through the years, you might look for symptoms like clinical OCD or autism or other issues. (Loc 3163)

As someone who now knows more about autism spectrum disorders than she ever wanted to, it would have been better for the authors to suggest that the parent address their concerns with their pediatrician.

Overall, I find that the advice given is pretty solid (aside from the two items mentioned) with it’s emphasis on seeking out what the Lord wants from us as mothers instead of what we *think* we need to be.  After all:

The kingdom of home is the place of refuge, comfort and inspiration.  It is a rich world where great souls can be formed, and from which men and women of great conviction and dedication can emerge.  It is the place where the models of marriage, love and relationship are emulated and passed on to the next generation.  One of the great losses of this century is the lost imagination for what the home can be if shaped by the creative hand of God’s Spirit. (Loc 437-452)

What a great influence we mothers have on our children!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

For THIS Child I Prayed.

“For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him.”

1 Samuel 1:27 (NKJV)

Our Boy in my Tummy. Circa 6 or 7 months?

Our Boy in my Tummy. Circa 6 or 7 months?

This is how my stomach spent most of my pregnancy. The bruises that you see are the result of a daily dose of Lovenox (a blood thinner) that’s used to treat a thrombophilia referred to as MTHFR. I lost two babies before I was able to carry Our Boy to full term. After my second loss, early in our marriage, the doctor’s office ran some blood tests and told me that my blood didn’t process folate (aka folic acid) as it should. My blood would clot in the small vessels of the developing placenta and cut off all supply of nutrients to my babies, resulting in a loss of life. If I became pregnant again, I was to contact them immediately to be put on the regimen of Lovenox, five times the daily dose of folic acid and a daily baby aspirin. I’d like to tell you that this was the “hardest” thing I (we) went through to get him here.

It wasn’t. Continue Reading

Our Boy and His Food.

Our Boy loves food.  Until recently, his favorite of favorites was macaroni and cheese or a big plate of spaghetti with cheese on top.  He has “yummy yummed” and hummed and nearly cheered his way through many a meal.

BUT.

Today I made a phone call.  And I got news that I was somewhat prepared for but kinda hoped that I wouldn’t get.

After a visit to a local biomedical doctor, Our Boy was placed on a very strict diet: no grains, no dairy, no eggs, 80% veggies.  While you’re at it, take these vitamins & supplements to start.  I had hoped to go back to the GFCF diet after the results of his blood work came in. I called today to be sure that I wasn’t feeding him something that could overload his system and result in a severe allergic reaction.  This list doesn’t include the things that were listed as a moderate to low risk, only the Big Baddies: those that are in red ink and listed as AVOID.

THE BIG BADDIES:

ALL Dairy

Eggs (yolks and whites)

Gluten

Brewer’s yeast

And contrary to some misconceptions, YES, a little bit WILL hurt.  I’d write more, but honestly, I’ve spent my morning reading, researching, paying a few bills and spending too much time in Autism Land (which is only a teeny step from Panic & Anxiety Land). So, when Curious George ends, we are making our way out into the great outdoors.  We will try not to blow away.

Education.

I ( we, really) find myself (ourselves, really) at an interesting place: trying to decide if sending our child into the public school system at the ripe old age of THREE is right (or not).  It seems that everyone has a well intentioned opinion on the subject.

The “experts” say:

The best place for him to learn to interact is in a classroom with his peers no less than twenty hours per week.

The only way to get the school to provide services is to send him to class.

He doesn’t have to be potty trained to go!

(But at the same time, by the “experts”, “the public schools do not have the parent/child relationship as a priority. That just isn’t their concern.”)

I had no idea when we started this journey that autism would force us to make decisions (before the end of the current school year) about things that we didn’t think we’d have to even start thinking about until he was around five. I should point out that we’ve leaned toward homeschooling from the beginning and that my own public school “experience” was chock full of bullying.  And, the few times that I’ve seen my son try to interact with children “his own age” they’ve either screamed in horror at the idea that he’d take their toy or, instead of screaming, snatched his toy and run with it.  When they scream, he runs the other way, stimming as he goes, and it can take awhile to get his mind engaged again.  When they snatch his toy and run, his face will start to crumple, and the tears begin to fall, as he, unable to tell me (or anyone else) what’s wrong, starts to fall apart. And I, watching, try to encourage him to share and to shift his focus onto something else.  The only way to know that something bad has happened, at this point, is if I see it.

I am his primary means of communication and his strongest ally.  And although I realize (and hope and pray) that his functional speech will improve, I have a hard time understanding how well he will function in a preschool setting without help.  Of understanding how well a preschool teacher and one or two aides can adequately cover the needs of a classroom full of 3 (and 4 year olds?) (I’ve been told that class size hasn’t exceeded 12 lately) and provide the one-on-one help that he will need. And there is his special diet to consider.

So. On the plus side, I have the phone number of someone to call that I think will actually talk to me and not blow me off via email.  Here’s to remembering to make that call!

(If you’re curious about why I don’t mention private school, it’s because I don’t think the two that are in town are equipped to help him. And if they were, we don’t have the funds.)