The Unfinished Child
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When Marie MacPherson, a mother of two, finds herself unexpectedly pregnant at thirty-nine, she feels guilty. Her best friend, Elizabeth, has never been able to conceive, despite years of fertility treatments. Marie's dilemma is further complicated when she becomes convinced something is wrong with her baby. She then enters the world of genetic testing and is entirely unprepared for the decision that lies ahead.
Intertwined throughout the novel is the story of Margaret, who gave birth to a daughter with Down syndrome in 1947, when such infants were defined as ""unfinished"" children. As the novel shifts back and forth through the decades, the lives of the three women converge, and the story speeds to an unexpected conclusion.
With skill and poise, debut novelist Theresa Shea dramatically explores society's changing views of Down syndrome over the past sixty years. The story offers an unflinching and compassionate history of the treatment of people with Down syndrome and their struggle for basic human rights. Ultimately, The Unfinished Child is an unforgettable and inspiring tale about the mysterious and complex bonds of family, friendship, and motherhood.
Harrington’s face appeared unbidden. She keeps calling me Carolyn and saying how sorry she is. Now that the waiting was over, Elizabeth felt as if she’d been holding her breath for a week, and she was left with nothing but a black notebook stuffed with information about a woman she would never know and the child she had once been. She squeezed her eyes shut to block out the daylight that was growing steadily in intensity. Darkness. That’s what she wanted. Darkness. Later, if she had the energy,
constant need to drain her breasts every two hours that she began to fear for her first-born child. Baby James demanded her constant care. Hold me. Rock me. Feed me. Change me. Hold me. Rock me. Feed me. Change me. Who was holding Carolyn? Who was feeding and loving her girl? The bathroom mirror did not answer her questions. Instead, it reflected back the image of a young mother—exhausted, uncertain, proud, afraid. Guilty. When she looked closer, stretching so her face almost touched the glass,
tear her husband apart. So her normally curt replies to her daughter were replaced by stony silences. As time passed and the silence between them continued, it became obvious to Margaret that her mother would rather be alone than have her daughter nearby. Margaret told others she needed more than what a small farming community could offer. Edmonton in the year 1943 was an attractive place to a country girl. Margaret knew she could live a decent life there and have some independence despite the
she could concentrate on little else. She squeezed her thighs together and covered her lap with her purse so she could clutch her crotch discreetly. She’d been told to drink eight cups of water before her appointment because, as the receptionist had told her, a full bladder lifts the womb and gives a better picture of the baby. Marie had nodded. She’d been through this procedure twice before. But this time she’d drunk so much water that the baby must be floating around her heart. She rocked
of 40–70. She picked up another book of personal stories and read of women who had decided to keep their babies and who had never looked back. Stories of personal triumph and joy. She also read of women who had terminated their pregnancies when a positive test for Down syndrome returned. It’s a lose–lose situation, one woman confided. It’s like choosing between being stabbed or being shot. Either way, the pain is immense. She read of ethicists who believed that, once a fetus could survive on