BREATHE: A Memoir of Motherhood, Grief, and Family Conflict ~Kelly Kittel
“Breath, Eyes, Memory, Edwidge Danticat writes that there’s a group of people who carry the sky on their heads. They are the People of Creation. Strong, tall, and mighty people who can bear anything. Their maker gives them the sky to carry because they are so strong. These people do not know who they are, but if you see a lot of trouble in your life, it is because you were chosen to carry part of the sky on your head. We understood this burden, but frankly, my chunk of sky was giving me a headache.” Page 340
BREATHE is a story about healing, understanding, revealing, forgiveness, and all the junk swishing around in extended family dynamics and conflict. I am told that the most healing process one can undertake is to tell your story, understand the lessons, and allow other people to see that there are transitions and possibilities. The story needs time to mull and ferment to make sure it includes the truth the writer knows to be real and not just reaction and emotion. Kelly Kittel took her time, and numerous workshops, and lots of counseling and it took her another seven years to actually write the book. She did not do it alone and she thanks so many for helping her hold her piece of the sky.
The story line is thus: 2 people are starting their journey in the Peace Corp; one from the East Coast of the USA and one from the West Coast of the USA. They fall in love, are happy together and they are celebrating their family; enjoying their 4 children. They are living on a street in Oregon which is dominated by the husband’s family and they are not so fond of the Eastern Interloper who is a scientist. Much of the huge extended family is gathered at the Oregon Coast when the 16 year old niece backs a Chevy Tahoe over the 15 month old child who she cannot see. It is a harrowing accident with helicopter airlifts and drama. It creates huge family tension and brings the blame game out into the open; the author becomes an unfit mother. Noah is gone and buried and the family grieves and works on counseling and keeping the remaining 3 children growing and loving. The in-laws keep acting up and out. Kelly becomes pregnant and has high blood pressure problems and too soon Jonah is stillborn. The grief is magnified and the support groups continue and the family works on their own healing. The in-laws evict the family and they move back to the East coast nearer Kelly’s family. Once again the author is pregnant and miscarries. The emotional stress is elevated and they are caring for each other, and the family is enjoying being a single unit of love and support. Another pregnancy and Kelly finds a High Risk Pregnancy Expert, who says Jonah did not need to die, her medical records indicate negligence. New medications and better timing and test results- care – and Isaiah is born and doing fine. The family decides to prepare a lawsuit against the Physician and Midwife Clinic in Oregon – a five year endurance test. The in-laws testify against the family and yet the jury decides for the family. Bella was born after the lawsuit and the family is complete. Lots of love, communications, forgiveness and breathing are between the covers of this story about conflicts.
The writing is full of details, emotions, and water. The writing is beautiful-memorable. The author is not tepid or angry about her experience. She is working it through and finding her own answers and recovery. She is not vindictive. It is also a study in how family communications get misconstrued and can develop a pecking order which stops being useful and cuts off any growth. When one cannot communicate with others, there is no bond, responsibility is sidestepped and the only pathway open is to BREATHE and separate.
This book touched me personally, as I share life with a child who had 12 major surgeries and my own life full of healthcare that was not workable and no insurance; maybe we all have family members who want to control and make our lives a competition; it was good to see it from another angle and so graciously stated.
TLC Online Book Tours and She Writes Press shared a finished signed copy of this book for me to review. I know you know someone who would benefit from reading – BREATHE