April 20, 2015
“Bella’s Gift” is a book by Rick and Karen Santorum, along with Elizabeth Santorum, who writes the introduction. Michael W. Smith writes a brief foreword. Rick Santorum is a notable politician, ran for president in 2012, and may run again. However, this is not a political book. Readers will do well to become acquainted with the Santorum’s youngest child Bella, who will be seven years old this year.
Bella is in a unique category of special needs children. She has Trisomy 18, which the authors sometimes compare with Trisomy 21 (Down’s Syndrome), but acknowledge is worse. Children like Bella have a meager 1% statistical chance of living past one year of age. While the Santorums have seven living children, the unique circumstances of having Bella as part of the household have forever altered their family life.
The book consists of eighteen chapters, eleven of which are attributed to Karen. This is fortunate for the reader, because her chapters are much more compelling than those of her husband. This is not to take anything away from her husband Rick, he does a good job communicating in the book. However, when talking about Bella, the raw emotion conveyed by a protective and self proclaimed “Momma Bear” can not be beaten.
Karen and Rick open up in the book about the death of their infant son Gabriel, and how difficult it was to learn that the impending birth of their new daughter will bring hugely challenging genetic issues. In fact, they were advised that the abnormalities of the new baby, Bella, were “incompatible with life,” by one of the hospital doctors.
Even after the birth, as Rick and his daughter put together a crib, Rick admits he kept his emotions guarded because he was not sure how long the new baby would be with them. This put a strain on his relationship with his other children, which they were able to get through after some soul-searching and shedding of tears.
The Santorums open up in ways that are full of risk for public figures. (Recall how Sarah Palin has been mocked for having a special needs child.) Karen and Rick discuss how the stress of pursuing career advancement, maintaining a household, and keeping their marriage healthy have been challenged in many ways. In fact, they acknowledge many marriages collapse under the demands of caring for a special needs child. They give God the glory for blessing them with a marriage that has survived this critical test, while also discussing the hard work necessary from both spouses to keep things together.
This book is emotionally challenging for any parent to contemplate. It is almost too much to bear for parents of small children, but the inspirational tales of faith and overcoming obstacles is worth the read.
This book merits five of five stars.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”