Reflection on Chapter 3: A Joyful Kind of Chaos

This chapter summarized Schuyler’s birth, the family’s move to New Haven, CT, her father’s new job, and the challenges and joys of caring for a baby during the first year.  During labor, Julie’s mother telephones and asks her what she would like to get her brother for Christmas. What? Julie instructs Robert to hang up.  How bizarre; maybe her mother has some pragmatic issues?!  Or maybe she was just really nervous.  I found Robert’s description of the birth funny and it also brought back memories for me.  To quote the author, “No one tells you how extremely… extreme the birth is going to be, and afterward, you don’t talk about it because you’ve got a clean, happy little baby to play with, and besides, who wants to remind the love of their life that such a thing happened?  But it did, and man oh man. I’m just saying.” The author goes on to describe the ordeal they went through with Schuyler’s jaundice.

Detroit is not clicking for the Robert and Julie; they find it dirty and dangerous, and just do not feel at home there. Through a friendship the author makes with one of his Web site readers, the family discovers New Haven.  The author finds a job there and 6 weeks after Schuyler’s birth, they up and move to a quaint apartment in a beautiful house on Whitney Avenue, which runs through Yale’s old campus. It is a quiet, academic setting and they are happy there.  One of the main take-aways from the chapter is the author’s description of his new job, which is working as a computer technician at the Connecticut Mental Health Center on the Yale Med School campus.  His job is not all that difficult; the interesting part for him is that his office is near the patients and doctors; the environment eventually makes him a more understanding person. He states, “….it also taught me to look beyond the things that make us different so I could see the common core of humanity we all share,” and “…. as I worked among them, I began to lose my detachment and also that unspoken sense of something akin to superiority we all feel when we watch the unfortunate make their way through the same world in which we live.”  Another quote from this section shows how perhaps his job setting prepares him a bit for what lies ahead…. “I was learning how these broken people faced their monsters, never dreaming that I had one to face in the coming years.”    The author then describes what the first months with Schuyler were like….. a lot of crying at first , which sounded like it was a bit challenging to deal with (really? Haha), and then an easing of the tension when she starts to imitate his facial expressions, and cries less.  The author then describes his role vs. Julie’s :  “Julie was home, security, familiar surroundings, and comfort. I was exploration, new sights and sounds, someone to ‘oo’ and ‘ah’ with.”   He describes one beautiful day, one of the happiest days he’s ever spent, when he is in the front lawn with Schuyler watching a bicycle marathon.  “Schuyler looked into my eyes that day and, for reasons known only to her, decided she loved me, and not just a little, and not conditionally, but totally and with all her little heart. ……. she fell in love with me that day, and I with her.”  He goes on to say that he was very protective of her, due to irrational fears, and gives examples of these.  The author brings the chapter to a close by saying how wonderful the year between summer 2000 and July 2001 was, “….. it was a lovely year in ways that feel very improbable and far away to me now….. During that year, everyone was happy and healthy, and the future stretched out before us with nothing but promise.” In the last paragraph he states their world is about to change…. “…..Schuyler’s monster began to make itself known to us.”  It probably needs to be mentioned that near

the beginning of the chapter, the author states he feels guilt because, when Schuyler was an infant, he didn’t suspect anything was wrong.  He goes on to say that he knows this guilt is unfounded, but that it still bothers him today.

–Carrie H. Kaelin, MS-CCC/ SLP

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6 thoughts on “Reflection on Chapter 3: A Joyful Kind of Chaos

  1. Karen says:

    For me, this was the first time the Robert reflected on the guilt he was feeling for looking into Schuyler’s eyes as a baby and seeing nothing that made him suspect something was wrong. He did not suspect a thing, nor should he have. His baby was perfect (except for all of the hair). This makes me think of the many student we serve that have severe communication issues and/or Autism but look typical. Society expects all “normal” looking children to develop the same, to behave the same, etc. Sometimes life is just not fair.

  2. Erin Ruppelt says:

    Wow Carrie, what I great summary and reflection! I thought the part in the chapter when Julie’s mother calls her and asks her what she wants to get her brother for Christmas while she’s in labor was funny (ha!), definitely made me laugh. I like how he went into detail about the first few months of Schuyler’s life as an infant and how they created a bond. When I was reading, I did notice how he said he has guilt until this day and says “I looked into those tiny eyes and her monster looked back out at me. And I didn’t expect a thing.” All parents want their child to be “normal” when born. I think most parents assume that if their child was born “healthy ad normal” that’s how the rest of their lives will be. It would be heartbreaking to find out a few years later that all along your child was born with a condition that will be with him/her the rest of their life.

  3. Melanie says:

    I feel that he has always run from challenges in his life with complete ability to do so. Robert spends four chapters worth of written material reflecting on how Schuyler is the love of his life (a fathering type of love that I don’t think honestly he knew he could actually feel) that he won’t run from even though it is the biggest challenge he and his wife have ever encountered. It appears this a turning point in his maturity / responsibility level.

    Divorce rates are so high amongst families with special needs children and it is empowering to know that both parents appear committed to providing Schuyler with the best life possible as a three member family.

  4. Kimberly Raho says:

    I agree with the craziness of the grandmother wanting to know what the mom in mid labor wanted to get her brother for a Christmas present. It had to be nervous banter or just not sure what to say during such a stressful time. Who knows? But it did make me laugh and realize that every family has their quirks and found the whole crew more relatable. Don’t lie…we all have those family members.

    About the guilt the dad had as an infant, it sounded like me that at first there were no significant signs that there was anything wrong with his little girl. She seemed to meet the milestones of littles ones and her social engagement was all there. Even those of us that are most aware of communication milestones, would not raise a red flag the first few months of her life.

  5. Rachel Lacap says:

    I really enjoyed this chapter. Made me think of having my own two sweet babies. That first year of a baby’s life is full of communication milestones, but many of them are non-verbal in capacity. Some of the milestones that the father mentioned in the chapter would not have led me to believe that my child would have a communication impairment later in life either. He illustrated many instances of reciprocal attention, back and forth of sounds and raspberries, etc. Many of the pre-verbal language skills were evident. I do know that as a parent, you still wonder if there is something that you missed, anything that would indicate difficulty in the future…that’s human nature, and the desire to want the very best for your own children. I feel for the father, but love that he cherishes that first year so much.

  6. Marie Fisher says:

    This chapter was lighthearted and made me laugh; however, the chapter ended on a serious tone (the author’s first indication that something serious was wrong with Schuyler) which left me wanting to read more. I think that is why I am finding this book easy/ enjoyable to read. The author can be both serious and humorous. I also enjoyed reading about the author’s experience working in the mental hospital. I completed one of the rotations in grad school in a Cincinnati Children’s psych unit. It was one of the most interesting experiences of my life and like this author I actually enjoyed working there!! I ALWAYS came home with crazy stories.

    I agree with Kimberly in that Schuyler seemed to meet the milestones of babies in terms of her social engagement (at least in this chapter). I have been waiting to read something that alerts a red flag in terms of her communication….

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