Guest blogger, Gillian Marchenko

sunshinedownI am HONORED to have Gillian as a guest blogger today. For those of you who know me, know that I am NOT much of a reader but when I heard whisperings about this book, I knew I HAD to read it – and I am SO glad I did. From the moment I read the first page….I was hooked. I could not put it down. Gillian’s words went from the pages straight to my heart and soul. It is an honest, raw look at how a mother deals (or attempts to deal) with the sudden realization that her child has Down Syndrome. The shock, the sadness, the “what now?” I hope that everyone who reads this blog will also get their hands on a copy of her book – you will not be disappointed! (I will make is easy – CLICK HERE)

And while I asked Gillian to guest post as part of Down Syndrome Awareness Month – her words about brokenness touched me. You see – before Down Syndrome entered my life I was already broken; broken by Rett Syndrome. When Down Syndrome entered my world it opened old wounds and  also left me with a few new scars. Thank you Gillian for your words and the reminder that along with my brokenness came blessings.

I will turn it over to the brilliant Gillian Marchenko, author of the recently published memoir Sun Shine Down,  who remembers the importance of brokenness in her life….

A reminder of brokenness.

It’s supposed to rain later today.

My left arm aches.

I broke it in two places, two different times in my childhood, and now sometimes when the weather changes it aches, either up near my shoulder or in my wrist; the places it broke.

The aches remind me of those times; the agony and pain, the fear of being in an emergency room as a child, spending the night for the first time in a hospital, getting attention from classmates and extended family, people signing my cast, ‘Get well soon!’. Me trying to itch the inside of my cast with a hangar, not being able to swim for half of a summer because I couldn’t get my arm wet. Being a bit doped up on the medication to ease the hurt.

My broken arm became my whole world. How could it not be when the pain was great, instant, and overwhelming?

At the time there was no way of knowing that the pain wasn’t going to be my new normal.

For all I knew I could be in that kind of fear and pain for the rest of my life.

I went to the hospital and got help. The excruciating pain eventually turned into a dull ache and then only, a flimsy itch.

Life went back to normal. I was found splashing around in the kiddie pool within eight weeks.

But a dull ache returns now and then.

And I am reminded that at times in my life, I’ve been broken.

Recently I went to four parent-teacher conferences for my kids in two different schools.

I was prepared to discuss each kid, I thought. But when I sat down with Polly’s teacher (who has Down syndrome and stars in my recently published memoir, Sun Shine Down), I was surprised to read that she hadn’t met her goals. After a whole year at school Polly still couldn’t figure out classroom procedures. She struggled with transitions every day.

Polly’s was cute and everyone loved her, but basically she was still just walking around making messes in class.

And the dull ache, the fact that I had a child with a disability started up again.

Polly’s birth shattered me. I teamed up with Jesus and my husband Sergei to put myself back together, but much like that pesky jigsaw puzzle you’ve almost completed, a few pieces were lost in the mix, and now I walk around with empty spaces.

Most of the time the spaces are used for good.

I have more compassion for others.

I understand grace better.

I relate to others through my brokenness.

And sometimes it feels right.

But there are other times when it still breaks my heart that Polly is behind her peers.

I am OK with Down syndrome.

But there will always be days in my life where the rain will come.

And because I’ve been broken, I will ache sometimes.

It doesn’t mean I love my kids less or that I wish my life was different.

It just aches.

And that’s OK, I think.


More about Gillian:

Gillian Marchenko is an author and national speaker who lives in Chicago with her husband Sergei and four daughters. Her book, Sun Shine Down, a memoir, published with T. S. Poetry Press in the fall of 2013. She writes and speaks about parenting kids with Down syndrome, faith, depression, imperfection, and adoption. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Chicago Parent, Thriving Family, Gifted for Leadership, Literary Mama, Today’s Christian Woman, MomSense Magazine, Charlottesville Family, EFCA Today, and the Tri-City Record. Gillian says the world is full of people who seem to have it all together. She speaks for the rest of us. Follow Gillian and her family at

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