Alycia Frech

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Motherhood in "Jewel" by Bret Lott

Published in 1991 by Bret Lott, "Jewel" is a novel that centers on a mother, Jewel Hilburn, and her everyday life in learning how to handle, cope with, and raise her sixth child, Brenda Kay, who is born a "Mongolian idiot". In modern terms, Brenda Kay was born "retarded" or as a child with "Down's Syndrome". Hilburn's story begins in 1943, and it extends throughout the course of her family's life, going into the 1960's and 1970's. Many flashback moments are referred to as well.

The novel provides multiple angles on motherhood starting from page one. Three dominant portrayals of mothers can be found in this novel, "mothers as fighters", "mothers as sacrificial", and "mothers as never letting go". These portrayals are revealed and found by Jewel herself as she takes care of her daughter with special needs.

From the beginning, mothers were revealed as fighters. Jewel was always a fighter in this book. She showed that mothers were never quitters, even when their pasts, fears, and wounds haunt them. Mothers keep going. Mothers don't give up on love, and they especially do not give up on their children. Even when Brenda Kay's chances of survival looked grim, Jewel kept visiting doctors, contacting people who could help, and pestering her husband to move to California in order to find the best treatment for Brenda Kay. Jewel fought for everything until she got her way.

Secondly, mothers were heavily portrayed as sacrificial. Jewel was willing to give up everything for Brenda Kay at the drop of a hat. Jewel was always the one taking care of Brenda Kay, cleaning Brenda Kay, and going with Brenda Kay wherever she went. Jewel also began working again so she could pay for extra medical costs for Brenda Kay. Jewel sacrificed her time and energy. Mothers were even portrayed as sacrificial to the detriment of their spouses. Mothers were shown as caring more for the children than their spouse.

The last way in which motherhood was portrayed was that mothers never let go. Throughout the novel, Jewel referred to past situations that caused her deep pain. For example, she referred to her past home life, saw past situations in current situations, saw past people in current family members, and could not shake past memories. She simply could not let go of any event that happened in her life. Every past event heavily shaped her here and now. Jewel also had a hard time letting go of her children. Brenda Kay was especially hard for her to let go. She held on to Brenda Kay as being her child forever. She followed Brenda Kay's every move. In this novel, mothers are looked upon as being excessively involved in the lives of their children. They are seen as unable to let go of anything or anyone.

Throughout the novel, motherhood, specifically in the character Jewel Hilburn, is portrayed as fighting, sacrificial, and never letting go. Jewel did all for her family, especially for her daughter, Brenda Kay. She sacrificed and held on to her life and children with all of her might. Through caring for Brenda Kay, Jewel unraveled the many faces of motherhood. Overall, Jewel was a mother who fought for Brenda Kay in mind, heart, and body. She was a mother through and through.

DEAR FUTURE MOM | March 21 - World Down Syndrome Day | #DearFutureMom