I just finished reading the latest Cathy Glass book yesterday.
The Silent Cry is a very unique story. It takes place when her children are very young, Paula is only 16 months, Adrian is five and Lucy isn’t part of the family yet. Cathy is still married to John who is working away for the whole book but knowing they divorced later in her books it’s strange to see her married.
What’s really unique though is it isn’t the story of a single foster child living with the family. It’s the story of both her personal envolvement with a neighbor, a new mother and her family, as well as a period of time where she did respite fostering and the children and families she helped very short term.
Cathy meets a neighbor Laura at the first day of a school year. She’s seen her only a couple times before. Her seven year old daughter is a year ahead of Adrian. Laura has her new baby with her. Cathy and the other mothers admire Leam and talk. But suddenly Laura goes pale and seems to have an anxiety attack. Worried Cathy walks her home. She seems like a nice woman, overwhelmed as any new mother would be. She plans to meet up with her sometime.
Cathy meanwhile has chosen to do respite fostering for awhile due to writing a dissertation for a degree in education. She’s writing about the effect being in care has on children’s education. With respite fostering the foster carer only has the child for a few days or weeks and it’s considered time to give the caregivers a break.
Her first foster child is Darrell. He’s three and his mom Shellie has a hospital appointment so needs to have him looked after for one night. Shellie stays with Cathy until Darrell goes to bed as she’s so anxious to leave him. Cathy gets to know her and it turns out she had a bad experience in care. Cathy listens and encourages her to contact her former carer who she did connect with.
Meanwhile she sees Laura in the playground one more time before she disappears and things start to change. Laura says that her mother in law said she can’t be out for another six weeks. That she’s feeling very low as a result of the new baby but that it will pass.
Cathy is shocked that someone would order their family member to stay inside like that but it it isn’t her business.
As things get worse for the family, as she sees Laura becoming more anxious and depressed, Laura’s daughter going shopping by herself ETC she struggled to know how to act. It’s complicated by her knowledge of the professional things to do. As a foster carer or social worker she’d know what should be done. As a neighbor and not even a very close friend she often struggles to know what to say and how to act. This shows a vulnerable side of Cathy and insight into her own personal responses to tough situations. Although she doesn’t interfere she does keep an observant eye on things and eventually does make a few “neighborly visits “ to the house. She finds both Laura’s husband and Mother in law to be very standoffish and wanting to keep laura’s visits short. The mother in law in particular is very controlling. At one point Laura says she’s the reason why she’s so anxious and depressed all the time.
Alongside this situation Cathy continues with Respite. She and her family form a friendship with Shellie and Darrell with the kids. As a friend she boosts Shellie’s confidence emensely and her support really changes her life for the better. She meets Sampson, a tough on the outside vulnerable on the inside six year old boy. While his behavior at first is extremely hyperactive Cathy’s approach of firm boundaries and praise seems to help. Despite his energetic personality she and even five year old Adrian can sense the toughness is covering up his vulnerable side
Eventually Sampson trusts Cathy to disclose abuse he suffered. Social services who monitors the family tries to go to court to obtain a care order but it was decided he should stay with his family and get more supports in place.
Cathy continues to keep an eye out on Laura and her family. As the family members trust her more they call her and confide more on the unfolding crisis. Laura far from being a little low or having the “baby blues” has developed full blown postpartum depression with psychosis. By the time she is brought to the hospital she can not take care of herself or her baby at all, is very paranoid and out of touch with reality. She believes Leam is the devel’s child.
The family is greif stricken when they realize how far this had gotten and that their well meaning attitude of keeping it to themselves and hoping Laura will just pull through it has made things much worse.
Fortunately Laura finds specialized care with other women with the same disorder and is allowed to have her baby with her. The staff is wonderful. She is on medication and gets therapy.
In the meantime Cathy continues to emotionally support the family, the mother in law Geraldine warms up a bit. She also meets Laura’s mother Gina. Gina had suffered similarly after the birth of Laura. Laura had had severe depression for a year after the birth of her first child. But again due to the stigma of mental illness it wasn’t talked about.
Cathy lastly helps the family through a particularly difficult patch where she is recovering back home and a social worker is sent in to support the family. Having no experience and only hearing horrible things about social services, emotions run high for everyone in the family. Cathy is able to explain procedures and what to do in certain situations. She even asks on their behalf how one could ask for a change of social worker. This helps immeasurably.
People criticize this book for not being like Cathy’s other books. And it’s not. They say it “jumps around a lot.” But I don’t see it like that. The story of Laura’s journey and the respite take place in the same frame. It is basically a year in the life of Cathy and her family and how personal and professional issues coincide. In fact giving a fuller picture of Cathy’s family than just the view of one child’s story.
I think this book is also extremely educational about the nature of postpartum depression and psychosis. Which is not well known and often people don’t realize the seriousness of it or don’t want to talk about it. It shows how powerful the stigma of mental illness can be. And also how support is essential for someone to improve. In the end Laura is incredibly insightful about her experiences and talks candidly about what she went through and will continue to go through. Seeing her so sick and then able to have perspective on her illness is probably one of the best parts of the book. I highly recommend this book and hope it helps others in similar situations.
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