Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Book Review: An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir
by: Elizabeth McCracken

This is a book that was recommended from Molly Piper's blog. I honestly didn't know that people wrote about the loss of their babies, in this case a stillborn. And I appreciated Ms. McCracken's honesty. It was a little difficult at times because she isn't a believer and there's evidence of that sprinkled throughout the pages. But overall, I could relate to some of the things she said in the book and really appreciated her viewpoint on her loss and moving forward through a new pregnancy. It's such an appropriate title as she writes about the days before, during and after delivering her stillborn little boy, Pudding, and moving through another pregnancy that she hopes doesn't end like the first.

I wanted to list some quotes from her book that really made me think:

"Even now I have a hard time with the babies born to friends around Pudding's birth. It's not logical, and yet there it is: this one is one month older, this one three weeks younger."
I feel that way a lot. It's not that I'm angry with them or I'm jealous, it's just a constant reminder of how your child would be about the same age and into the same things...from diapers, to crawling, to reading, to driving a car...

"'Oh,' I always said, 'if human reprodcution has to carry on, I want it to work out for people I like.'"
That just made me chuckle, 'cause it's true. I do want to be happy for people and I definitely want things to work out for the people of love (and I'm not dissing any of you that I don't know). I know that I can't let my grief overshadow their joy. I think I'll be using this phrase if someone apologizes for being pregnant around me. ;)


Here are some of her thoughts regarding condolences:
"Before Pudding died, I'd thought condolence notes were simply small bits of old-fashioned etiquette, important but universally acknowledged as inadequate gestures. Now they felt like oxygen, and only now do I fully understand why: to know that other people were sad made Pudding feel more real."
"As I was going mad from grief, the worst of it was that sometimes I believed I was making it all up. Here was some proof that I wasn't."

"...grief lasts longer than sympathy, which is one of the tragedies of the grieving..."
I recently had a friend send me a package. She's due the same week that I was. And I was so blessed by her. To know that she still thinks of me and that she remembers that I lost something so precious to me is a very comforting feeling. And it really does make me feel like it's real...that I didn't just dream the whole thing.

"After most deaths, I imagine, the awfulness lies in how everything's changed: you no longer recognize the form of your days. There's a hole. It's person-shaped and it follows you everywhere, to bed, to the dinner table, in the car."
"No, I insist: other people's children did not make me sad. But pregnant women did."
Oh, man is that true. People that have recently had babies are hard to be around, but mostly it's the pregnant women. Now, those of you out there reading this who are pregnant, please don't avoid me because that makes it worse. I want to avoid you. ;)


As she moved through her second pregnancy she writes about her fears and some comic relief appears as she writes about all the classes they took while pregnant with their second child:
"It seemed as though something terrible would happen if people knew. "

"And that of course is why we were taking all those courses: We wanted to be told, Worry in this order."
"He died inside of me: Of course this was my fault. It happened on my watch."

"...and this made me weep harder, because I knew, I
knew, that this was all my fault. My essential reaction was grief, but somehow the words that floated to the surface of my brain were: people are going to be mad at me."
The guilt. I have the same thoughts go through my brain. That I did this. That I killed/let my baby die. That I'd let people down. That I'd taken something away from them. That I was a disappointment. That I was going to ruin Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even the birth of another niece or nephew in October.

"Who on earth would make a woman spend one more moment on this earth than is necessary with a dead baby in her body?"

"Here's my question: was I pregnant then?
"I was in the shape of a pregnant woman. I'm sure I walked like one, though my arms floated away from the fact of my stomach (no rubbing, no resting, no thoughtless fond tapping). Really, what was I? Was I pregnant?"
I'm thankful that I was able to have the D&C the day after we found out the baby was dead. It's a horrible feeling to know you've been walking around with a dead child in your body. It does feel murderous, like you've been keeping it a secret. And I had the same questions as I walked into the hospital, into the ambulatory surgery waiting room. What are people thinking? Are they looking at my belly? Do they know what I'm going back there for? Do they realize that there's a dead baby inside me and that I'm going to have it removed? Do they notice that I'm in maternity clothes and that there is that absence of the fond belly rubbing and resting of the hands? Do they think that I wanted this? Do they notice that I'm sad? Am I making them uncomfortable? I'm just glad we were able to use the "side exit" after the procedure. I couldn't bear walking out the front doors of the hospital with an empty belly and no baby in my arms.


All in all, it's a pretty sad book and I wouldn't recommend reading it for fun. But if you've gone through a loss like this (or know someone who has) - a stillbirth or even a miscarriage, or a intrauterine fetal death in the earlier weeks - it's a good book to cry through and process some of the emotions that come from a loss like that. It's also good to know that you're not alone and that you will have those feelings and it's ok. Like I said, it was lacking the "Christian hope" that so many Christian authors offer in their time of loss. But I appreciated the rawness, the honest feelings and realizing that even though I know God loves me and has a plan for me and my family, those feelings are real and they will happen.

Ms. McCracken is a great writer and had some great word pictures. The first one is just so...right on, and the second is pretty funny:
"...and I find I can't remember, the information's gone like a pulled tooth, though my brain will keep poking the empty spot"

"One woman had brought a toddler boy [to the ob-gyn office], who held in his lap a plastic toy that played 'The Wheels on the Bus' in a doorbell-to-hell electronic chime."

You can check out Molly Piper's blog for more "recommended reading."


Rachel S said...

Have you read the blog Bring the Rain? It's my all-time favorite blog. She's the wife of Todd Smith in Selah and two years ago her baby died shortly after birth. She knew at 20 weeks the baby would die when it was born and her posts are soo incredible and raw. She just came out with a book that I was able to download to read on the computer.

If you read some of the blog and you're interested in the book, I may be able to send you the file. Start at the beginning if you read the blog- I think you will LOVE it. She's an amazing woman and so real. Also, she just had a new baby so it's neat to see her go through her grief and the process of having a new child.

Clint and Jessica Alexander said...

Love this line...
No, I insist: other people's children did not make me sad. But pregnant women did."

I can totally relate my friend!
Love you!