Friday, January 16, 2009

Elizabeth McCracken's Memoir

I recently finished a memoir by a woman who also lost her first baby (An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken). She perfectly describes so many experiences and feelings that I am unable to find words for. It’s surprisingly very satisfying for me to see those words, to know that they are universal amongst women who’ve experienced the loss of a baby.

“I just thought he was a sure thing,” she says of her stillborn son early on in the story. This sentence so accurately encompasses my own disbelief and horror at what has happened. After overcoming the shock and numbness, she writes of the days after, "Nothing had changed. We'd been waiting to be transformed, and now here we were, back in our old life." I’ve said this almost verbatim to people I have spoken to about you, and have written it to you in your letters. Nothing has changed, but everything has changed. It’s such a terrible feeling, knowing that we were supposed to welcome you into this world, to have you become the center of our lives, and then in the blink of an eye, to have to say goodbye to you and live without you forever.

She also talks about how she thought (as did I... how naive of me) stillbirth was a thing of the past, something from the Victorian age- black and white photos of dead babies, eyes closed, brows furrowed, dark lips, toys stuffed into their lifeless hands. Who would have thought that there are, to this day, still so many stillbirths (2/100 births in the US). If it is so damn common, how come doctors do seemingly nothing to prevent it?

Elizabeth McCracken had me empathetically nodding in agreement at almost every statement. Yes, I’ve said that. Yes, I’ve experienced that. Yes, I’ve done that…. I feel as though I could write a strikingly similar story, the plot and the outcome, much to my dismay, unchanged.