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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barren Bitches Book Brigade: Tour Sixteen

So it's my first sojourn into the Barren Bitches Book Club.

The current tour had us read An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken. The story is a memoir recounting the still birth of her first son and the journey through to the birth of her second son. It is a gripping and touching book, ever so gently weaving back and forth in time. It spoke to me deeply. I get this book because we have both lost children. There were moments when I had to put it down becuase it was too much, but I was so engrossed in it, I would quickly pick it back up again and keep reading. It took me only a few days reading at night to make my way through her story. Her writing style is so open and honest and yet you can feel that she could be possibly holding things back. But who that has lost a child doens't hold a few remaining cards close to their chest?

Our task is to answer three questions from the list we all created. After you’ve read my answers, hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at Stirrup Queens (http://stirrup-queens.blogspot.com/). You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’m in, are you?

On page 13, McCracken writes, "I want a book that acknowledges that life goes on, but that death goes on, too, that a person who is dead is a long, long story. You move on from it, but the death will never disappear from view. Your friends may say, Time heals all wounds. No, it doesn't, but eventually you'll feel better. You'll be yourself again. Your child will still be dead." Do you agree with the idea that those that have died continue on? Have you ever found that Time could actually change your perception of death? If you haven't experienced the death of a child (or even if you have), how might this translate into other areas of your life? (ie. infertility, adoption, loss of other family members, etc).

I used to think that death was this final thing, that once the person was gone, you had your memories, but that was it. That was before I lost people in my life. I first experienced this with my brother when I was 10. I found that as the years crept along he was still present in my mind and in my life. This became so much more evident with the loss of my two babies. They have names. They lived, if only for a brief time. But they are still here. They exist because they died. They will always have died. And so they will have always live.


Most people outside of the ALI community seem to distinguish between pregnancy loss in each trimester. When I was reading this book I kept running through my head about my miscarriage, how I felt quite similar to what Elizabeth McCracken described often enough. It still reached me, even though I lost my little one so much earlier in the pregnancy. If you have had a miscarriage, rather than a stillbirth, did this book still resonate with you? Or could you not relate at all to the loss that she experiences?

Did it resonate with me? Oh yes! The feelings of loss, the overwhelming grief is not limited to stillbirth. All loss hurts. I find it frustrating that others outside our community would draw these distinctions. As if the trimester you were in determines the level of pain you should feel over your loss. I think that’s why the ALI community has such an amazing power to heal. We all are hurting in one way or another. Elizabeth’s book breaks open the boundaries and allows anyone to understand the ways and means of grief.

My favourite line of the book comes on page 103: "Closure is bullshit." In your opinion (whether or not you have experienced pregnancy loss yourself), is this true or false?

True. Although it could easily be different for different people, for me, closure is bullshit. If it wasn’t, I could move on with my life; but as I said earlier, my two babies have lives because they died. How can one have closure over that? In my mind, closure is for those who no longer want to feel the pain. But as strange as it sounds the pain is comforting. It reminds me that I was a mother, however briefly, and that I loved my babies. That love is really all I have of them. If I give them up by feeling closure, what happens to them? I need the love, I don’t need closure. It isn’t real.

Can’t wait to hear what everyone else thought about this lovely little treasure of a book and to get some interesting discussions going. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. Yes it’s a book about the death of a baby, but truly, it is so much more…

9 comments:

Melissa said...

love your comments about the book.

i agree that all loss is difficult and that the ALI community does help with grieving.

i also don't believe in closure. :) i think the pain helps us remember and it keeps fanning the little fires to keep the memories alive.

there's a quote about how suffering brings compassion and until this year it never really affected me until it punched me in the face. i hate that my body failed me and lost a baby and that i lost a best friend, but on the other hand it has opened my heart up to a world i would have otherwise not known about (this community). plus, now i have angels watching over me :)

loribeth said...

Welcome to the book club! And thanks for some great answers. I especially loved your thoughts on closure.

Annie said...

I found myself nodding along with so many of your comments. When others have said things implying that perhaps I am spending too much time or energy grieving for my lost babies, I have thought, "But this loss, this grief, this love I have for them is all I have left of them, I can't let that go." Like you said, closure? Doesn't exist, at least not for me. Closure would feel like I was forgetting them, and like you said, in some way the pain is comforting. It reminds me that my babies were really here for a short time.

Cassandra said...

Although I agree that closure is bullshit, I don't see it as being connected to pain in the same way that you do. Closure can come and pain can continue; pain can diminish without closure; etc.

I feel like most people who seek closure don't want true closure, but just a transition point. Saying goodbye, burial, etc., aren't really "closing" anything but just changing to a different way of being.

But then again, I don't know that I've ever felt closure on anything, so what do I know.

Kim said...

Everytime I read the comments of those in the Book Brigade I regret not having joined in and read the book. This one is no exception. I think I will have to read the next.

Susan said...

This book reminds me:
16 years ago, I realized I was pregnant and didn't feel ready. The May before that, I lost my son when I was 27 weeks pregnant. It was horrible.

And yet I was pregnant and scared of having to go through it again. It was such a journey towards acceptance. And then thinking that perhaps if I only had the change of being pregnant with this child (assuming death again was inevitable) that I would try to treasure each day.

When I was 26 and a half weeks along, I knew something wasn't right. I started spotting. I thought it was the end. At my OB's office, I was told there was a heartbeat. He sent us to a hospital an hour away and I was given drugs and put in a bed with my head down and baby up to try to stop labor. After 5 days, I began to hemorrhage and they needed to save my life.

My son was born. We assumed he wouldn't make it and were shocked when the doctors told us he had a chance.

Fast forward to my 15 year-old who is taller than me and a delight!

I want to read that book!

Karen said...

I appreciated your thoughts about the book. I'm so sorry for your losses and I wish you the best of luck for starting TTC again. I, too, had moments when I felt I had to put the book down for awhile and just let the ideas and images sink in for awhile before I picked it back up. I noticed that you mentioned your babies really existed, in part, because they have names. I am always amazed at how powerful naming is and I love that McCracken kept Pudding's name.

Kristin said...

Welcome to the book club. I completely agree with you about how wonderful the ALI community is about understanding the pain of loss no matter when it happened.

Lollipop Goldstein said...

I am so sorry about your brother.

This thought was brilliant: "Her writing style is so open and honest and yet you can feel that she could be possibly holding things back. But who that has lost a child doesn't hold a few remaining cards close to their chest?" I love that idea of still holding a few things private, close--that intimacy.