Elizabeth McCracken, a well known fiction author, also wrote a memoir titled An Exact Replica Of A Figment Of My Imagination. It is the bittersweet story of the life and death of her first born son, Pudding. As a mom who lost her third child, reading it helped me better understand what it is like to lose a first born child. The first child that, before birth, labeled you “mommy” or “daddy” but after being stillborn, never called you by that name. The child that drove you to start “nesting” and cleaning like you never did before, only to find out there was no point. The anticipation of the baby that made you buy all kinds of baby gadgets, only to not use them. The child that was delivered from your body and made you a mommy yet no one in the outside world could tell you’re a mommy because you have no baby in your arms… Having my own two children to care for after my third child, Margaret, was stillborn were the hardest days of my life, as I chronicle in JAMG, but I was also still a “Mommy” to the outside world and I could still answer to that name. Since the grieving journey for any loss is anything but linear, McCracken’s plot structure makes perfect sense because she moves back and forth between the past with her pregnancy and the subsequent loss of Pudding and the present with her second, living son, Gus. Her structure reminds us that life goes on after such a horrific loss but it is also very different both in a physical and mental sense.
Most importantly, McCracken also takes the reader inside the complicated world of friendship after an infant death where friends, such as Libby, who can think of Pudding as a boy and can talk about McCracken’s loss remain high on her list, while others who were at the top, fall down. Similar to myself, McCracken processes her grief and re-lives her time with Pudding by writing her experience on paper, but something I did not always do that McCracken does flawlessly is infuse humor throughout and by doing this she shows the reader the importance of taking note of humorous moments in even our saddest of days.
This book help others know what it is like to lose a first born baby so pass it along to those that don’t understand and pass it along to those who have suffered the loss themselves or through some connection as the aunt, the grandparent, the uncle because in a way, all losses transcend one another and we can only learn how to support each other by vicariously going on different loss journeys with one another.