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

A discussion on stillbirths and Elizabeth McCracken's book.


An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir

A love letter to her first son

-Stephanie Elliot

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My ImaginationEight years ago I received one of those middle-of-the-night phone calls you never want to receive. It was my best friend, who, at 38 weeks pregnant, was calling me because her husband was out of town.

“The baby’s not moving.”

I drove her to the hospital and sat with her as we watched the resident OB perform the ultrasound. I knew before the words were spoken. All I had to do was watch his face. I saw his Adam’s apple move within his throat as he swallowed, trying to find the words.

Her baby was stillborn.

It is still, eight years later, one of the most horrifying experiences in my life, and it didn’t even happen to me. I remember making deals with God, threatening never to have any more children of my own, wondering how something like this could happen.

It happens a lot. More than you think.

Elizabeth McCracken has written about her own terrifying story of the birth and death of her firstborn in An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination. In it, she shares her two pregnancies – her first, which ends in a stillbirth, and the next, in which she delivers a healthy second son almost exactly a year later. McCracken’s not looking for reader sympathy. She’s telling her story in honor of her sons. Also, she tells the story because it’s a story that’s too often not shared, too often shoved behind the couch along with long-lost trinkets and dust bunnies, left to be forgotten.

And we cannot forget these babies.

Suffice it to say, this book is not for the fainthearted. While this is a wonderfully, beautifully written book, I don’t think women who have not had the happy outcome of a healthy baby after a stillbirth should read it. McCracken does not soften the hard edges of her story; she shares all of the intimate harrowing details. This is, after all, her memoir. I think of the day her second child will be old enough to read the story about how he came to be, and I hope he will know the path that was taken to get him here onto this earth.

Beautifully tragic and with a hopeful outcome, McCracken’s story will resonate with any woman who has had such a loss, but unless she has also had the follow-up joy of another child, this book may leave an empty, sad space.

One more warning: Do not read this book while you are pregnant. It’ll only bring fear of the unknown into the time in a woman’s life that’s already filled with such uncertainty. Enjoy this lovely book after you’ve given birth to a healthy little baby. Share this book with someone who may have experienced a loss but has overcome it and now revels in the joy that surrounds her.

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