A mother recovering from the death of her newborn child experiences both hope and intense anxiety as she embarks on another pregnancy in this debut memoir.
Chute, a photographer and artist, lost her second child, Zachary, just moments after his birth when he died of an inoperable heart tumor caused by a genetic abnormality called Tuberous Sclerosis Complex. After a period of anguish that included an episode in which she pounded her head against a wall and stabbed her palm with a golf tee, she immersed herself in a “Year of Distraction” through frenetic work. Then, after being reassured that Zachary’s illness was not inherited, she became pregnant again—and began a new ordeal, chronicled here in 40 week-by-week chapters. Chute’s worry that the new pregnancy would also end in tragedy preoccupied her and made every doctor’s appointment, ultrasound scan, and bodily twinge an agony of apprehension. Meanwhile, she tried to process the unfinished business of Zachary’s death in a church-run mourning group where she found mainly a gruel of unhelpful platitudes; mothered her rambunctious 2-year-old daughter, Hannah; and tussled and bonded with her husband, Aaron, who was supportive but sometimes wounded her with his determination to get on with life. In this sometimes-fraught, sometimes-luminous work, Chute’s narrative brings together in a roiling, deeply felt tangle maternal experiences that are usually separated, as the exhilaration of pregnancy and the exhausting happiness of raising a toddler are overshadowed by lingering grief and dread. It’s an emotional roller coaster, with giddy anticipation turning on a dime into fretful, claustrophobic brooding and self-laceration. Chute’s prose conveys the full force of her turmoil with powerful imagery—“I felt that I would be like uncooked ground beef, bloody and grated, for the rest of my life”—but keeps enough distance to probe and interrogate her feelings and gain a deeper understanding of them.
A moving saga of motherhood in extremis that earns its moments of certainty and bliss through an honest grappling with pain and doubt.