Monday, July 1, 2019

Book Review: Expecting Sunshine

*Full disclosure: I had this review typed and ready to go for last week (Friday) but I pulled it because I felt like I really need to include why I chose this book so that is why this is up today and why I have two posts today.*

Expecting Sunshine - Alexis Marie Chute

Anyone who has experienced—or knows someone who has experienced—miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, or other forms of pregnancy and baby loss should read Expecting Sunshine, including those considering or already pregnant again. 

After her son, Zachary, dies in her arms at birth, visual artist and author Alexis Marie Chute disappears into her “Year of Distraction.” She cannot paint or write or tap into the heart of who she used to be, mourning not only for Zachary, but also for the future they might have had together. It is only when Chute learns she is pregnant again that she sets out to find healing and rediscover her identity—just in time, she hopes, to welcome her next child. 

In the forty weeks of her pregnancy, Chute grapples with her strained marriage, shaken faith, and medical diagnosis, with profound results. 

Glowing with riveting and gorgeous prose, Expecting Sunshine chronicles the anticipation and anxiety of expecting a baby while still grieving for the child that came before—enveloping readers with insightful observations on grief and healing, life and death, and the incredible power of a mother’s love.

If you read my blog you will know that I have four children. If you've read my blog for a long time you will know that I miscarried a child before I had Penelope. You will also know that I went through a fairly hellish delivery with Lucy and I've had some serious issues since then. I went into this book experiencing different kinds of loss than Alexis had but I could understand some of her feelings. I could absolutely relate to grieving, and trying to heal, but also trying to reconcile with a new future that you didn't plan.

In my case, I really struggled after my miscarriage because I could never understand what it was like to lose a life within you. We hear about it, we say we're sorry, and we move on when it's happening to others. When its you going through that and having to look on an ultrasound screen days later to see it is, in fact, empty, it's a completely different ball game. Even now it's five years later and I still think about that child and what they would have been. They would be going to kindergarten this year. I can't get too sad because I likely wouldn't have Penelope or Lucy and I can't imagine life without them now, but still. I get sad. My situation with Lucy could have been significantly worse because I could have died for good versus having died but come back. Lucy could have died. I don't talk about it much because people say I'm crazy, but after my entire ordeal I was told that I "most likely" will never be able to have a child again. I have all of my organs, but I no longer have working hormones, and they believe with all of the significant blood loss that it most likely damaged my ovaries. It's silly be we were DONE having babies after Lucy. That was it. Matt got a vasectomy anyways, as planned, and no more babies were going to happen. But still. Knowing that I no longer have that choice hurts. Every bizarre scenario goes through my head and none of them make sense because I'm 37- I'm not trying to have any more babies. What if Matt dies and I remarry and he really wants kids? What if in a few years Matt wants to try for another boy? What if I want to help a friend have a child? What if I don't feel "done"? What if.... None of it is rational but that doesn't make the thoughts go away. So I've gone through an entire grieving process of saying goodbye to that part of my life and walking into a new one.


I went into this book with big feelings and I came out with even bigger feelings. In here we get an up close and personal look at Alexis and her journey through grief having to say goodbye to her son Zachary as it becomes he would not be leaving the hospital. They learn of this during her pregnancy so it has to be a special kind of hell to know you won't get to see any of those milestones or even get the bare minimum of moments with your child. We see her gradual walk through the grieving process and the support groups, and the test it was to her marriage and her faith. I really could relate to her feeling like she didn't need medication or a counselor because that was me in the months immediately after Lucy's birth. I was so angry when either were suggested to me by people because it felt like they were saying I could be recovering better, like I can't even do that right, but when my delivering doctor mentioned it, that's when it sounded like something I really wanted to do. I honestly credit her for me being alive (a second time) because had I not gone to those first appointments, I would have killed myself. I know it and I have said it many times. I really needed a total stranger to me and the entire situation to validate what I was feeling because nobody in my life was doing that for me in a way that didn't feel like them placating me.

Alexis would go on to get pregnant again and the worry and anxiety throughout her pregnancy were completely understandable and expected, but that doesn't make it easier on her or anyone around her. It's hard to make someone feel better when you cannot predict the future but you also can't understand what it feels like to be in that exact situation, so while I don't know what that pregnancy would feel like, I really could empathize and relate to that isolation she felt.

Overall? A solid 4 stars. The book reads incredibly fast and reading it feels like she's sitting across a table telling you her life story so it's not the monotonous voice that some memoirs have. The only reason I gave it 4 instead of 5 was because I, as it turns out, could not read about her labor and delivery of her baby Eden. Since having Lucy I have PTSD and I have a really hard time being around pregnant people and babies (especially newborn babies), but in a fun development, I can't hear or read about babies. So if nothing else, I've learned that about myself and that's upsetting. So that's on me. If it were anyone else they would give it 5 stars because this is really terrific.

If you, or someone you know, has or is currently in the process of grieving of a lost child or even a lost experience, this is a really great book to look into as a resource. Forget the self help books written by men who have never experienced it, listen to someone who has hiked through it.
I received a copy of this book for review in exchange for review, all thoughts are my own. This post also contains affiliate links which help keep my blog going. Thank you! 

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