Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief


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.

Second Edition includes: Bonus chapter written from the author’s husband’s perspective. Plus, resource section, group discussion questions, and Q&A with author Alexis Marie Chute

My Review

I have never been pregnant so I have not experienced a loss. Although, readers like me can and could say we can relate and understand what author, Alexis went through; it would not be fair to really say this. Unless you have actually had a miscarriage, I don't think you can fully understand. However, readers like me do get a glimpse into this tragic event. If for nothing else; we can have more patience and acceptance to allow someone grieving to grieve in their own way and not try to fit everyone into one mold of grieve. 

Back to the book. I do really like how the book was split out by periods of time in trimesters. To be clear it was trimesters for Alexi and her husband's new son. Yet, at the same time it was in periods of time for Zach, their son that they lost. 

Alexis does not shy away from sharing her emotions from anger, loss, fear, obsession, and happiness. So anyone who has experienced a miscarriage will relate. Today we are more accepting to share these stories of loss to help heal not only for ourselves but to help others as well. It is for these reasons that I applaud people like Alexis who are willing to share their stories.



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Visit and sign up for Alexis’ newsletter:
http://www.alexismariechute.com/


When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? Or what first inspired you to write?
I have been writing since as far back as I can remember—and even before I could hold a pen. As a child, I was very creative and cerebral. I was always coming up with stories and adventures. Fortunately, I didn’t lose that trait as I grew up. I find writing inspiration everywhere, at all times. My brain is a sponge for my environment and stimuli. Sometimes this is overwhelming, but most often I use this hyper-awareness to my advantage. 

What inspired your story?
My memoir, Expecting Sunshine, arose out of the anxiety and introspection of my own life. I wanted to survive my pregnancy after loss and not go crazy in the process. Coming out of it on the other side, sane and with a living baby gave me hope that perhaps I had done something right. I wanted to share that hope with others who struggle with loss and growing their family in the midst of grief.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Not in winter—I hate snow—but I typically love being outdoors! My favorite activities are paddle boarding, canoeing, hiking, trail running, and sitting in a hot tub outside and talking for hours with friends and family.
Also, aside from my writing, I am a visual artist, curator, filmmaker, and public speaker. So those things, plus family time, keep me super busy. I do, however, always make time for the important people in my life.

Have you won any awards or honors (not just for writing)?
Selected
Book & Lit Awards:
Winner, IndieReader Discovery Awards, Women’s Issues Category, Expecting Sunshine memoir
Winner, Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Best Book Cover Non-Fiction, Expecting Sunshine memoir
Canada Book Award Winner, Expecting Sunshine memoir
Kirkus Reviews’ BEST BOOKS OF 2017, Best Indie Books of 2017, Expecting Sunshine memoir
Film Awards:
Semi-Finalist, Hollywood International Ind. Documentary Awards, Expecting Sunshine film
Finalist, US Hollywood International Golden Film Award, Expecting Sunshine film
Finalist, International Women’s Film Festival, Expecting Sunshine film
Art & Photography Awards:
Winner, John Poole Promotion of the Arts Award, Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts, Edmonton
Winner, “The Ultimate Composition,” plus 1 honorable mention, Method Art Gallery
Silver & Bronze Awards, Iris Awards, New Zealand Institute of Professional Photographers
Advocacy Awards:
Top 40 Under 40, Avenue Magazine
Winner, 38th Annual National Magazine Awards, Best Editorial Package on the Web, Today’s  Parent Magazine, Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss awareness campaign, CAN
Named a Sizzling 20 Under 30, Edmontonians Magazine



How I Survived the Guilt of Losing a Baby
By Alexis Marie Chute
When I gave birth to my first child, my sense of pride was all encompassing. I couldn’t stop smiling. I could hardly believe that I had made such a beautiful daughter. Every curve of her face was perfect and her seven-and-a-half-pound-frame fit just right in my arms. When my husband texted our family and friends, he wrote, “Alexis did amazing! Both mom and baby are doing great!” Our early visitors were also complementary. “Well done, Mom!” they told me. I felt like Super Woman. Strong. Invincible. The hero!
With all the wonderful affirmations mothers receive for delivering healthy children, it’s no wonder, unfortunately, that bereaved moms experience such inward-focused anguish.
My second experience giving birth was a stark contrast to my first. My husband and I learned – at 25 weeks gestation – that our unborn child would not live beyond the womb. The complications from our son’s cardiac tumor eventually triggered labor. The delivery room was silent that day my stomach tightened with contractions as my baby, Zachary, was born at 30 weeks. He never cried as he emerged into the cool air, and only moved briefly in my arms. I knew Zachary had passed. I kissed and rocked my baby boy; I told him I loved him and held him to my heart. The commentary following Zachary’s death was supportive, but also what you’d expect from our grief-avoidant culture.
In those moments – and in the years that followed – I felt intense shame and guilt. I could not make sense of what happened. Inwardly, I beat myself up with the ‘why’ questions: Why did my body fail me? What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently?
After talking about my loss with my girlfriends, I learned that I was not alone. Many of them had experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant loss. In our own ways, we all carried the weight of our tragedies on our shoulders, even when, medically, we were not at fault.
It is human nature to crave reason. One of my family members suggested Zachary may have passed because I got pregnant with him shortly after giving birth to my daughter. One girlfriend shared with me that her father guessed her demanding work schedule caused her baby to be stillborn at 38 weeks. When Nancy Kerrigan, two-time figure skating Olympic medalist and current contestant on Dancing With The Stars, recently opened-up about her six miscarriages, I wondered: Had anyone in her life blamed her training regime for her losses? While the words of others can deeply wound, often the most scarring blame-game happens within.
As women, it is ingrained in our societal-predisposition that we are innately knowledgeable and proficient babymakers; our bodies know what to do. Therefore, when Zachary died, I felt like a complete failure. I wondered for so long: “What is wrong with me?” That question unstitched many pieces of my identity and I found myself lost as a mother, woman, and artist. At that time, I believed things happened for a reason. When my family’s nine-months of genetic testing concluded with one simple word – random – I continued to wrestle with self-doubt.
I began to lose faith in my marriage and in God. However, the more intimate loss was the faith and love I could no longer find for myself. When I got pregnant again, I struggled to picture giving birth to a child that lived. I felt like my body was a tomb, not a protective sanctuary for a baby. The fear of another silent delivery room haunted me for months.
When I worried my anxiety would hurt my next child, I tentatively tiptoed into artmaking, among other intentional healing efforts, such as therapy and meditation. After losing Zachary, I had avoided art, terrified of what grief and anguish may subconsciously appear on the canvas. That season of life I call my “Year of Distraction” in which I busied myself with everything but self-care.
In returning to artistic activities – painting, making wood sculpture, dancing around my living room, writing in my journal – I tapped into the right-side of my brain. In contrast to our left-logic-brain, the right thinks abstractly, solves problems creatively, experiments, invents, plays, and more easily goes with the flow. By being in that headspace, I made peace with the answerless ‘why’ questions. 
Through storytelling, vulnerability, and creativity, I surrendered to the unapologetic yet beautiful mystery of life. There I found personal hope and freedom, not to mention my wayward identity.
Expressing myself through art gave me a healthy outlet for my pain, rather than storing it inside in a pressure cooker of guilt. It gave me power over how I was feeling in that moment. I did forgive myself for being unable to save Zachary, whether or not I actually needed forgiving. Slowly I began to realize that I could be my own hero, caring for and showing myself kindness and acceptance. Losing a baby was the hardest thing I have ever endured, but when I think back to my delivery room experiences – all four of them now – I appreciate the gift of each and every one.




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