Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Lucy Knisley with a baby carriage. Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos captures the graphic memoirist’s experiences with pregnancy and childbirth — which went about as not smoothly as you could fear, since she almost died during the process.
From reading her previous autobiographical graphic novels, I knew she’d dreamed about having children for a long time. As she says in her illustrated introduction, the book covers two years of “what I learned, what I wish I’d known, and what little I know.” (And the impression that she’s still a little sleep-deprived, deservedly so.) That approach is what makes Knisley’s graphic memoirs so wonderful — she tells her story in a way that puts the reader right there in the moment, but she also brings in plenty of context, making the subject about more than just her.
I love Knisley’s simple lines and comfortable colors. Her art is straightforward, as suits a factual subject, with well-chosen images and moments to put the reader into the same emotional space. One small moment, about cartoonists having dinner together, leads her to realize the importance of reading comics by women who are mothers, a lovely bit of awareness.
In this case, her own experiences are interspersed with thoughts on the history of sexism when it comes to treating and understanding women’s bodies, myths about miscarriages, the biology of conception, and how “America’s maternal mortality rate is the highest in any developed nation”… and rising.
Knisley tells us of going off birth control, handling severe, long-lasting “morning sickness”, and her temporarily panicky husband. The last third of the book is particularly nerve-wracking, as her concerns over how things are going are brushed aside by the medical establishment, leading to a chilling section that begins:
That was my last clear memory of that night and the next couple of days…. The following portion is written from [my husband’s] perspective because I do not remember it.
She had lost half the blood in her body from a condition that could have been treated prior if her doctor had listened to her concerns. That stark reality, of reading a book by someone who almost died, makes the subject of interest and concern to any reader.
Personally, I’ve never wanted kids, and this memoir does exactly what it should: shows me what someone with a different life from me thinks and feels. I got to experience an alternate existence from the inside out, the ability which I love about comics. Plus, cool history lessons and infuriating facts made it about more than one life, but a plea for change and understanding. And a warning.