| REAL LIFE: Lucy Knisley |

The Graphic Life

FIRST PRINTED IN THE JULY/AUGUST 2022 ISSUE

From an early age, pregnancy fascinated Lucy Knisley. Not just the end result, but the process and the metamorphosis of a woman’s body, her family and her life. And while she ended up a cartoonist instead of a midwife, the desire to write about reproductive health never waned.

So when the celebrated graphic novelist’s autobiographical stories became stories of love, marriage and the process of pregnancy, she thought she knew the story line well.

Until it didn’t go according to everything she’d been taught.

“What happened to me is what happens to a lot of other people who undergo this transformation, the road was not as smooth as I had anticipated and my education fell short in conveying the actual path and the winding nature of that path to becoming a parent,” she says.

Blindsided by difficulties getting pregnant and miscarriage, Knisley says she felt so unprepared, isolated and blamed herself and her body.

“It really rocked the foundation of my trust in my body and my understanding of the process.”

That lack of confidence lingered when severe morning sickness and preeclampsia symptoms were dismissed by her doctor as her being hysterical. She ended up with an emergency C-section, lost half of the blood in her body and had a seizure on the table that left her in a coma.

Knisley says as she began to write about her near-death experience, other moms reached out with their own harrowing stories.

Her trip into the science and medicine of maternal health also was eye opening as an advocate for reproductive health, she says. “This is a very scary time for those of us who know the harrowing and dangerous qualities of becoming a parent and the dangers not taught in school.”

Her book, Kid Gloves, shares her story and, she hopes, dispels the myths of reproductive health to educate others.

While she writes about the joys and pitfalls of having a baby and now raising a nearly 6-year-boy along with a pandemic cat with her partner John, sharing on Instagram with her nearly 200,000 followers, Knisley is discovering that writing about parenthood can sometimes be difficult.

The biggest lesson she’s taken from it so far: The constant learning. “Everything is transitory with parenting. That was something that really rocked me early on. I think a lot of parents struggle with it.”

She’s also moving away from autobiographical graphic novels to middle grade fiction about growing up. Her brand new book, second in a series of three, Apple Crush, came during the family’s escape to her mom’s farm in upstate New York during the pandemic. People who love Knisley still might recognize characteristics in Jen — a nerdy cat-loving artist who likes to read and has difficulty with math processing — as she adjusts to life with stepsisters on a farm and a new school.

She says she hopes readers of the series can take away the idea of finding the good in any change beyond their control.

As far as being a mom, Knisley simply loves it. “We have this great kid. He is very happy, he is incredibly hilarious.”

FAST TALK

You have a secret stash of what:

Dark chocolate. “They know, they just know not to mess with it.”

Your mom superpower:

“I can find anything in the house. If anybody loses anything, which happens all the time, I have to spring to action and find it.”

Most hated household chore:

“Doing the dishes.”

One thing that surprises people about you:

“I was expelled from high school.” (Unjustly accused by another student of smoking pot at a party.) She says people think she’s a goody-two-shoes suburban mom.

What drives you as a mom:

She says it’s hard to deny her son anything. “I’m this very indulgent mom who really wants to bring a lot of joy and pleasure to my son and it’s part of what drives me as an artist, too. I want to make things that people respond to with joy and pleasure.”

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