Hand-Me-Downs for the Rainbow

By |2018-01-16T21:20:27+00:00January 16th, 2018|Emotional Health, Parenting After Loss|0 Comments

Before I learned about the complication in my pregnancy with Zachary, I had been amassing a small collection of baby boy clothes. My first child was a girl, Hannah, and so I was starting from scratch. I picked up cute onesies form Costco and was given newborn to twelve-month-old clothes from friends and family. Some even gave hand-me-downs from their children. Then I found out that Zachary would not live beyond the womb. The doctors told me he had a genetic abnormality that allowed tumors to grow in his body. The only outfit Zachary wore was a white sleeper my husband and I dressed him in after his birth, after he died in my arms.

I very quickly put away all the baby clothes that had been intended for Zach. I packed them up and stored them out of mind. For a long time, I didn’t know if I could dress my next child, my rainbow baby, in the clothes meant for Zachary. It felt wrong somehow, even though Zach had never worn them. They were eerie clothes, intended for a life lived not for a ghost. This makes me think of the extremely short story by Earnest Hemingway:

For sale:

Baby shoes.

Never worn.

This breaks my heart. Even typing it just now gives me a visceral flashback. I was sitting in university in Cambridge. It was a class in my Masters of Fine Arts program. We were discussing a story like Hemingway’s – but longer – when one of my classmates piped up and spouted some dismissive comment about losing a baby. It set me off. I broke out crying. I rebutted the classmate and then barged out of the room. Yes, this was immensely embarrassing. At the same time, certain things hit a nerve and they may always do so.

In the end, I did decide that I was okay to pass on Zachary’s unworn clothing to my rainbow baby, Eden, and my second rainbow, Luca. Part of it was economics. Why put good clothing to waste, right? Also, it’s a family thing. Handing clothes down from one sibling to another. Even though Zachary is not alive, all these acts – remembering him even through hand-me-downs – connects us to him. The visuals prompt my memory.

Speaking of memories… Oh Facebook. Sometimes I love the Facebook memories that pop up and remind me of good times. BUT, every so often, Facebook will alert me to part of my past that is flat out hard to handle. I was very open about my loss on social media and, therefore, many of my Facebook “memories” that show up in my feed include aspects of my loss. Just yesterday the memory that filled my screen and caused my eyes to fill with tears was of the bedding I had bought for Zach. It was creamy colored and covered with blue and green rocket ships. Oh boy, this got me choked up! My husband and I were about to watch Netflix and put our feet up. I asked Aaron to pause the show just a minute in. I needed to talk about it. The tears needed to come. Aaron confessed to me as well, as we sat there cuddled on the coach, that he too had reminders invade his normal routine.

These things are a part of life. Our brains are wired to remember, to connect the dots, to link stories and people and even objects, like baby clothing. While it was hard to see Zachary’s bedding, I am thankful for that little spark of memory. Yes, these instances are hard – like seeing my rainbows wearing Zach’s baby outfits – but, in the end, they are another opportunity to celebrate.


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About the Author:

Alexis Marie Chute
Alexis Marie Chute is an award-winning artist, author and filmmaker. She resides in Alberta, Canada with her husband Aaron and their three living children Hannah, Eden and Luca. Her second-born, Zachary, died at birth from a random cardiac tumor in 2010. Alexis Marie wrote a memoir called Expecting Sunshine about her pregnancy that followed. Through vulnerability and poetic language, she revealed the anxiety-filled anticipation of having a baby after losing a baby. While pregnant with her fourth, Alexis Marie created Expecting Sunshine Documentary to support bereaved yet growing families and educate the public of what pregnancy after loss really looks like. Alexis Marie has her Bachelor of Fine Art in visual art from the University of Alberta and her Masters of Fine Art in creative writing from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. Photo Life Magazine named her an “Emerging Canadian Photographer,” Avenue Magazine included her in their round-up of the Top 40 Under 40, and she was the recipient of the John Poole Award for promotion of the Arts. Alexis Marie was featured in print and video as a Mother-Expert in Today’s Parent Magazine’s Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss awareness campaign, which won first place at the 38th Annual National Magazine Awards for Best Editorial Package on the Web. Alexis Marie is a highly regarded speaker and has presented on art, writing, bereavement and the healing capacities of creativity around the world. She is widely published in anthologies, newspapers and magazines and her artworks on loss, healing and resiliency have been exhibited across North America. Wanted Chosen Planned is Alexis Marie’s blog about life after the loss of a child. You can follow Alexis Marie on Twitter at both @_Alexis_Marie and @expectsunbook, Facebook at both Always Alexis Marie and Expecting Sunshine, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Tumblr. She can be reached by email, and you can see her work at her websites Alexis Marie Chute, Alexis Marie Art, Alexis Marie Writes, Wanted Chosen Planned, and Expecting Sunshine.

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