Surviving Painful Triggers in Pregnancy after Loss

Facebook memories can be fun, those little reminders of what you posted a year or two years ago, or more. It can be entertaining to see what photos you shared or what you complained about back then. Or the big news you announced to all your friends.

When I opened Facebook this morning, the memory presented to me was from June 14, 2010. It read: “Already love the little one in my tummy! Baby #2, here he or she comes!” I was writing about Zachary, the baby I lost – but before I knew anything was wrong.

In my journey of pregnancy after loss I had many triggers, like the one above. Many of these triggers are common between families that go on to have a child after losing a child. Some of these may include:

  • Reaching the point in the subsequent pregnancy when the previous child was discovered to be ill or have passed.
  • Visiting again the doctor who cared for the last pregnancy.
  • Going to the same hospital where you delivered your baby without a heartbeat, but this time to deliver your living child.

Other triggers are personal. These ones are extra sneaky, because they come out of nowhere and can seem so innocent for people who don’t know. For me, some of these include:

  • Hearing the name Zachary. Even if it’s an adult. No matter where or when I hear someone say Zachary or Zach, my heart seems to stop for a moment.
  • The date of his birth, October 14. For years after, I noticed this date everywhere. I write about this in my memoir, Expecting Sunshine. One day I pulled an egg carton out of the fridge and the expiration date stamped on the container said: OCTOBER 14. I remember standing there, frozen in place. It was unsettling.
  • Driving past the community where my family used to live and seeing the house where I carried Zach and struggled with big decisions for his life and my own. It was in that house where I went into labor with Zach – and it was a place we had to leave in order to heal.

Triggers are inevitable. We cannot avoid them, no matter how hard we try. Sometimes it feels like the universe is cruel. Why does it have to bring strangers across our path who have a healthy child born in the same month as the baby we lost? Why does our favorite sweater remind us of all those weeks we lived in it after our child passed, when we were hiding from the world?

Triggers can be especially stressful when pregnant again. When a potential complications arose in one of my subsequent pregnancies, it felt like the most heartbreaking and unbearable déjà vu.

If you are feeling this way, please know that triggers are normal. You are normal for feeling upset when they catch you off guard. Don’t be hard on yourself in these instances. Show yourself the kindness you would give to others in their time of distress.

Having a baby after losing a baby. Photo by Alexis Marie Chute.

Having a baby after losing a baby. Photo by Alexis Marie Chute.

I have found that mindfulness in these moments is a great help. I take a second to reflect on Zachary – and on the new pregnancy. Without judgement, I let the emotions come.

Over the years since Zachary’s birth and death, I have actually grown to appreciate these triggers in a whole new way. I like remembering Zach in my daily life. When I hear his name, it brings me joy. It is all a matter of perspective. I cannot change the past, and these triggers at first were something to survive, like the subsequent pregnancy. But once we attune our hearts to seek out joy, they can be lovely reminders, like naturally occurring Facebook memories. This takes time, but know that joy is still possible in the face of painful triggers.

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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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