by Dana Romano
I am sure that it comes as no surprise that after losing a baby, just hearing the word “trigger” can cause someone quite a bit of anxiety.
I wish it didn’t.
I wish I can pretend that seeing pictures or talking about pregnancy, newborns and babies are all things that don’t make my heart stop and think of Julian; but it does.
At times I wish it didn’t get my palms sweaty or my heart racing.
I wish it didn’t sometimes leave me with a lump in my throat wondering which way do I look, or how can I get out of the conversation before they notice.
I wish it didn’t send me into flashbacks of my baby fighting for his life and the flashforwards of where he should be at this very moment.
And most of all, oh how I wish it didn’t make me feel so damn guilty.
Do I want it this way? God, no. Who would? Does it happen? Of course.
Do I deal with it? The best way I can at that moment.
Do I try to avoid it? Sometimes, as much as I can.
Sound terrible? I guess one may assume so if they never delivered a baby, to then not be able to take them home.
Maybe they would assume so had they not had a baby die in their arms and watch as they took their last breath as you’re pleading with God not to take them, that you’re crying out loud how you wish you could have done more to save them.
But this is my life now.
Something as simple as attending a baby shower, looking at pictures on social media, asking about pregnancy, engaging in the conversation of how their newborn has been up all night crying – triggers.
The best way I can describe it is it’s like walking through a minefield, and I’m just dodging explosions left and right. But all the way through it, I’m exhausted from running, and I’m anxious because I don’t know where or when the next one will be.
I hate it.
If it weren’t for therapy, the pregnancy and infant loss groups that I am part of on FB, as well as my Hope After Loss groups, I would think I was crazy.
I would think I was a horrible, selfish, human being who is coming off as bitter and jealous.
But I’m not. Far from it.
Oh, how far from it.
What I am, however, is a hurting, grieving, emotionally, and mentally broken mother who lost her son and missed him more than anything.
Of course, some people have no clue what I’ve been through and rightfully so, are unaware.
Then some do know. Those who I am extremely close with and are pregnant, just delivered, or have infants.
But they take the time over and over again to hear me out. They ask, they listen, they’re present.
I can’t tell you what it has meant to me when I start to explain myself, and they stop me and tell me, “You don’t have to.”
It’s a breath of fresh air for my heart, for my soul. And they tell me time and time again they don’t expect me to be engaging when my wounds are far from healing, if ever at all.
They don’t look at me as this enraged mother who just wants what they have.
They look at me with compassion, love, and empathy.
They know there are plenty of other people that they can hold those conversations with other than myself, and they are gentle with me.
And gentleness is what my heart needs right now. That’s how I know my network is strong.
That’s how I know that those who I keep surrounded in my life are the very ones who will always be there for me.
So if you don’t see me at your baby shower, if I’m not asking about your pregnancy as much as I should, if I’m not leaving comments on your beautiful baby’s pictures, if I can’t be in the presence of a newborn or infant, please know I didn’t choose this.
I didn’t choose for Julian to be taken from me so I could have all of these emotions.
It’s the triggers.
But that doesn’t for one second mean I do not wish goodwill on you, that I’m not hoping for a healthy and successful delivery or that I’m not always thinking of you and your baby in the back of my mind.
I wouldn’t wish what my husband and I saw, what we heard, what we lived through in those final moments, on anyone.
So even if I can’t muster up the courage to have the words fall out of my mouth, without it breaking my own heart as it’s being said, please know I’m thinking of you.
Sometimes when the words leave, I get that anxious feeling again, and the flashbacks and forwards of Julian. That’s why.
That always will be why.
There are times, however, when I can engage. When I strike up the conversation, ask the questions, leave a comment, attend a shower, or send the text to ask about your pregnancy or newborn, let me at that moment. It simply means I can handle it at that time.
If I couldn’t, I wouldn’t. But if I can, I will.
The hardest part about this journey is not knowing what my feelings will be from one second to the next.
What simple things that are so innocently said, done, or seen can bring a smile to my face or a trigger to my heart.
That’s the thing with grief. There are no stages.
It just is.
I get how people may assume I’m okay to talk about something because they think “time heals all wounds,” or because I’m smiling on the outside, I must be okay on the inside. Trust me, that’s far from true.
But how I wish it were. I so very desperately wish it worked that way after birthing and losing something so close.
And I, more than anyone, realize how incredibly unfair it can be to those who play active roles in my life.
But they don’t give up on me; they haven’t yet, and I can only hope they never will. Through therapy, I’m learning to put myself first. This has been difficult because I’m not that type of person.
I like to think I’m a pretty empathetic person to begin with, how I’m always thinking of others’ feelings before my own. So you can imagine how hard it is to shift this thought process.
But I have to. I’m learning that I need to put my feelings first because ultimately, I’m the one who has to deal with the despair through it all. I need to make choices that I’m comfortable with for myself and my grieving heart.
I’m the one who has to live with the cringe of something said/done, or the heartache of something not. This is why I write.
Do I know how long these triggers will last? No.
Do I know how often they will come and go? No.
Do I think there may be a time when I will be able to do all the things I used to do with ease and innocence? Probably not.
You don’t recover from this. Ever. While I was teaching, in our kindergarten stations, there was a fun activity. Students were asked to sort things that are living and not living. What can set me off spiraling in a game like that? Well, one of the “items” that needed to be classified was – a baby.
Of course, the students shouted, “It’s living!” My thoughts didn’t go there. Because my baby isn’t. All babies don’t get to live; Julian didn’t.
This was so incredibly small and minute, so whoever would think anything of it? But I did.
These are the oh so small triggers that may or may not set off at any given time. It’s no one’s fault, I can’t live in a bubble, and I don’t choose to.
I also don’t expect people to censor their whole lives according to how I can survive.
But I do hope people are becoming more aware of those whose hearts need a little more love, a little more time and a whole lot of understanding.
Because if you can’t grasp how one person can grieve for so long, then you, my friend, are one of the lucky ones.