Learning to let it ride: staying in the moment when triggers sneak up on me

Lately I’ve been thoroughly distracted by dreaming about our new paint colors, flooring, and the puppy we can get now that we have a home of our own. Work and home organizing projects have kept me busy enough not to dwell long on our miscarriage or the fact that we cannot try to get pregnant until I get cleared as cancer-free. It had been awhile since I’ve shed a tear, and I started to think that I had made it to the other side of this grief process, but I was very wrong. . .

During a stretch of cold, dreary winter days a notification for a little condo appeared on my Trulia app. It needed some love, but the price was right and the HOA meant no mowing or snow removal. Jeff and I decided to make the purchase knowing we could make it our own. It was something to look forward to, a place we could personalize, and even possibly be a place to start our family. With the paperwork complete and the loan approved, we celebrated with a champagne toast and looked forward to this bright spot in our future. I’ve always been a procrastinator, but in the spirit of personal improvement, I started packing up closets and non-essentials to make it easier when it comes time to actually get the moving truck. Last weekend I decided to tackle the hall closet we rarely use because I figured that was a safe bet. When I got to the bottom shelf of the closet, I stumbled upon something that knocked the wind out of me. In the back of the closet on that bottom shelf I found a shopping bag with all of the baby items that we hid from ourselves after our D&C. The bag contained baby outfits, toys, and our letter sign with the letters from our last progress picture still stuck in it, all carefully wrapped in crisp, white tissue paper. How ironic to open a bag wrapped as if it was a gift, only to find a painful reminder of the baby we never got the chance to meet.

How can you be prepared for these unwelcome surprises? Items and memories that once brought excitement now pull something entirely different from the same spot in my heart: a flood of anxiety, dread, anger and fear. I felt caught off guard. I wanted to blame someone for not protecting me from this reminder, but can I blame myself? Can I hide forever from these triggers? If I’m honest, I want to run as fast as I can in the opposite direction from those emotions. However, from experience I know that running is an unhelpful coping mechanism, because the feelings only persist longer. The goal is instead is to stay in the moment, let the tears roll, and allow the emotions to fully move through me (easier said than done, of course).

Instead of blaming myself for taking the risk of buying baby items and taking progress photos ‘too early’, I look back on those two months of joy and am thankful for the excitement while we had it. I know that next time around those early weeks and months will be anxiety ridden as we wait to hear a heartbeat and see a healthy baby on that ultrasound. So today I’m thankful for the innocence of our first pregnancy. I’m glad that fear didn’t steal my joy then, even if it causes me sadness now. I’m realizing in working with a therapist who specializes in pregnancy loss and infertility that triggers are going to happen, but that anticipating worst case scenarios just zaps me of my energy to enjoy the happy moments between the waves of grief.

Don’t get me wrong, I unfollowed a lot of accounts that post a steady stream of pregnant women and new moms photos, and unsubscribed to emails about baby strollers, but I can’t avoid all evidence of pregnancy around me. I’m learning to set boundaries around what I can handle, let go of any judgment of my emotions, and allow myself permission to grieve when those triggers pop up unexpectedly. I’m trusting that in time our day will come, and in the meantime, that processing my grief is better than ignoring it and moving ahead as if nothing happened.

We will save those items for our some-day rainbow baby, knowing they will always hold special significance and a reminder of our first baby.

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