While my pregnancy after loss journey has brought me much joy, I still find Christmas a trigger season. I know it is a hard time for many grievers. It’s a sad paradox, really; a time so intent that we be merry is in fact a source of sadness for some.
My son, Zachary, was due just a few days before Christmas day. That first Christmas after he died at birth in my arms… it was extremely difficult to be in the Christmas spirit. So much so that my husband and I fled, burning up our savings, to Hawaii. We hoped our sorrow would not stowaway on the plane with us. It did. It always does.
This is my eighth Christmas without Zachary. All combined, it is my seventh Christmas with my rainbow babies. Yet, none of that math actually adds or takes away from the grind of the journey. Yes, there is so much love and happiness in giving birth to a healthy child after loss – and truly that is the best Christmas gift – but the pang of missing is never proportionately subtracted from. The grief has lessened for me over the years, this is true, but it’s still there.
I often forget that Zachary was meant to be a Christmas baby until a week before Christmas, like today. I still miss him. Gosh. I get misty eyed just writing these words right now. When I feel like this – as I am turning into a soupy mess of longing – I choose to take this trigger and turn it into something good.
If you have read any of my other PALS posts, or my memoir Expecting Sunshine, you will know that I strongly believe in the power of choice. We can let triggers defeat us, ruin our holidays, put a wedge in our relationships. OR. Or we can choose how we will respond. This is hard. I am not going to lie to you. It can be hard to choose the proverbial “higher road.” But it’s worth it.
- I choose to take this reminder of Zach’s original due date, which is a trigger of the grandness of his loss and absence in our family, and flip it on its head.
- I choose to remember how active Zachary was in the womb and how that made me smile for thirty weeks.
- I choose to remember the gift of holding him in my arms as he died. That is a memory I will carry with me forever.
- I choose to hug my living children longer, to cuddle with them until they go to sleep, to listen to their rabbit-trail stories with intent focus instead of getting mentally lost in my to-do lists at the same time.
- I choose self-care, which for me means feeling all the feelings, having long baths, sleeping, being with people that lift me up, eating treats (because we all deserve a little sweetness), and generally just being nice to myself.
- I choose to see the long game: That life is a journey and that while there will always be downs, there are also ups – and truly, I have so very much to be thankful for.
- Finally, I choose to reject whatever image of the ideal Christmas that is being shoved on me by marketers or religion or society at large, and make this holiday season whatever I want it to be – because at the end of the day, I have the blissful power over this one little aspect of my life, therefore I want to make the most of it.
Oh, after writing that list, I actually feel better! Ha! Apparently writing these thoughts was a mini-exercise in self-therapy. Hooray! Now I suppose I should pay myself the $180 I usually fork out for the therapist – just kidding. That money has already gone to gifts.
Wherever you are at on this journey of loss and pregnancy after loss, I send you my love. I also give you permission to choose what this holiday will look like for you – and if someone is not happy with your decisions, you can blame them on me.
Alexis Marie Chute