What, only ten? Pregnancy After Loss is FILLED with triggers – from our bodies to our doctor’s office to social media. Here’s a brief list of some that have come up for me personally.
1. Being Pregnant
Simply the physical experience of being pregnant. Nausea, kicks, sciatica, the physical happenings can remind us of the pregnancy we lost or be a painful example of what we missed.
2. The Calendar
“I should have a three-month-old right now.” “I was pregnant for New Year’s Eve last year too.” “Another birthday without a baby in my arms.” Both big milestones and innocuous ones hit differently after pregnancy or infant loss. When we become pregnant, we imagine what will be happening when we have a huge third-trimester belly, when our baby is newborn, what age they’ll be for family events… and then it doesn’t happen. It’s hard, and it hurts.
3. “Routine” Check-Ups
You check in, the medical assistant takes your vitals and makes small talk, and everyone assumes you are just thrilled to be pregnant. It’s just a routine prenatal visit after all. The small talk can be enough to make the tears roll, or maybe it’s flashes of memories in the same chair with the same assistant but a different baby.
4. Medical Forms
There are two that spring to mind for me. First, anything that requires I relive my pregnancy history. 4 life births, 1 neonatal death, 3 miscarriages. Just the facts, without room to explain the circumstances, the heartache, and the love. The second is the depression questionnaire. I haven’t filled it out in the seven years since Oberon died. As a rule-follower, this is probably the first time I ever didn’t just put my head down and fill out a form given to me. That form triggers me no matter how I could answer it, so I just don’t do it. My doctor will have to talk to me to determine my depression risk.
5. Baby Showers
Oof, a big one. Baby showers are TOUGH. We want to be happy for you, promise. But it is hard. Witnessing so many people assuming pregnant = baby, listening to birth plan discussions, playing silly games, it can get to be too much. That’s not even addressing the awkwardness of being the woman everyone knows had a bad outcome. A death. They don’t know how to talk to you, and you may not know how to talk to them. I often send a gift and a card, but don’t attend.
6. Pregnant People
Even now after three living children, pregnant people take my breath away. It can be very hard to make socially-acceptable pregnancy-related small talk. I felt like the grim reaper, the harbinger of things no one wanted to think about. Most pregnant people don’t want to consider what might go wrong, let alone talk to someone who lived it. I found I could talk to loss moms when they were pregnant, but it took many years to be able to (somewhat) comfortably talk to other pregnant people.
7. TV Shows / Movies with Pregnancy Loss Storylines
On one hand, it can be handled well and helps bring visibility to something so many women and families have to deal with. On the other hand, it can be re-traumatizing. Sometimes we just want escapism and reliving our pregnancy or infant loss is too real.
8. TV Shows / Movies with Perfect Pregnancies
It’s also maddening to see pregnancy plotlines where everything is simple, easy, perfect. They maybe have a little scare, but of course everything is *perfect* after all. Unless we’re watching a family drama where pregnancy and babies are expected, it’s just rough.
9. Excited Reactions to Our Pregnancy
“I’m so excited for you! It’s definitely going to work out this time, I just know it.” Head… explode. When our feelings are complex, it can be triggering to see someone express uninhibited joy. Especially when that joy feels like it’s invalidating our grief and pain (which are still there!).
10. Labor and Delivery
Entering the hospital can feel eerily similar, or totally different. Maybe you recognize the intake nurse, maybe your room has the same layout as last time. I did pretty good with hospital triggers until my subsequent son had to go to NICU. Being in the Mother/Baby room without my baby, having to get up to go “visit” my newborn, and going home while he stayed in the hospital were all incredibly triggering. We knew things were different this time (the reason for the NICU stay was completely different), going through those motions again was intense.
What other triggers did I miss? Which ones catch you by surprise?
- Pregnancy After Loss: A Sensitive (and Triggering) Time during Life after Loss
- What I Want You to Know about Pregnancy After Loss
- When Everyday Symbols become Triggers during Pregnancy after Loss
- People say the darndest things when you are pregnant again after a loss
- 6 Coping Skills for Managing Stress During Your Pregnancy After a Loss