Trigger Warnings



Last week was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. I was attending the ProDoula Conference out of town, rooming with two strong businesswomen. I was already feeling overwhelmed and vulnerable; I had been exposed to raw emotions for days in a room full of survivors of something.

All of a sudden my Instagram feed, which has many birth workers, was nothing but memes about this topic. I commented to my roommate that this was a trigger for me, and I wished there had been trigger warnings. I don’t need a day to remember the baby I lost. I told her that I always remember the day I found out it was pregnant again, the day I lost the baby, and what would have been the baby’s birthday.
I didn’t tell her I remember my loss every time my period is late, when it comes, and seeing the blood takes me right back there. I remember the loss every time I contemplate freeing our house of the baby items we have kept, every time I go see my midwife, and other random times. I actually have never forgotten, and my husband would probably say I haven’t been exactly the same since.
My roommate responded that some women need this to process their emotions. I saw in my Facebook feed there was a candle-light remembrance among my colleagues in a hotel room a few floors down—which made me shudder. I applaud the women who can sit in a room and process their losses, because I want to be done processing mine.
I have been thinking about this since, due to this conversation with my roommate more than the memes. About how these are so helpful to some— and so harmful to others. And when it is appropriate to indicate a trigger warning, so that your followers do not re-experience their trauma again?
I have known many other women who have had this loss. It is extremely common—more common than most women think. It is a hard truth to grapple with, as is any aspect of infertility.
For an entire decade or two, these women have tried NOT to get pregnant. However, they never knew how hard it would be when they decided to get pregnant—only to have months and months pass with no results.
Prior to my first pregnancy, I tracked my cycles, evaluated my cervical mucous and took fertility drugs to increase my chances of multiple eggs being released from my fallopian tubes. My husband had several sperm analyses. We had endured artificial inseminations and countless ultrasounds. Once a month I started my workday among other older, successful women trying not to look at each other, in a lonely office waiting for the procedure—only to cry all the way to work. And then we would find out two weeks later it didn’t work.
During all of this we watched friends and acquaintances experience entire pregnancies, births, newborn photos, and their children’s first birthdays—and we still were not pregnant. It was to the point that I did not want to look at Facebook or talk to certain people, because I couldn’t be myself (a good friend) to them.
We tried for almost two years before we quit—and inevitably became pregnant right away.
Miscarriages are another aspect of infertility. It is a time when the heavens opened up and something works, and then it is taken away. When I had my miscarriage, we weren’t even trying anymore; once again it had been years of things not working. My pregnancy had been unplanned, unexpected, and for a short time, personally unwanted. My anguish during this very physically painful experience was compounded by the fact that it occurred after I started feeling excited about a new baby, a sibling for my son, and another member in our family.
I have been scrolling through all these emotions and memories the last few days—since the memes and the conversation with my roommate. I have cried many times, as I am now while waiting for my car to be finished at the car wash. Normal tasks have been mired in these thoughts, for days. I cannot help but wonder if I could have avoided all this if there were trigger warnings, although I realize this is more difficult to do in an Instagram feed.
It is a tough call. I understand that there are people that need to talk and process their feelings, who may have not had many people to turn to at their time of loss. I had several friends with the same experience to lean on, and some without that were still there for me. I also had people that even a month later made a point to say something—which was incredibly kind and shook me to my core. Maybe that is my issue with these memes- they just all come out of nowhere.
As a businesswoman, I need to ask myself, when I make memes, who I am making them for: myself, friends, colleagues—or my clients? And I need to decide if my clients are more like me, and become upset by this, or if this is what they need to help them heal. I think for now I am going to play it safe because my target market has experienced these issues; some may have dealt with infertility and/or miscarriages for years.
I will use trigger warnings or I will just stick to National Coffee Day.