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Minefields of Nostalgia

Time travel is tricky business. Life's a tangled mess of good days and bad, and sometimes those moments come back around when you least expect them. We've created a world where everything is documented and recorded, and sometimes we face a little fallout in the midst of all the cat photos and Instagram food.
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My relationship status with nostalgia apps like Timehop and Facebook's On This Day is, "it's complicated."

They speak to the part of my brain that loves the patterns and parallels of anniversaries. They spoon feed me a steady infusion of memories both mundane and extraordinary. I'd nearly forgotten the time my daughter cut her own hair, or how tired I thought I was in the years before becoming a parent. It's the laziest form of time travel, in an era where we take so many pictures but rarely go back through them. I've done some awesomely ridiculous things, and it's fun to see the evidence of those ideas in progress.

A decade of the best days of our lives, a decade of traditions and unexpected similarities. I talk about the weather a lot and always get sick mid-March. There are days when you could predict my next post.

Maybe yours reminds you of the day you met your future husband. Or the day you found out you were pregnant. Lovely reminders of a life well lived.

Until you come upon the bad days. The day you lost that baby. The day your husband left.

The day it all fell apart.

For me the minefield is lurking just out of sight, ready and waiting to stumble through. One year ago I was 27 weeks pregnant and blissfully unaware that in less than two weeks I would start bleeding, and that in less than a month my son would be here. All three pounds of him. I had no idea that the most difficult period of my life was lurking in those shadows, and that it would still reverberate today.

I think of the beauty of hindsight as I watch him learning to crawl -- prematurity leaving only the slightest mark. I think of the pitfalls of hindsight as I see myself one year ago, planning my daughter's fifth birthday party and having no idea of the danger that was lurking inside my body. I had no way to know that as I planned one birthday I was mere weeks from another.

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This was not where I planned to be

These days I am realizing how inexplicably sad I am for a past version of myself. I look at the pictures of my pregnant belly and think, "You. You have no idea." It is like watching an accident in slow motion, but being able to do nothing to stop it. It is watching a movie and knowing the girl is going to open that door, knowing what is behind the curtain, knowing she can't hear your warnings.

In the coming weeks I will once again deal with the exhausting fear of Preeclampsia and the six-week NICU stay. I will see myself falling apart and putting the pieces back together.

I am left wondering if today will be next year's traumatic anniversary.

So why look at these apps if they are going to be painful? Because not looking is just another reminder. Not looking takes away so many great memories for the sake of avoiding the hard ones. I recently learned that you can exclude dates from some of these programs, but part of me wants to see, wants to press on that sore tooth. Besides, I've learned that it's the unexpected memories that hit the hardest. The little things -- a photo comment from someone now gone or the naivety of excitement and expectation that you know didn't last.

Time travel is tricky business. Life's a tangled mess of good days and bad, and sometimes those moments come back around when you least expect them. We've created a world where everything is documented and recorded, and sometimes we face a little fallout in the midst of all the cat photos and Instagram food. It just makes the sweet memories all the more delicious.

Still, I hope tomorrow is just pictures of my feet.

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Rhiannon Giles is an overwhelmed mother who only occasionally considers giving her children to the circus. She has a sarcasm problem and writes regularly at rhiyaya.com. To keep up with new posts, and see some of her favorites, join her on Facebook.