by Emily Allen (of Kindred Mom)
We are in her kitchen, washing dishes between conversations with the various women who have dropped by for an evening of jewelry-making and friendship-forging. For years, we have been bringing women together for fellowship and camaraderie, playing to both of our strengths—her as a hostess, me as a deeper-conversations sort. She nervously tells me she thinks she might be pregnant. She hasn’t tested yet, but she has a hunch this could be the month. My heart swells with excitement for her. They’ve been trying for a while, but haven’t stressed about it. Both are eager to welcome a baby.
A few days later she tells me.
“Not this month,” she sighs. I’m sorry, I say, and I mean it. She’d be the best mom.
A few weeks later, it is me that has pink lines for the fourth time. I’m a little timid about telling her because it is uncomfortable when mom-with-multiple-other-children tells friend-who-is-still-waiting-for-one that we will be having our fourth baby in March. Still, she smiles and hugs me, and cheers me all through the pregnancy.
Still no pink lines for her.
For months, we pray and cry, and I fumble my way through trying to support her, always feeling like I come up short because I can’t fix the situation. I can’t do much except listen and pray and continue tenderly walk through the waiting along with her.
I give birth and try to figure out the chaos of four kids in my house. Two boys and two girls. It’s all so perfect, everyone says. Surely we’re done. I think we are for a stretch of months until I hear God asking me to surrender my plans. I will, I say to Him. I will receive what You give, Lord, even if that means another pregnancy, and another round of that humbling place of giving my body to the very challenging task of childbirth. I pray and try to encourage my sweet friend who is still waiting and still hoping with the best attitude she can muster.
Still no pink lines for her.
Over a year goes by when a call comes, and she says, “I’m pregnant!”
I cry with joy and the next week I make a similar call back to her and say, “I’m pregnant too!”
She is having a baby! My number five is on the way. We’re excited for each other, and it all feels so wonderful to take this journey together since we’ll be due in the same month.
She’s 11 weeks and eager to see her baby on ultrasound at her OB appointment. I’m a week behind her and feeling the nausea and exhaustion of the first trimester. I’m waiting for her call to gush about the little bean-baby she is growing, except when she calls, she is suddenly solemn.
“There is no heartbeat."
I am dumbfounded. Stunned. Reeling.
“I’m sorry,” I say several times, unable to find any other words while she cries on the other end of the line. It seems unfair that I would be carrying another child, my fifth, while her hopes are crumbling with the loss of the baby she wants, but will never hold this side of heaven.
I feel powerless to help her through the grief, but I stay close, hoping to hold her up as I’m able. I make a necklace with her baby’s would-be birth month stone (the same month I will later give birth myself) and give it to her in a city park where we meet up for my kids to run wild on the play structure so we can have just a few minutes to talk. I feel unsure that it will help at all, but I feel like if I can’t acknowledge the life that she has carried and lost, awkward as it seems, that I would not be loving her well. She says she thinks of this baby as hope; hope that God hears her. Hope that this is not the end of the story. Hope that one day, she’ll be through this valley to a sweeter, more joyful place.
I am conflicted for months. I struggle to accept the loss of her baby while my baby is growing safely in my womb. How can I rejoice in the life I carry when my dear friend weeps through years of infertility and now this heartbreaking loss? Every time I pass my weekly gestational milestones, I think about her loss. I feel guilty that I am not bonding with my baby.
Over the years, other friends who struggle with infertility distance themselves from me. I understand why, but I always feel sick about it. What can I do? If given the opportunity, I would journey with them too. It’s too painful to be around you and your beautiful children, they say. I feel sad that I can’t care for them in their difficult days the way I desire to.
But this friend didn’t distance herself. She pressed in. She showed up to my kids’ birthday parties, and she came to my house to care for my other four children while I gave birth at home to my fifth little love. She sat upstairs with my kids, watching a movie at higher-than-normal volume to muffle the noise of me screaming out a nine-pound baby downstairs in our finished basement. She was the first person to see me after that birth and held my newborn daughter less than an hour after her arrival. I showed up for her throughout the seasons too--in different but equally important ways.