I’m going to sound like a terrible wife when I tell you that my girlfriends knew I was pregnant before my husband did. I didn’t mean for the story to go this way, of course, but I was a few days late (and thus a few days anxious), which led to a spontaneous mid-morning trip to Target. We hadn’t been trying for another baby and I wasn’t sure about the timing of it all.
I sped home, tore open the test, peed, shut my eyes, and took a few deep-cleansing breaths before peeking for a positive sign. There it was, clear as day.
The news seemed too big for a “Hi honey—oh by the way—I’m pregnant” phone call. Instead I made a non-deli meat sandwich and planned to wait for my husband to return home.
Later that day a few of us gather at Anna’s house so our toddlers can make supervised mischief in the yard while we debrief Sharon’s birthday party the weekend before. The sun was low in the November sky and I couldn’t concentrate because of the secret.
“I think I might be pregnant,” Sharon suddenly says with a twinkle in her eye. It’s all she has to say before I am beaming and bouncing and giggling and blabbering the secret no one is supposed to know.
“I want you to be pregnant, because I’m pregnant! I just took a pregnancy test, and I’m pregnant! And what if we’re pregnant together and we have the same due date?!”
The words are spitting out as fast as slot machine jackpot. I can’t control myself, and neither can Sharon. She is bouncing and giggling with me, and Anna’s mouth is agape, and I’m now yelling something like, “I DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW THIS HAPPENED!”
The toddlers are oblivious, of course, until one of them needs a diaper change so we settle ourselves down and begin discussing how I’ll tell my unsuspecting husband, and when Sharon should take a pregnancy test of her own. Her period is late too, and she has all the classic baby-on-board symptoms. We are both convinced she’s carrying my child’s future best friend.
We had every reason to hope. Our first-born girls were born only six weeks apart so we knew the rare and special gift of shared pregnancies. We’d watched our bellies swell and change together, slowing our morning jogs to a walk when the time became necessary. We discussed our aches and pains without judgment, shared maternity clothes and name ideas, accepted each other’s very different birth plans, and cried a time or two at all the feelings, and all the changes. But even better than sharing our first pregnancies was watching our daughters become friends. The day I gave birth, Sharon came to the hospital with her little girl. From that day forward they knew each other as sisters might. Wouldn’t it be so special for our next children to have the same gift of companionship?
A few days after my positive pregnancy test, I leave town for a long weekend. Sharon promises to call me as soon as she has news and I check my phone throughout the weekend, certain she is pregnant. On Monday, after driving without cell reception, a voicemail pops up on the screen.
“I took a test this weekend. It was positive, and I was so happy…but now I think I’m losing the baby."
I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say —is there a right thing to say?—but I call her back from a gas station in Oregon and the tears come flooding out when she answers. This little fleeting baby, tinier than any fruit or nut, has the power to crush us both. I am considering the could-have-beens, and mourning the moments we won’t have. I wanted this baby so badly for her. I wanted her baby so badly for me.
That night, curled up on her brown leather couches with toddler board books scattered at our feet, we cry together. She makes me promise not to feel guilty, and I make her promise to tell me if I say anything insensitive. As we navigate new territory in our friendship, I wonder how this night will be marked. Is this when we draw closer or farther from one another?
Six weeks later, somewhere on Highway 99 between Sacramento and Modesto, she casually mentions she’s pregnant again. She is smiling but reserved, and from the driver’s seat I try to gage her cautious enthusiasm and match mine appropriately. I promise to carry enough hope for the both of us.
In the months to come, our hope grows for the babies inside us both—mine a boy and hers a girl. Like our first pregnancies, we discuss our rapid weight gain and tell each other, “You look fantastic.” She wants to attempt an un-medicated VBAC, and I tell her “Of course you can.” I want an epidural and she says, “That sounds perfect.”
As only friend luck would have it, my contractions start at her house on a Friday night. We’ve gathered there with friends, kids sleeping in all the bedrooms, and I spend the early hours of labor on her exercise ball while everyone times my contractions. On the brown leather couches, as my pain worsens, we pray for my delivery and I promise to call as soon as our boy arrives. When he comes a few hours later, she is amongst the first visitors.
Six weeks later, I receive an unexpected call from Sharon’s husband, Sam. She’s been in active labor all night but things have stalled and she’s asking for me. I grab the diaper bag and rush to the hospital, remembering that night on her couch when I wasn’t sure what to do or what to say. This day—so different, so full of hope—holds equal weight. She needs me in a different way, of course, but I’m nervous like I was on the night of her miscarriage. What if I stand in the wrong place or get in the way or she doesn’t really need me after all?
But when I walk into the delivery room, my own newborn strapped to my chest, the nerves disappear. Her husband and sister are there, doing the hard work, and I realize she doesn’t need me to do anything but show up. If anything, she is not asking me to do a job, but offering me a gift. I’m going to witness more than a miracle. This pain on her face, these first newborn cries, are all part of a redemption story.
I realize it doesn’t often work out this way. I know that not all women can become pregnant so quickly after a miscarriage, and I know not all babies are born healthy. Hard times—disease, the unexpected car accident, divorce, death—can all test a friendship, so I don’t take for granted that our relationship isn’t strained but stronger. On that sacred August night when Raya was born, I am most thankful for second chances and better plans and a friend who welcomed me into her pain rather than pushing me away.