“I’m pregnant,” she said. “Like, probably four weeks along. Maybe a little more.”
This particular memory is housed in one of the deepest, warmest parts of my heart. In my mind, the entire experience is encased in a rosy, golden hue, and not because I’d just had a highly medicated labor. No, this memory boasts a rosy glow all it’s own. I remember the sunlight streaming in from the hospital window, the smile on her face. I’m sure there was some noise in the hallway. I know that my abdomen was aching with the fresh wound of my C-section. I think a tray of lunch and maybe even a dirty diaper cluttered the hospital bed and crumpled blankets lay around my legs. But those images are all muted in my memory. Everything stopped the moment that she said those words. She was going to have a baby. The baby we’d prayed for. The baby we’d cried over. The baby we had waited and waited to meet. That baby was coming. I so wanted to reach out my hand and grab hers; I wanted to jump up and give her a hug, but I knew neither of those sudden movements would fair well on my body, so I just sat there looking at her, smiling awkwardly but overcome with joy: my brand-new baby daughter snuggled in the arms of my sweet friend, Corinne, who would soon have her own new baby.
Honestly, I had been worried about my friend visiting me in the hospital. She had spent two years trying to conceive her second child. After months of negative tests and two miscarriages, she worried—we all worried—that perhaps she would never conceive again. To add to the pain and complexity of it all, my third baby arrived unexpectedly. A surprise pregnancy that shocked us with, frankly, quite a bit of stress. When I discovered I was pregnant, my older children were two years old and ten months old. I hadn’t even had time to think about a third baby, but she was on her way whether we liked it or not.
As my pregnancy progressed, my feelings of joy and excitement, and even fear and frustration, were comingled with guilt. I had what my friend so desperately wished for, and more often than not, I didn’t feel particularly grateful. But she was a good friend, and we had nearly a decade of camaraderie under our belts. Still, I worried - until she said the phrase we’d all been hoping to hear: “I’m pregnant.”
The birth of my daughter is always going to be significant—she’s my daughter—but her birth also coincides with another incredible joy: the joy of my friend.
We always talk about how it takes a village to raise a child. Baby showers and meal calendars are commonplace topics of pre-baby conversations. The people who love us gather round to help prepare for the new life. Before I became a mother, and then in my six and a half years since joining the ranks of motherhood, I’ve been acutely aware of the benefits of having a village around me.
When our oldest was placed with us, I only had a baby crib and one blanket. My husband and I thought we would have to wait longer for a baby, and since we were adopting through the foster system we didn’t know how old our placement would be. It was hard to adequately anticipate our needs, so we were fully unprepared. While we were signing papers and finishing up the required foster parent training courses, my girlfriends planned a baby shower for us and, to tide us over, my friend Megan brought over a giant bag of brand-new clothes. She popped by on the day we brought our son home, snapped our first photo as a family of three, and snuggled our new little boy while I waded through a pile of adorable clothes: sweatpants, onesies, sleepers. She had fully outfitted him.
One of my favorite items from Megan was a grey Henley onesie with navy blue trim and navy blue buttons. My son wore it only a few times before his chunky legs and barrel chest threatened to burst the seams, so I washed the onesie carefully, folded it, and placed it—along with the other too-small clothes—into a box and saved it. Two years later, my friend Caitlin had a baby boy, and I passed the box of my son’s hand-me-downs on to her.
Well, one year later another one of my girlfriends had a baby boy. Caitlin passed the clothes along to our friend Leah and her new baby. These onesies were surprisingly durable, for the most part. We’d lost a couple to blowouts and spit-up, but that grey Henley was holding strong.
Recently Meg sent out a text message with a picture of her son in the grey Henley. Some of the clothes Megan had bought for me nearly five years ago had come full circle.
Now it’s more than just a faded grey onesie with three blue buttons; it’s a love letter from all of us, the mothers who have the privilege of loving him. It’s a visual reminder of the continued blessing of friendship and the ways we’ve supported and cared for each of our babies over the years. Because we haven’t just passed a onesie around, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants style. The clothes are just one thread in the larger fabric of our relationship.
Between pregnancies, childbirths, baby showers, and birthday parties, we do the hard work of mothering side-by-side. We’ve lamented potty training woes and shared tips on how to discipline a sassy threenager. We’ve shared our Pack N’ Plays and baby bassinets along with mastitis-prevention tips and recipes for lactation cookies.
Because of my bonds of friendship, my children have a rich extended family of close friends. My children love and fight with these friends like siblings, and as a result, we’re all unpacking a deeper understanding of forgiveness and conflict resolution. Before motherhood, I had no idea how dear the babies of my friends would be to me, and I didn’t realize I would feel the growth and development of my girlfriend’s children so deeply.
It turns out, one of the most wonderful joys of motherhood is the other mothers.
Last week Megan passed along that Henley to Corinne. She gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, and I can’t wait to watch him grow—to be part of his village.