“I’ve been reluctant to write this email and I keep putting it off.”
When you are not able to get pregnant and you get an email with that as the opening line, you know exactly what is coming.
“Even though I know you will be happy for us and excited, I know part of you will be sad. So I wanted to give you time to digest this on your own, rather than springing it on you in person. I know you are happy for us. I know that you are happy for so many people. But I also know it’s hard and don’t expect this kind of news to be easy.”
When my friend of 20 years told me she was pregnant, I felt a lot of things, including true happiness for her. But what I felt most was appreciation that she too was navigating her own balancing act.
For the next few months, we talked about a lot of things, but we didn’t talk much about the baby. I appreciated how she gave me the space to become comfortable with things on my own terms. And slowly, I did. I saw an adorable, zip-up hoodie with a sock monkey on it and I bought it for her. I saw a onesie with blue and green fish and I bought that too. And when the scheduling worked out and I was able to attend her baby shower I was actually excited.
Admittedly, I am not a great flier to begin with, but that plane ride was extra difficult, as I prepared myself for the week ahead, which also included a week of vacation with Brian’s family and our five nieces and nephews. When reflecting back on it, the word which comes to mind is “bracing”–I felt tensed, and ready to absorb the impact (which, ironically, is the opposite of how you are supposed to actually absorb an impact).
To be honest, the time with her wasn’t easy. Baby showers are particularly difficult for those of us who will never have one. Many aspects of adoption have a one-to-one correlation with pregnancy, but a baby shower is not one of those things. But I knew that in the long run I would regret not being there to celebrate her and the baby. And despite the small amount of crying that I did that weekend, I am glad that I was there to make rainbow fruit kabobs, eat carrot cake and take photos of her opening gifts.
One morning, I sent her an email about a dream I had in which she sent me a message saying that she and the baby were on the way. Forty-six minutes later I received an email from her sister saying that she was in labor. And shortly after that, the baby was born. Originally, the plan was that we would see each other five months later over winter break but it did not take me long to realize that I could not wait that long. Two months later I stood in her living room watching her hold her baby. It was amazing to me that the person with whom I had hid in the bathroom during religious school all of those years ago was now a mother. That weekend wasn’t easy either. I had been thinking about babies for years and here she was, with an actual baby. But it felt good to be there for her (and the baby and her husband) and that made the trip worth it.
I’m not trying to make myself sound like a superhero. There have been things I have skipped or avoided because I knew they would be too painful. My cousin, who has been a huge support for me, invites us to all of her children’s birthday parties even though she knows we probably wont attend (being asked over and over by other parents whether you have kids is not that much fun). It doesn’t mean I love her or her kids any less. Truthfully, there’s just not a lot of rhyme or reason to what I think I can and can not do.
Because of course this is not just about fertility–all of life is about learning to navigate between your own happiness and other’s sadness, and vice versa. About knowing how to be understanding, knowing how to give space and knowing how to follow someone else’s lead…and being OK with where things go. Just like all of life’s difficult moments, this too has brought us closer together and strengthened our friendship. Her darling boy looks so much like her and I love already being able to see her classic expressions on his tiny face. Plus, now she has a great stash of newborn cloth diapers that I can use.