When I was just shy of three months pregnant, we skyped with two close friends of ours.
“We have some news,” they told us.
“[Friend] is pregnant!”
“Wait, when are you due?”
“No way — me too!”
We laughed and laughed and were so excited. Our daughters were going to be virtual siblings. They’d grow up together, lead parallel lives. We’d hit all the parenting milestones together (they already had a three-year-old, so this is the second time around for them, but at least they’d be doing it fresh). We’d have play dates. Maybe our daughters would become close friends, just like their parents.
During that conversation, I thought but didn’t say “This is great, but what if one of our babies dies and the other doesn’t? Will it wreck our friendship?” I had no reason to believe that either baby would die, but I’m apparently a morbid person. Mere hours before our 18-week prenatal check-up I’d been reading about statistics on second trimester miscarriage, so as soon as the midwife couldn’t find the heartbeat I was able to say coolly to my husband “There’s only about a 0.5% chance of miscarrying a chromosomally normal fetus during the second trimester. I’m far enough along that they’ll probably have to induce labor.” So yes, the thought went through my mind, although I knew the odds were low.
Well, someone has to be the rarity. Almost two months later our daughter died.
Thankfully, it didn’t wreck our friendship — but only because those friends are some of the most awesome friends on the planet. They (specifically the husband) called daily in the weeks after our daughter died, and weekly or biweekly since then. During our first conversation I blubbered into the phone, “I want you to know that I’m still excited for you and that I’ll love your new baby just as much as I love [older child].” They never talked about their pregnancy unless I asked, and even then, no complaints, only as much as I asked for. When I had important doctors’ appointments coming up, they remembered and checked in afterwards. Their older daughter was the first little kid I remember talking to after our baby died. But I know her, and I love her, so it was OK.
This morning their second daughter was born, five days after my daughter’s due date. I got the call as I was getting home from work. And you know what? I held it together. I could tell that the husband was ready for me to break down, which probably isn’t what he wants to deal with mere hours after adding a new baby to the family, but he called me from the hospital anyway. I asked the right questions. I laughed when he mistakenly told me that the baby was 40 inches instead of 20 inches. I told them how happy we are for them, and told them we want to send them dinner when they’re back home. I listened to the saga of the wait for the epidural, and about how things went so fast that the mom was told to stop pushing until the doctor arrived. It was a nice conversation. I’m genuinely happy and excited for them, and I think I was able to communicate that.
But am I crying now? You betcha.
One of the hardest things in all of this has been seeing time marching on for other families. Friends are becoming new moms left and right. Babies are becoming toddlers, preschoolers are starting kindergarten, and little siblings are becoming big siblings. But nothing ever changes for us. Our life as parents was put on hold 4.5 months after it started, and hasn’t budged and inch since — in many ways, it feels like a backslide. She should have been born this week, but instead she’s dead, and hardly anyone talks about her anymore. As time goes on and other people’s babies grow and change, ours just gets farther and farther and farther away. I’m probably not pregnant this month, so there goes our Halloween baby. November, perhaps? The year has just started, but I’m already wondering if we’ll be parents to a living child before it has ended.