I was 15 weeks pregnant, two weeks further along than when I lost my first baby. Having made it past that mark offered a sense of peace, but my constant awareness of every little twinge and ache still took an emotional toll. So doing anything out of my normal routine, much less traveling, made me feel…brave.
It was April and we were on our way home to Colorado from a wedding that took place in Oklahoma. I was impressed with how well we packed my brother-in-law, my husband, my preggo-self, our toddler, and our 4,736 “bare essentials” into our van. It was a definite adventure to be road tripping out of state for a whirlwind of a weekend. A whirlwind of anything is extra whirlwind-y when there’s a pregnant lady and toddler involved. Our vehicle was packed to the brim with unpredictable emotions, constant snack eating and the urgent need to stop and pee every hour.
We were about three hours into our 12 hour drive when I got a greatly anticipated and exciting text.
My friend, my soul sister and kindred spirit, sent me those two beautiful words, “I’m pregnant!” She and I had been pregnant together before with our now toddlers. So the idea of being pregnant together again brought me to tears. There is a special bond that happens when you walk (and waddle) those nine months with another.
And if that wasn’t incredible enough, three more of my closest friends found out they were also pregnant. I needed someone to pinch me. What a dream! There was something in the water, I was sure of it. This pregnancy was suddenly thrust into a human-making, hormone-raging, belly-growing sisterhood. It was such a comfort to know that I would have a circle around me to talk to and confide in over the next five precious months. Each healthy pregnancy still had it’s own unique set of stress, anxiety and trauma brought into it from previous losses. Loss changes you. Even the healthiest of pregnancies don’t feel smooth or worry free. So having my friends walk this season with me soothed my soul.
Oh, the memories that my friends and I were sure to make.
But the memories that the next couple months carried, were not the kind I wanted. They weren’t the kind that any of us wanted.
Every couple of weeks I began to receive a new painful phone call or text. One by one, each of my four girlfriends lost their babies.
How can this be happening? This can’t be real.
The beautiful sacred circle of growing bellies slowly became a circle of mourning. I held my round tummy with one hand and grief for lost babies in the other.
And for the next few months, we all balanced joy and sorrow. It was the strangest territory; where both vibrant flowers grew and ashes danced on an eternal breeze.
I knew their hearts ached. And it stung to think that every time they saw me, they were reminded how empty their tummies were. How could they not. I had been in their shoes before and seeing a pregnant friend made me smile…and also reminded me of what I had lost.
How much do I share with them? Should I button up my sweater? Am I’m rubbing my stomach too much? Should I not tell the story about when baby girl kicked my bladder so hard last week that I peed a little?
When joy and grief collide during pregnancy after loss, pain can surface in friendships. Yet, their selfless love for me, moved me deeply.
To be wrapped in excitement by hearts that are simultaneously grieving is a powerful, powerful thing. And they each did exactly that.
And when my daughter was born, she was loved well. She was held tightly and her baby smell was taken in in long deep breaths. And when she was embraced, she was embraced by beautiful women who passed their love through her.
My friend held my baby so that I could finish my lunch. Her baby would have been almost the exact same age as my daughter. She kissed her soft head over and over. And cried. “This is so healing.” And I cried with her.
These months of pregnancy after loss, didn’t look like what I thought they would. And even in their losses, my 4 girlfriends loved well and embraced the little life that was.
Each of my pregnancies has taught me something about myself, my God and the power of eternal love. They’ve shown me that only God’s strength can carry me further than my own feet can. Pregnancy after loss has helped me see subtle strength and delicate selflessness displayed in other grieving hearts. No matter how invisible the world thinks it is, I see it. Because I’ve been there…now on both sides.