This essay was originally posted on Coffee + Crumbs as a guest submission. (I am SO geeked to be featured on my favorite blog!!!)
My husband and I weren’t ready yet, so it was just her at first, trying month after month to get pregnant. Each month she would text me the large red circle emoji, shorthand for “I started my period.” We would talk about how it wasn’t fair, they would be such great parents. Months became years as I watched them struggle to have a baby. The reality of our friendship is that when she cries, I cry.
When we started “trying,” I was so scared that I would get pregnant before she did. After nearly a year of failure, fear of getting pregnant first turned into fear I wouldn’t get pregnant. What were the odds we’d both experience infertility? Apparently higher than we thought. I didn’t get pregnant, and neither did she.
Our friends were having babies one after another—sometimes it felt like us against the world, those that could get pregnant against those of us that couldn’t. Holding every little life born into our circle of friends was such a gift, yet a constant reminder that this baby wasn’t mine, or hers.
If we couldn’t have babies, by God we were going to do all the things new moms wished they could do, and we were going to be happy doing them. We spent our time going on vacations, attending concerts, hitting the gym and wine tastings—so many wine tastings—pretending that we were fine.
* * *
I’ll never forget the night we were sitting in my backyard, drinking wine with friends, when we got the news that one of our best friends was pregnant. We both casually picked up our phones when we heard the ding, not knowing what we were about to read. I saw the words “I’m pregnant!” and my chest tightened. I looked up at her, and she was looking at me, and I knew she felt it, too. Happiness and hurt crashing together inside, vying for center stage. I was happy to welcome another baby into the group, and happy for my beautiful friend. But I wasn’t actually happy, not for me—not for us.
It was the very first time, after all these years, that we were together when we got this news.
We excused ourselves from the table to go inside. She went to the bathroom, and I went to pour more wine. I stood at the countertop, heaving heavy sobs, trying to compose myself, but I couldn’t stop the tears. They came rushing to my eyes, pouring down my cheeks and constricting my chest to the point I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t even know why I was crying, but I knew these weren’t happy tears.
She came out of the bathroom. I frantically wiped my tears, pulled in a huge breath and stopped crying because I didn’t want to upset her. But she was crying, too. The moment was so powerful, so raw. So we stood there and cried together.
* * *
I had been trying to get pregnant for two years, she had been trying for nearly five years, but we both went through tests, invasive procedures, medications, and so many damn appointments. Fertility clinics are quiet, sullen and frankly, depressing places. The majority of patients there are dealing with hard things, so when we high-fived in the waiting room if we had appointments at the same time, it was totally out of place. But it was better than sitting there crying.
Fertility injections have to be done daily, at the same time each day, for the entire course of treatment. If her husband wasn’t home on time, or we were out and about together, I gave them to her (she is not a needle person). How many nasty, dirty public bathrooms did we go into, stepping into the same handicap stall, so I could stick her with a needle? I gave her a dozen shots before I ever had to give myself one.
Sometimes I imagine what other people thought of us and laugh: “You will never believe what I saw in the bathroom at the Tim McGraw concert!” We were used to being a spectacle. Any time you bring needles into a public restroom, you’re asking to make a scene.
* * *
Had I gotten pregnant, she would’ve been thrilled—just as I would have been for her. But I couldn’t forget the night we cried together in my kitchen. I couldn’t bear the idea of being the one to bring more tears to her eyes. But I didn’t get pregnant. And neither did she.
When we both decided to bite the bullet and go through full IVF, I was so relieved. This step felt real and tangible and productive. It was yet another thing that she and I would face head-on, and we’d face it together. We talked about what we would do, how we would feel if only one of us was successful. How horrible that would be, but how grateful we’d be for that baby—our baby. We had begun to feel like any victory at this point would be a team win.
I went through my IVF cycle one month before she did. When I told her that I was pregnant, we both cried.
For the first time, they were tears of joy. And still, fear. Fear that the next month when it was her turn, we wouldn’t get to share this moment again. I spent four agonizing weeks waiting for her results. My chest tightened every time I considered that it may not work for her. I knew I would cry, one way or another.
We both tried to pretend it was just a casual lunch date when I picked her up to go to Magpie Cafe, but it was anything but casual. She handed me a photo: it was a little shadow box she’d made for her husband to tell him the good news. A onesie, a rubber ducky, a sonogram picture. It was really hard to speak when my throat felt so full. “This is good,” I whispered. “This is good.” It was finally happening for us—both of us. We both cried.
* * *
My son was born on a Saturday in February. When she walked into the room to finally meet him, her belly still full with a nearly term baby, she hugged me so tight it took my breath away, and we cried.
Five weeks later, when I visited her and her son in the hospital, just one day after he was born, I held him and I cried. When I looked at him and I thought of my five-week-old son that I’d left at home, I felt like I was finally coming up for air after years of sinking underwater.
When her son was a week old, we got together so the boys could “meet.” As we tried to lay them side-by-side so we could get a perfect picture for Instagram, I was choking back tears. I typed up some caption about how these two boys will never really understand the significance of this photo or the hard work that went into making it happen—and I cried.
* * *
When our boys were barely over a year old, we both decided we were ready to move forward with a second round of IVF. This time our procedures were just one day apart, and we got a second miracle 10 days later. We were both pregnant, again! As a Jesus believer, I understand the concept of His perfect timing, but when you are neck-deep in infertility, nothing feels perfect. But this is it—this is what His perfect timing looked like for our lives. Two sets of kids, both conceived and born on virtually the same timeline.
Our joy lasted less than two weeks. I was waiting for her at the gym when she texted me that she wasn’t coming. Her follow-up bloodwork showed a diminishing rate of pregnancy hormones—she was miscarrying. I started to actually hyperventilate as that news registered. This could not be happening, not now, not after everything she’d been through. I cried for hours.
Over the next few weeks, as the physical reality of her miscarriage reared its ugly head, I found myself sapped of all joy. How could I be happy about the little life growing in me while she lay broken and bleeding as the absence of life flowed out of her?
Until I went through the long, drawn out physical, emotional and mental hardship of infertility, I didn’t understand how unsolicited, untested, well-meaning but ignorant advice was so annoying. All I wanted was to confide in someone who understood and for everyone else to shut their mouth. So instead of spouting off some meaningless proverb of how it wasn’t meant to be, I shut my mouth and stood like a rock, just in case she needed somewhere to lean or somewhere to cry.
I had a daughter as a result of my second round of IVF. The first five months of my pregnancy were tainted by the sting of my friend’s miscarriage. I hated every second of not understanding her pain. I hated that I had a baby in my belly and she didn’t. Frankly, I was mad at God—how could this possibly be His plan? I feared her very first thought when she held my daughter would be about the one she lost.
Fortunately, that wasn’t the end of her story—of our story. Turns out there was a rainbow—we just couldn’t see it in the rain. Our girls are six months apart —my daughter turned one in February and hers will be one in July. The boys are three, and they are the best of friends. I will never forget the little soul, conceived just a day after my daughter, that we won’t meet this side of heaven. That child is still part of our story, part of our tears.
Our families get together often—the house rumbling with the sound of our boys galloping down the hallway and the girls squealing like only babies can. The street alive with their laughter and the sound of the bat hitting the ball and squeals as they run to first base.
Every time I watch them playing together, it is a living, breathing reminder of the struggle it was to create them. I think about how many times, how many places and how many tears we cried.
As we navigate the vicious waters of parenthood together, we’ve cried a dozen more times. I don’t know if raising kids will be easier or harder than conceiving them, but it doesn’t matter, because I know that I will always have someone to cry with.
Author’s note: Huge thank you to my friend JoDee for not only being an incredible infertility partner in crime, but allowing me to share some very personal details about her life. Our story is incomplete without her story – even just from my side.