Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A fine line

A while back, in the midst of our breastfeeding woes, I mentioned that I would like to write a post about my breakdown in the greeting cards at Walgreens. As a reminder, I had left Andrew with my parents to go to the healthfood store in search of miracle herbs that would increase milk supply. On my way home, I stopped in Walgreens to purchase a card for a friend.
Months ago, I posted about how my work friend had become pregnant almost instantly after having her IUD removed. This is the friend who took me out for dessert when I found out I was pregnant because she knew Greg was away from home and I had no one here to celebrate with. She's very dear to me because she has always been so steadfast in her belief that my attempts to become pregnant would eventually work. She was so excited about my pregnancy and so excited about her own.
Tragically, in the days before my pregnancy culminated in the birth of my precious son, her pregnancy came to an end at 21 weeks. As I labored, she texted me every few hours offering her encouragement and love though she already knew her baby was dying.
In the days that followed, my friend gave birth to her stillborn son -- Chase Matthew. Meanwhile, I plunged into mothering my healthy baby. So I found myself in the sympathy card section of Walgreens that day -- I stood there and was nearly swept away by the two emotions that swirrled in my heart like two gigantic waves. I felt grief so profound and yet I also felt a tidal wave of gratitude that my own pregnancy had a happy ending and that my Andrew was safe and sound.
I cried there in the store as I read sympathy cards -- none of which were appropriate but how could they be? How could mere words and images on a piece of paper ever be adequate when someone is grieving the life of a child?
I found a card that was simply stated and made my way home. My thoughts were all over the place -- a million little things could have gone wrong and Andrew simply wouldn't exist and yet there he was when I got home, perfectly formed and perfectly healthy. I must be the luckiest woman in the world, I remember thinking.
Later, my friend texted me a message that basically said "I want to come visit and I want to meet Andrew but I can't right now. It just hurts too bad."
Yesterday, I called her for the first time. As I pushed Andrew in his stroller around our neighborhood enjoying a spring-like day and chatting with my friend, I heard the hurt and pain in her voice but there was also hope. The doctors say a future pregnancy could be successful and in three or four months, my friend says she'll probably try again.
The fact that my friend and I are experiencing the most opposite of emotions is not lost on me -- she is mired in grief over her son's death while I am overjoyed with my son's life. And perhaps even more profound in my mind is how even though these scenarios seem so opposite, it is the fact that life is so precarious that strikes me. There is the finest of lines between the life she's living and the one I'm living. The growth of a fertilized egg into a living breathing baby can be altered in an instant. I could be the one in mourning and I know that just because Andrew is healthy now doesn't mean he always will be. Each moment is so precious for that very reason. That's why each day I look at my son and try to express just how much he is loved, just how grateful we are that he exists and how every little breath he takes is a miracle to me.


  1. I can understand those complex, competing emotions. I have a very dear friend who conceived twice via IUI and miscarried both pregnancies during the time of my pregnancy. She came to visit us in the hospital the day after Arlo was born, and her grief and wistfulness was palpable in the room. It felt way too soon (to me) for her to visit Arlo. She and her partner wanted to bring us lunch once we were home from the hospital, but I was only able to agree to their visit this past weekend. I was super gun-shy of being in another situation where such intense and conflicting emotions emerged.

    Anyway, it's now that Arlo is in my arms--and Andrew in yours--that the miracle of all of this is so very obvious and deeply felt. Sigh. I'm sorry for your friend's loss. She's lucky to have such a thoughtful friend in you.

  2. What a difficult post for me to read. A few days before my dear friend D gave birth to her baby girl, I found out I was pregnant. My dear friend, the sister I never had was there for me and cried tears of joy with me. 2 weeks later, I showed her pictures of my little "grain of rice" as I met her dear daughter for the first time. 2 weeks later as I found out our little baby's heart had stopped beating, she expressed the same sentiment as you did, she was so sad and cried with me in pain as she also thanked the Lord above for the her little blessing. I'm so sorry for your friend's loss. Losing a baby at 8 weeks (after 3 years of waiting patiently) is so difficult, let alone a baby at 21 weeks. I can't even imagine what kinds of emotions she's going through. I am grieving for her which might explain why my keyboard is a little moist with tears. Again I am so sorry...