I have a pretty fantastic friend I met in undergrad. We worked at the same hole of a restaurant together and maybe ate hundreds of these together. She graduated, then I graduated. She married, then I married. She moved and bought a house, then we moved and bought a house. It was all progressing very nicely.
Then she became pregnant. Multiple times. Each ending in miscarriage. It wasn't an easy road. She's part of the infertile crowd. She endured countless IUIs and IVFs and all the lovely injections and drugs in between, but still kept her eyes on the prize.
In the midst of still trying for years, I became pregnant. I'll admit, it was a little awkward coming out to her about the whole we got pregnant on the first try(!) business. I knew there was nothing more in the world that she wanted than what I had. In the correct order of things, she should have gone first. I cut her in line. But being the incredibly selfless friend that she is, we still talked on the phone every now and again until December. We all know what happened next.
I suppose I can now add this to our story: She endured baby loss, and I endured baby loss.
From that moment on, we talked on the phone nonstop. There's more I could insert here about what we talked about and the highs and lows we both experienced in the months that followed (and still continue), but I'll save that. It's personal. She understood what it was like to not only lose babies, but she knew what it was like to lose hope, time and time again. The process of ebb and flow that you just want to come to an abrupt halt with a live baby crying in your arms. She got me. She gets me.
There is some happiness to this story and an internal conversation that follows. She's now pregnant and awaiting the arrival of twins (boy and girl, jackpot!) in October. She deserves this. She's going to be a fantastic mom that understands that every minute is meant to be cherished and will never take one moment of that for granted. For most people/pregnancies, a process goes through my head of if they're lucky, and nothing is certain, and it's only an estimated date of delivery. But with her, I just know this is her time for happiness. Of all the struggle and want and loss and desperation, she's finally creeping toward that finish line.
Now for the internal conversation.
I read infertility blogs every now and again. We carry that common understanding of babies being an enormous gift that don't come without great sacrifice, grief, sadness, and longing. We share the understanding of seeing a BFN (big fat negative) on a pregnancy test and the massive excitement of seeing a BFP as well. We know what loss feels like, as many of those who struggle with infertility inevitably lose through miscarriage or stillbirth as well. We feel that jealously that's sharp and uncomfortable around those who never endured a struggle in starting a family.
But there are also differences. For example, I was once part of that blissfully pregnant crowd. I thoroughly enjoyed my pregnancy with Andrew and never really carried much concern. Of course he'd be born alive. It wasn't even a thought that crossed my mind. Those with infertility cherish every moment in pregnancy but know that the struggle it took to get there leaves them in fear during every moment. At least that's what my friend (above) tells me.
I never had to shoot myself up with medications to make myself ovulate, undergo massive amounts of ultrasounds, experience IVF or an IUI. Pregnancy is not the issue I have. As a matter of fact, I'm not sure what my issue really even is. Keeping babies alive, I guess. Not sure how that can be remedied.
But there is one major difference, I think. Once infertility is "overcome" and that baby is finally in their arms, there is likely a sense of graduation. I could be completely wrong here and wouldn't mind the comments from those who experience IF. Perhaps the way women feel after successfully fighting and beating breast cancer. With child loss, I'll never really feel like more babies will provide me that ability to graduate. Andrew is one of my babies. My first. He'll be missing in every photo I'll ever take for the rest of my life. I'll never graduate. I'll never feel accomplished or proud to overcome the struggle it took us to start a family. I'll be proud to be a mother, but I'll always feel a longing for Andrew. Bittersweet.
And don't think I'm leaving out the crowd who has endured both, child loss and struggle with infertility. It's cruel. Falling in love and longing to share that love and life with a child should be an allowance given to every responsible family. When that ability is stripped away from you, it's beyond unfair. Those babies aren't forgotten and shall never be. I personally feel lucky to have carried Andrew for those months. Those who struggle with IF and loss likely feel the same-- thankful for those moments of pregnancy or infancy they want so badly to breathe in and remember for eternity. But a graduation for them, I doubt it.
I'm hoping that sometime soon I can finish our story from above with: She had beautiful babies that lived, and I had beautiful babies that lived. And maybe throw in there a trip or two to Disney World, why not?