A year ago today, two of my good friends had babies.
One survived and one did not.
Dealing with such elation and grief at the same time is challenging for anyone. A baby is the most incredible gift possible to receive, made all the more special due to an almost ten month-long wait to meet this new living, breathing person. And to have one slip away from you, after carrying it in your body, nourishing it with every bite that you eat and day dreaming about its life every day, well the pain is unbearable.
How do you watch your friend, who you have known since the second grade, go through such hurt and suffering? While at the same time, another friend is celebrating a new life, and cherishing very smile, gurgle and cuddle?
To make the situation even more complicated, I was over 38 weeks pregnant at the time. Not only could I not travel to be with my friend in her time of need, it was hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that her beautiful baby was born with no brain activity while I had a living baby in my belly. She was born, she made it into this world. But really she never had a chance to live. She relied on a breathing tube for air, and passed away shortly after it was removed on her eighth days of life.
Would my baby make it? And if so, why would my baby get to live while hers did not?! Seconds, possibly minutes turned this story of life into a story of death and unthinkable sadness. Life can be taken away that quickly, before it really even has a time to begin. We will never really know what happened, and why this baby was deprived of oxygen.
My friend blamed herself, questioned every move and decision she made. Did she cause this to happen? And if not who did? How can life be both given and taken away at the same time?
While this day will forever be a sad day, it is also the day that my friend had her first baby a few hundred miles away in a different hospital and a very different outcome.
How do you celebrate one while grieving for the other? Even worse, how do I grieve and be there for my friend, one of my oldest friends, whom I always talked to about getting pregnant together, when I myself had a healthy baby only four days later?! I had a little bundle of joy to kiss and love and she had a hole in her heart the size of a baby. She ached while I loved.
I felt guilty for having a baby. I felt guilty that I could hold him, feed him and nurture him. I looked at him and saw what my friend didn't have, what she lost. I had survivor's guilt, and I was worried my son would forever be associated with my friend's loss.
The good news is that time does heal wounds. As does rituals and lots of love and open conversation. And crying. While one friend celebrated a first birthday, another one visited her child at the cemetery with a cake featuring the number one.
One for the adorable little girl that was lost. And one for the hole that will always be in my friend's heart.
But also one for the first day of her little sister's life. That's right, just one day shy of this momentous first birthday, my friend gave birth to a happy and healthy little girl.
I guess miracles really do happen at strange and unpredictable times.