Since Matthew died I’ve kept mental count of the number of nonbaby loss moms I’ve met (so this excludes those I knew “before”) whose company I’ve enjoyed enough to the point that, if I were to run into them again, I wouldn’t necessarily want to drop dead right on the spot rather I might actually consider having a second conversation with them, which might (gasp) lead to a friendship. And, aside from those I met through a small book club I joined (which has since dissolved), the number is one.
Yes, just one.
My amicable feelings towards her kind of leave me in shock, almost to the level I experienced when I learned our nicest audit client – the meek, Lutheran woman with the squeaky voice – had been wiring money to her own bank account for years.
Because this woman (the one I recently met, not the mousey Lutheran fraudster) has twins. And twins are normally a FRIENDSHIP DEALBREAKER. (A serious one necessitating all caps.) Because mothers of living twins experienced one pregnancy to get two living babies, and I experienced two pregnancies to get one living baby. And the unfairness of this… Just… I can’t. It almost makes my head explode. So the fact that I don’t actually dislike this woman equally almost makes my head explode, as I ponder, “What is it, exactly, about her?”
I still don’t know for sure, but I’m going to kind of hash it out here.
We met in my house.
One day last year, she left a note on our door like, “My husband and I live in the area, and we’re thinking about building a house, so we’d love to talk with you about yours!” And she left her phone number. This was in June 2016.
Mark, El Outgoing One, called her, and they talked at length, as I listened over speaker phone, about the neighborhood and construction and concrete board siding and light fixtures. She mentioned her three-year-old twins, and Mark asked if she and her husband would like to come see the inside of our house the following Saturday while I jumped up and down gesturing, “Nooooooo!!!”
That Saturday, a couple of hours before they were to show up, I instructed Mark, “Text her to tell her our dog is really large and scary and obnoxious and unpredictable (I mean, this isn’t totally not true…), so they don’t bring their kids, or I am leaving, and you can show them our house by yourself.” So Mark heeded my instructions, and they were like, “Ohhhhh – guess we better leave our twins at home.”
Yes. Yes, you better.
So a couple of hours later they showed up. And, not even two seconds after the door to our foyer closed behind them she was like, “Ohhhhh!!! You guys are so young! Mark, you sound at least 50 over the phone!” And then she took one look at me and was like, “OMG – you’re pregnant! Is this your first?!”
So I gently informed her, “This isn’t our first. Sadly, our first son passed away almost one year ago.” And I watched as her face fell.
I don’t remember all of the details of the interaction that followed. She certainly didn’t respond perfectly, but she exuded compassion and didn’t say anything icky or grotesque or heinous like, “Everything happens for a reason,” either.
I remember she apologized profusely for asking such an intrusive question. And she told me that when she was pregnant it was very stressful and she was on bed rest and she constantly worried that one or both of her babies could die, and it isn’t lost on her that she’s very fortunate that they didn’t. She told me that when she was pregnant her friend was also pregnant with twins, and one of her friend’s twins died, and it’s been the most devastating thing for this friend, and it’s been really difficult for them to maintain their friendship, but she totally understands why this would be the case because this is a pain so great, a pain that will never go away. She asked more about Matthew, and she seemed understanding and empathetic to the fact that I was (at the time) in the throes of the most terrifying and tumultuous days of my life.
Looking back, I guess maybe it was her willingness to openly discuss both my deceased child and my ongoing trauma (each hard topics from which most shy away) that initially warmed me up to her…
I didn’t see her again until October 2016. We were pushing three-month-old Joel through Target, and she quickly approached us like, “Oh my gosh – it’s you guys! I’ve been thinking about you! And he made it here!!! Oh my gosh – I am so happy for you! Look at him! What’s his name?”
So we talked about Joel, and we asked her about whether she’d moved forward on her upcoming construction project, and we reminded her that she could always contact us with questions, and she was like, “Oh we had been wanting to contact you, but there is no way we were going to bother you during the most scary, stressful time of your life!!! But we were thinking about you! I wondered if he’d made it here – I’m so thankful he did!” And we talked about plans for me going back to work and my stress related to finding a good nanny, and we parted ways.
Last week we bumped into her again… She ran past us on our nightly evening walk, but she stopped when she recognized us. We talked a little about Joel and a lot about their construction project, and we talked about having each other over for dinner at some point. And I left enamored that I, inexplicably, still kind of don’t dislike her…
I guess I’ve discovered that maybe my like/dislike for someone has less to do with how they might physically trigger me and more to do with their characteristics in general.
She’s able to acknowledge Matthew and Joel and my grief and anxiety without flinching. She’s honest about her own struggles, describes her own pregnancy as a terrifying time, admits she’s lucky to have her kids alive, and says she sure as hell won’t be going through pregnancy again. She’s in her forties, suggesting maybe her path to motherhood doesn’t look exactly like everyone else’s. (Though who knows?) And she talks about her construction project more than any of the standard #basic motherhood stuff that I frankly have a really low threshold of tolerance for – like, “No, Jessica, I don’t want to hear about your experience with weaning your baby from breastmilk to solids and how oh-so-stressful this is for you.” I mean, just shoot me right now. Seriously.
It all sounds so simple, but I rarely find all of these characteristics in the same person, hence my general inability to make new friends post-loss.
I don’t know whether this particular woman and I will ever actually become friends. But, nonetheless, this… This gives me hope.