I recently became friends with a mother on my daughter’s cheerleading squad. There was an instant affinity between us, though we had little enough in common.
She’s the mother of five; I have two. She works full time; I stay at home. She has an au pair (a real one, from a foreign country and everything); I don’t even know a neighborhood kid that I could call to babysit.
But we bonded anyway, over the shrill yells, mistimed choreography, and the joy of watching our daughters be a part of a team.
And one day, we bonded over something else.
We were watching the girls share hot cocoa at their very last football game, and the head coach’s identical twin daughters ran past. My heart squeezed a little, like it does at every game and practice. It was just a twinge, a pinch, if you will.
I took a deep breath, fighting the melancholy. Then I mentioned it in passing, slipping it into a conversation like you’d mention how the weather’s turning cooler or how excited you are about Christmas.
“Maggie has a twin.”
Her head pivoted so fast I thought she’d fall over.
If anything bad has ever happened to you in your life and you mention it to someone who doesn’t know you, then you recognize this moment. The awkward silence that lasts just a split second while you debate if you’re going to talk about it (again), and if she’s going to pity you (again), and if you can handle it.
“Really?” she asked. And then, “So does Bethany.”
I asked. I had to ask. “Where is she?”
“She only lived a few hours. They were premature.”
Her experience was not mine, but I nod anyway. And I answer her unspoken question.
“I lost Maggie’s sister at 20 weeks. There was a car accident. Anyway, I miscarried her.”
She raises her eyebrows, and my eyes tear up. She understands. My circumstance was not hers, but she gets it.
We shared a few details: She got to hold her daughter when she passed, I had to carry my dead child and her sister through to a full-term delivery. She opted to cremate her child, I opted for an autopsy.
“That’s hard,” she says.
“It’s all hard. Neither way is easy.”
We look at the coach’s girls. I discreetly wipe a single renegade teardrop from my cheek, determined not to cry in public eight years after the fact.
Then my friend, my new friend, the one with whom I have so little—and so much—in common, sums up my feelings in one fell swoop.
“I am so jealous.”
She makes my heart feel better. Because she doesn’t pity me. She gets it.