Monday, February 11, 2008

One of the ones that got away

Mel's recent post on "the friend who got away," and my own recent post about the early days of my pregnancy made me think about dh's cousin (who was an usher at our wedding), his wife, & their two daughters. They live in the same subdivision we do -- they moved here first, shortly after their wedding, & we used to come out to visit them from the city, where we lived in a midtown apartment for the first five years of our marriage. The wife told us about a house that was for sale on their street, and while we didn't wind up buying that one, our house-hunting began in earnest & we eventually did wind up as neighbours, a couple of streets over. Dh's family lived with this cousin's family for the first several years after they came to Canada, and they grew up only a few blocks away from each other. How wonderful it would be, we thought, for our own children to do the same!

The first of their two girls was born in 1991 & the second in 1993. We visited each other often, we socialized & went places together. We exchanged house keys & picked up the mail for each other when we went on vacation. The girls came to our house for trick-or-treats on Halloween, and we occasionally babysat for them. We treated them like nieces, and although I adore(d) our own two nephews, I revelled in being able to buy pink & play Barbie dolls & board games, which I could relate to much more than the wrestling and violent video games our nephews preferred.

The wife was a daycare worker before she got married, and a stay-at-home mom afterward, who only just went back to school this year, now that both girls are in high school. She's one of those people who adores babies & is always swooping in & picking them up & cooing rapturously over them. Like everyone else in the family, they were ecstatic when we got pregnant. The day after our news spread, we arrived home from work to find a big balloon bouquet tied to the railing -- we knew just who it was from! The youngest daughter drew a picture for us that is one of my favourite pregnancy keepsakes: it shows me & dh (complete with glasses) -- & a tiny baby visible inside my tummy, labelled "BABY." lol

The wife offered to lend me her bassinet, & host my baby shower. "I just can't WAIT to have a new baby in the neighbourhood!" she exulted. "I'll be over every day to help you out!" I considered asking her if she would like to take care of the baby when I returned to work (for pay, of course) or, if not, to at least help me pick a good daycare provider.

When we found out that Katie was stillborn, they were just preparing to travel to be with the wife's sister, who was due to give birth any day to her first baby -- a boy, who arrived on Aug. 8. The wife came right over when I called her on the morning of Aug. 6, the day in between when we found out & when I was scheduled for induction. She sat with us for awhile, and offered to call all the relatives on that side of the family before they left to let them know what had happened.

When they got back home several weeks later, they came over to visit, bringing us a card & a little angel figurine. About two weekends later, we went to a waterpark with them & a few other family members. "You ARE going to try again?" she asked me. Another time, doing dishes together in her kitchen, she asked me what my baby had looked like -- one of the few people who ever asked questions about our experience.

My parents returned home, & dh returned to work... and I was left by myself at home. It was mid-October before I returned to work -- I was off for a total of 10 weeks. I would go for days on end without seeing another adult besides dh. Part of me enjoyed the solitude -- time to read and surf the Internet and absorb what had happened to me -- but sometimes I think I might have enjoyed some company -- a sympathetic ear over a cup of tea. I knew that the wife was busy getting her girls off to school and Brownies and so on... & they went back to visit her new nephew, and had several weddings to attend... but....

I took her over some plums from my tree one afternoon (unlike me, it was bearing copious amounts of fruit that year). In mid-September, she invited me over to have lunch & spend the day. And we had dinner there on (Canadian) Thanksgiving in October, just before I returned to work.

And that's how many times I saw them. Which is not to say we were being totally ignored. But I couldn't help but remember her words about "coming over every day to help with the baby," & wonder what happened. I didn't doubt that she would have been over -- if not every day, most certainly more often than half a dozen times in 10 weeks.

Gradually -- very gradually -- we began to drift apart. The girls got older & busier. We'd drop by their place on a Friday or Saturday night, like old times, only to find them on their way out, or not at home at all. We'd call & leave messages that were never returned. Once in awhile, dh's brother would tell us they had gotten together & taken their kids somewhere that we hadn't been invited to.

Eventually, after several years, we gave up trying to make casual contact. These days, we generally see them at the same weddings & funerals & showers & birthday parties that we see all the other relatives at. Once in awhile we might run into them at the local supermarket, and we chide each other for not calling or coming over. Our next door neighbours pick up our mail now when we go on vacation. I imagine they have a similar arrangement, because they haven't asked us to pick up theirs in eons. I honestly can't remember the last time they came to our house, even on an errand.

I just can't help but wonder how different things might have been, had Katie been born. I don't think there was anything malicious on their part, although sometimes it seems to me as though they lost total interest in us once it became evident that we weren't going to have any more children. I can understand they probably felt uncomfortable being around us -- a common experience for parents who have lost a child. Or maybe what happened between us was just the usual drifting apart that eventually seems to happen between people with & without children. Who knows? Maybe we'll never know. But it makes me sad. Another loss on top of the many others we've had over the last 10 years.


  1. It's such a sad story because you lost so much in the losing of Katie. And to still see them and to think about how close you were then and the distance now. I'm just sorry.

  2. such a sad story. I think this loss of friends and family is another really difficult aspect of infertility and loss. as if things aren't hard enough... ~luna

  3. Agreed - I often felt like I had to make everyone else feel better about my loss(es) and I was the one hurting the most! I think most of them just didn't know what to say and so said and did nothing out of not wanting to cause more pain. But yeah, there were friendships that were never the same again or completely disappeared over the course of my miscarriages.

    I will add though - my angels did bring me other friends, friends I treasure and who understand and helped me heal and come to appreciate my angels as much as mourn them. So yes, I had much taken away, but I was also given much in other ways. Yes Lori - that would be you!!

  4. I'm sorry you had to go through this loss on top of the loss of Katie. It is strange - the wife seemed like she started out being very sensitive (in a way most people aren't) after your loss. Sometimes I think those are the hardest situations - when someone is sensitive and seems to "get it" and then for whatever reason doesn't anymore. I don't expect as much from the people who never "get it" in the first place.

  5. I'm not sure my first comment went through, so am trying again. I'm so sorry you experienced this loss of friendship so soon after the loss of Katie. It is strange - the wife sounded like she started out being very sensitive, in a way that many people are not when it comes to pg loss and infertility. I think those situations are the hardest - when someone seems to "get it" at first and is very sensitive and then for whatever reason they aren't any more.
    To me those situations are more hurtful than the people who never "got it" in the first place.

  6. Sending you healing thoughts. Sorry for your loss

  7. Loss and loss again. The what ifs can haunt you.

  8. I know this is such a coommon experience after loss, losing relationships too, but this story seemed especially sad to me. Maybe it was just the wife's "come over every day" comment and how differently it turned out. I'm sorry, Loribeth. We lose so much more than our babies, don't we?

  9. How very sad. So many friendships begin in a series of coincidences, grow into more, and often these seem less able to weather the storm. This story feels more poignant than other lost friendships because of "what should have been."