I have a friend.
We share a raft of uncanny similarities and often call each other doppelganger. Actually I call her doppel, she calls me ganger.
Not all the time.
Actually, not very often at all.
Maybe it was once, and I initiated it, and therefore think it to be funnier and a longer-lasting joke than it actually was. Leos can be like that.
Whatever the official statistical facts on the term’s usage, the point is the foundation reason why we/I decided upon such a term: we are very much alike.
We have not been friends very long, maybe a year, but we realised pretty quickly that a “clicking” was underway, and complete, within about three emails between us (she worked in an outer office of the newspaper where I work).
In-jokes, the crafting of a new pseudo-language, outrage over grammatical faux pas, tears of laughter over a random assortment of YouTube clips, primarily from the 1980s, tales of woe from our respectively mental family units, tips on tweaking our blogs: we have shared them all in rapid succession.
In my more vain moments, I may consider it plausible that we look alike in a sisterly way, although she is stunning. Well, we are both brunettes and tall, and that’s good enough for me.
We might not see each other very often, or talk all that regularly...but when we do, we slot as neatly into a rhythm of candour and affinity as a Scalextrix car into its tracks.
The spooky, mirror-imagery of our relationship reached a peak about six months ago when we became pregnant at almost exactly the same time.
There were, in fact, seven days separating our due dates.
It wasn’t planned, it just happened that way. And it was accepted as yet another example of two lives in parallel.
In those early months, before we lost the baby, I was so overjoyed to have strengthened our connection in such a freaky way.
What are the chances?
I told someone at work how great it was. “It’s like having a mother’s group before you’ve even given birth,” I said, smiling.
Smiling, and anticipating all the wonderful times we’d have complaining about being bloated while slurping mocktails and shoving her home-baked cookies into our endlessly-starving gobs.
Crying together when the hormones just got too much, laughing at the insane changes in our bodies and falling into that inevitable, non-malicious tit-for-tat dance all mothers – expecting or not – get into: have you felt the baby kick yet? No, I heard it won’t happen for another few weeks. How are your ankles? Huge! Same as my boobs. And will I ever stop going to the toilet? I know! Are you feeling sick at all? No, but really really tireddddddd – I barely had the energy to finish typing that word. Yeah, me too and I cannot sleep. I am eating so many almonds right now and heaps of tea. Be careful of the types of tea you drink – have a look at this website. Thanks, have you checked out baby paraphernalia yet? There are some great forums and product tests at this site. Good one, when is your 12-week scan? This week, Friday.
This week, Friday.
And that is pretty much where all the good stuff stopped. That’s when the beauty and colour went out of the world for a while.
That’s when bleak was an understatement. When tragic seemed a cliche not dark enough, or sufficiently devastating, to describe what we went through.
But I am lucky to be able to write that sentence in the past tense now, and realise that today, exactly three months on, things are slightly better.
Some hesitant watercolour brushstrokes are gradually bleeding into the stark white parchment of our lives (and I use the term bleeding both figuratively and literally...more on that later).
What picture are they painting? I don’t know yet, but I am grateful it is starting to take shape, and in living colour no less.
So what has it been like seeing her in the three months since?
There is no easy answer to that question.
I don’t mean to sound vague, but it has honestly been an equal and intense mix of heartbreak, elation, jealousy, joy, sympathy, sadness, anger and delight. The good feelings outweigh the bad ones. They have to, for sanity's sake.
Of course, when we see each other, I am not the type of person to let the bad stuff out face to face. It’s not as if I sit there drinking tea with her, seething and picturing myself slamming her head into the table.
Actually I must admit I don’t even have that thought when I am not with her.
I will admit, however, that in my quieter moments – often when I am going off to sleep at night or driving in the car – I feel a physical pang of what must be jealousy. But it is more about me wishing so desperately to be still pregnant, rather than me wishing she was not.
I would never dare think that. I am worried, in fact, about even writing it down.
I cannot deny it is hard sometimes seeing pregnant people, or mums with kids. I am such a bitch that I actually have flaring flashes of white-hot anger when I see some feral, disinterested teenager with two toddlers already hanging off her tattooed arms, pregnant and whining to her B-Boy wannabe boyfriend about the price of chicken nuggets or two-minute noodles or something. How dare she. She doesn’t deserve it. The baby, I mean. Everybody has a right to two-minute noodles.
It is easier to direct those sorts of feelings, fleeting though they are, to people I will never know or talk to. But I am not someone who would even contemplate feeling that way about my pregnant friends.
The fact is, good always beats evil with them, because I care for them deeply. Our friendship gives me an in-built cut-off switch for any of that bad stuff. But it’s a switch that never moves anyway. It’s taped stuck in one direction. That’s why, I think, we are friends in the first place.
Again, I am sensible and mature enough to know that hanging on to those toxic kinds of feelings will only contaminate your soul.
Yes you are allowed them for a while when life deals you a truly shitty hand, but letting them rule you day-to-day does nothing but leave a permanent and very ugly stain.
Every individual has one very powerful thing when crafting their own: choice.
I choose to recover from this. I choose to concentrate on all the wonderful things in my life more often than the bad shit that has happened. I choose to let myself grieve and remember and never forget, but I also choose to move on. I choose to feel whatever my hormones, environment and thoughts make me feel. But I also choose not to get too carried away by extremes. I choose to realise that having a purpose gives me the strength to push the darkness away. I choose to take refuge in the unconditional love I am so fortunate to have as my constant cloak. And I choose to make the effort to make good, not bad, on this short life.
What alternative is there?
So, friend, I love you. But I miss you almost as much as I understand why you are sometimes absent from my life. Please don’t worry about me or for me. Don’t ever feel you have to run and hide your big old pregnant self from me.
Tell me everything, keep me in the loop. Don’t anticipate or wonder how I might react. Just know that I will react, and 99% of the time I will be filled-to-overflowing with happiness for you.
If I’m not, if that 1% creeps in, well that’s my cross to bear; but it’s one I am trying to shuffle off.
I won’t be that type of crucifixed martyr.
I choose not to be.