I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of best friendships in my life, often multiple at a time, and many that have now lasted a decade or longer and are still going strong. And I’m the type of person who is as close to her friends as most people are to their families: my ex-mother-in-law used to marvel at the fact that I only spoke to my parents about once a week while I was living in Europe, and kept up much more regular contact with some of my close friends.
I met Monica my freshman year in college, which was, as she now puts it, “the only time that we were very much at the same place in life at the same time.” Still, the diverging paths our life stories took never seemed to matter much, and I believe that Monica and I are connected on some other wavelength: we have the sort of friendship that sometimes makes it difficult for other people to be around us, and if I’m having a bad day, she’s one of the first people I will apply to for comfort – because she skips the comfort stage entirely, and is able instead to make me feel better with a sarcastic comment or a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. (For example: I recently sent a text to a group of my closest friends, informing them that my ex-husband is already engaged again. While most of my friends asked how I felt about it, or tried to remind me that I’ve moved on with my life and found happiness, too, Monica simply responded with, “Ew, to that chubby girl?”)
During the first few months after my miscarriage, Monica was the person I called and emailed most often. When I was struggling with the fact that I had a young, single, pregnant coworker, whose due date was only two weeks off what mine would have been, Monica would appease me with stories about her younger sister struggling to raise her baby and keep a job and maintain a relationship with her boyfriend. One of the most effective of these stories involved middle-of-the-night diarrhea diapers.
Then one morning in early January, I got an email from Monica that opened with this line: “I’ve known for a couple weeks but didn’t want to tell you because it seemed like too much of a cruel twist of fate or insensitive.”
Monica was pregnant.
Not just that. Monica was pregnant, with her ex-boyfriend’s baby, because they’d had a one-night stand of post-breakup sex, and the morning after pill had failed her.
And I simply couldn’t deal. In her email, she was scared and confused and seemed to be looking at her pregnancy as the worst thing that could have happened to her (which, given the circumstances at the time, it may well have been). I, on the other hand, saw her pregnancy as the worst thing that could have happened to me. I wrote her back and begged her to give the baby up for adoption, and told her that this was going to destroy our friendship. And I cried and cried and cried: on the phone with Dawn (this was the conversation where she told me to move back home), on the phone with my mom (who told me that maybe God’s reasons behind my miscarriage had something to do with me needing to be there for Monica – and then I hung up on my mom), and to Doug (who took me to a brewery on the day I got another email from Monica, announcing the sex of her baby, and threw the laptop across the room).
The one person I didn’t cry to, or with, was Monica herself. I needed her special brand of comfort more than ever, yet she was the one indirectly causing me so much pain. All my anger and frustration focused on her for a good six months. Why did she get a healthy baby when her situation was even less ideal than mine? Why didn’t she use the fucking condom that’s been encased in glass (“In case of emergency…”) on her wall since we lived together our junior year of college? Why wasn’t she happy for this miracle that she was getting, the one that I’d wanted so badly but couldn’t have? Why was God mocking me?!
For the duration of her pregnancy, Monica and I had a friendship akin to walking on eggshells. As a general rule, I chose to ignore her existence, but we did occasionally email, and we spoke on the phone once. I talked about her a lot in therapy, and my mom kept telling me to be there for her, which I kept thinking was a ridiculous request. In retrospect, the most injust thing about the situation wasn’t that Monica got a baby and I didn’t, or that I had a supportive boyfriend to cry to and she didn’t; it was the timing of the whole thing. We needed each other and neither of us could really provide… anything. Except maybe some anguish. In that first, scared email, she suggested I might be able to make a trip to see her in August, around the time she was due. And by the time that date was approaching… I didn’t even get a courtesy invite to the shower her mom and sister threw for her; I had made it that explicitly clear that I wanted nothing to do with her or her baby.
And now, I’m back in San Diego and Monica lives in LA. I’ve still never met her daughter, a healthy little one-year-old who, fortunately, looks just like Monica and nothing like her father. We have occasional contact via text and email (see: “chubby girl” above), but haven’t spoken on the phone at all. And we make half-hearted, “let’s-meet-halfway-in-Irvine” plans that never come to fruition.
At the end of my introductory session yesterday, my therapist reiterated the things I’d told her I wanted to work on. “So you want to take your life off pause,” she said, “and get over your aversion to pregnant women… And reconcile with your friend who had a baby?”
“Oh. Yes,” I said, surprised. As though that was even a question.