Being pregnant at the same time was a dream come true for best friends Anna and Jane. Then tragedy struck
Anna Wharton, 36
When my boyfriend and I decided to try for a baby, I was bursting with excitement – and trepidation. I decided to confide in my best friend, Jane. We met at journalism college when I was 19 and she was 22. Jane was just about the coolest person I’d ever met. We bonded like sisters – and in the years to come we’d sometimes bicker like sisters too. But we always made up.
After college, Jane moved to San Francisco but we stayed best friends: we chatted on the phone, visited each other and later Skyped. From either side of the ocean we saw each other through some major life changes: my marriage break-up, her multiple sclerosis diagnosis, my father’s death, Jane’s divorce.
But there was one tragedy our friendship could not weather. In fact, it tore us apart. When I told Jane that I was trying for a baby, she was naturally delighted for me. She already had two children, Emily, now 13, and Elliot, 11, from her first marriage. And now, she confided, she and her new partner, Tavis, were hoping to have a baby.
A few weeks later, I rang Jane to tell her I was pregnant. Six weeks later, so was she. I couldn’t have been more excited. We’d go through pregnancy together, give birth weeks apart and, with luck, our babies would grow up to be friends, just like us. As always, we chatted weekly, swapping complaints about morning sickness and indigestion, though poor old Jane seemed to be suffering far more than me. I worried that the pregnancy might take a toll on her often frail body; I’d seen her bloom through her pregnancies before, but once those hormones left her body, the MS made her crash.
But Jane has always been so brave, so strong, so super positive, and I knew she and Tavis wanted this baby more than anything.
There was even better news – like me, Jane was expecting a girl. I remember the day she told me the name they had chosen: Daisy Rae. She sounded so sweet already. And Jane loved Gracie, the name awaiting my daughter.
Then, disaster. Jane’s mother, Pam, emailed to say her baby had died. Jane had gone for a routine checkup at 20 weeks, and Daisy was no longer alive.
Doctors thought she had been strangled by the umbilical cord. I reached down and put a protective hand over my own bump. As sad as I was for Jane, in that moment part of me felt selfishly terrified for my own baby. What if she died too?
I dialled Jane’s number and left a message to say how sorry I was. But no amount of emotion or emphasis in my voice could have come close to letting Jane know how I felt for her in that moment. I think she texted back the next day and thanked me for the message. I called Pam again, and asked how Jane was, which I did every few days over the months to come. She very carefully and kindly told me that Jane couldn’t speak to me. That I, with my growing, healthy bump, was the last person Jane wanted to hear from.
I remember the tears pricking my eyes. I knew it was a hard thing for Pam to tell me. I knew it made sense and that I was selfish to think any different. I also knew that there was a weak and cowardly part of me that was afraid to speak to Jane, that didn’t want to hear that a baby could just “go away”. And I wanted to be there for Jane when she needed me most. In those moments, it was hard to accept that my best friend didn’t want me anywhere near her.
The weeks went by and I kept in touch with Pam. I was careful not to mention my pregnancy on Facebook too much. I knew when I put a picture up that Jane might see it, so I did so only a handful of times over the nine months. I sometimes checked her profile to see if she’d deleted me. Pam told me that, instead, she had hidden me from view.
I felt helpless. All I could do was hope that Pam was telling Jane I was asking after her, but it did feel as if I was being punished for my pregnancy continuing. I could almost feel the resentment coming across the Atlantic in waves. Because I needed Jane too. This was my first baby, quite possibly the only one I’d have, and, after all, Jane already had two who were alive and well. I didn’t want – or deserve – her to resent me or my baby.
Gracie was born in August 2012. Jane says she contacted me when she was born, but it’s all a blur – I nearly lost her at the last hurdle and she spent her first week of life in intensive care.
Then, suddenly, Jane sent some wonderful gifts for Gracie – I knew choosing them must have been hard for her, but hoped it might be an olive branch. There was a glimmer of hope that I might get my best friend back.
But there was a long way to go. By then, with a new baby to show off, I couldn’t hide my pride on Facebook, I couldn’t censor the pictures I posted – I had to wait for Jane to come round.
The breakthrough came last summer when she met Gracie. She shed some tears, we both knew why. But although Daisy wasn’t there, Emily and Elliot were and it gave us so much pleasure to see our children playing together.
The other day, when I called Jane excitedly to tell her that Gracie had taken her first steps, I knew she must be thinking, “That’s what Daisy would be doing now.” But although it hurts, perhaps it keeps Daisy alive too.
Jane Gould, 40
When I got pregnant two years ago, the person I was most excited about telling was my best friend, Annie. Not just because we shared every part of our lives, but because she was pregnant too. And despite the thousands of miles between us, we were going to experience our pregnancies together.
Tavis was – is – the love of my life, and though I had two children from my previous marriage, I’d always pictured myself with three, so this was going to be perfect. To share it with Annie only made it more exciting. In my imagination our babies would be best friends: they’d spend summers together, live in the same town and, one day, we’d hang out together with our grandchildren – one big, happy extended family like something out of a movie.
Annie and I had been best friends for 16 years. It was tough on our friendship when I moved to San Francisco, but we kept in constant touch. In fact, I was with Annie on New Year’s Day 2000 when I found out I was pregnant with my first baby. I did a pregnancy test at her house – she knew before my husband did.
With my third pregnancy, Annie and I found out we were both having girls. Then, without warning, it was all over for me. Daisy Rae died, a few days after I’d felt her kick for the first time. I went for the five-month checkup and there she was lying inside me as if sleeping, but with no heartbeat. My life came crashing down. My baby had just … gone.
I had to wait a week to have her body removed under anaesthetic in hospital. The alternative was to be induced and give birth, but I couldn’t bear to do that. I had to accept that I’d be leaving the hospital with nothing more than sorrow.
I was heartbroken. I’m not sure how I made it through that week, and have little memory of it. There was a lot of crying, sleep and medication. But a few weeks later, I knew I had to try to make it out of the fog and rejoin the real world. But it was filled with pregnant women and newborn babies – I couldn’t bear to see them.
And how could I still be friends with Annie? She was getting bigger and more beautiful by the day: I only needed to go on to Facebook to see that. I felt it wasn’t fair.
I sent a text to tell Annie I couldn’t be in touch with her any more, crying as I composed it. Was I mourning the loss of my friend or that she had what I so desperately wanted? She replied to say that she understood and stayed in touch with my mum.
At first Mum tried to persuade me to talk to Annie. She told me how much Annie cared about me and needed me. But I just couldn’t. I couldn’t stand seeing her pictures on Facebook either. I hid her profile so it wouldn’t come up in my feed, then I hid every one of my friends who popped up with a pregnant status. Which, it seemed at the time, was everyone.
My happiness for Annie hadn’t gone, but in the space where I’d once felt my baby kick, resentment towards her – and any pregnant woman – grew. All I had was an empty belly.
I tried explaining to Tavis how I felt about her, but he found it hard to understand. Of course he knew I was grieving – he was, too – but he didn’t understand how I could resent my best friend. And he didn’t want me to appear mean. But my feelings were so complex that only a handful of people understood. One of those was my grief therapist, who promised me they were normal, and most importantly, they would change in time.
Sometimes I’d send Annie a text to say hi and send love, to reassure her that I hadn’t left completely. She always responded, but I could tell from her tone that she didn’t really know what to say. Often I felt she seemed apologetic for still being pregnant and I felt bad for putting her in that space. Other times I felt she was angry at me for being selfish and not being there for her.
Then Gracie was born. I knew her due date – part of me had dreaded that news – and Mum called to say the baby was in intensive care, which shook me. I sent Annie a note, but didn’t hear back, which was no surprise considering the situation.
I knew that if Annie and I were to ever be friends again, I had to send a gift to acknowledge Gracie’s birth and, more, despite my grief, I wanted to share in her joy.
I took Emily shopping for Gracie’s gift, to have at my side one of the babies I hadn’t lost. We bought Goodnight Moon, which was Emily’s favourite book as a baby, a soft white owl and some fridge magnets with Gracie written on them. That was my way of showing Annie I was sorry for not being there during her pregnancy or birth, that I was happy for her and wanted us to be friends again.
Little by little, Annie and I were in touch more often. I knew she understood and eventually she told me how sad she was that Gracie and Daisy wouldn’t grow up together. Her acknowledgment was all I needed.
Then, some really wonderful news. Eight months after I lost Daisy, I got pregnant again. But again I miscarried, this time at 12 weeks. I knew I wouldn’t try again.
Last summer, four months after losing this second baby, I met Gracie. She was 11 months old and perfect. We spent a magical day together at my parent’s country cottage. Among the rambling roses and bumble bees, Emily and Elliot took turns pushing Gracie on the swing. They were wonderful with her, as I knew they would have been with Daisy.
During the day, I looked at Gracie, and Daisy came rushing to my mind. The tears flowed. Annie and I looked at each other, but didn’t say anything – there was nothing to say. I fell in love with Gracie that day and was able to move on with Annie. This day was about me meeting this beautiful little girl with the whole world ahead of her, and with an incredible mum showing her the way.
That’s what Gracie and Annie are to me now. They don’t represent my loss any more, but what we’ve all gained.