"I haven't had a chance to see you since you're all on the other side of the building, but I wanted to tell you I won't be here next year--we're expecting!"
The conversation was like many others that teachers have in passing--quick and interrupted; hallways buzzing with teachers and students alike. I raced back to my classroom, fully intending to take advantage of the 20 minutes of time I would have before it was time to pick my kids up again...but I could not focus. "Ohh no-" she had said, "This has been nine years and thousands of dollars in the making." I don't even remember the question that prompted these few words that would change me, but nevertheless, they did.
That was the beginning. The first time I found someone who knew my struggle. The first time I could talk about our journey with infertility without feeling judged or vulnerable; the first time I could really listen to another woman's pregnancy stories without feeling like my heart was breaking with every word they spoke. The first time another woman gave me a sense of hope within my grief.
It started out selfishly, me wanting to hear everything about her journey through infertility, what IVF was like, how to navigate this world that was so very new to me. It made me feel less broken. It made me feel less alone.
Over the next four months she shared everything with me--all the details; the least painful shot locations and all the right questions to ask our doctors. She didn't know, but she was my inspiration. If she had overcome a miscarriage, nine years of waiting; wishing, and finally IVF treatments, I could, too.
In April, four months after she first opened up to me about her long-time struggle and her new pregnancy, she gave birth to Wesley at 20 weeks. She said hello and goodbye to her baby in the same day and her dreams were crushed again. My heart broke for her.
I was sad for her and scared for me all at the same time. I had never known someone who had suffered any kind of loss and it opened up a whole new world to me; a scary one. I realized for the first time that even if my IVF treatments worked and I got pregnant, there was this chance that I could lose that baby just like she lost Wesley. How was I 29 years old and thinking about this reality for the first time? Because women feel silenced and do not talk about it.
Not her, though, she refused to be silenced and shared her pain with me and others around her. She remembered Wesley, she said his name all the time. While I know it must have felt like she would never truly pick up all of the pieces as her whole world came crumbling down around her, she lived. She lived and somehow, although it terrified me, her heartbreak gave me strength. Not because of the loss she had suffered, but because of how she handled it. Every time I felt like giving up on my own struggle with infertility, I remembered her. Her grace and courage as she braved forward amidst the unknown, amidst the heartbreak.
She's due to give birth to her rainbow baby this month. We talk often and she shares her pregnancy stories and I watch her belly grow. She sends me pictures of her nursery ideas, we talk about fabric choices and paint colors; I get an update after nearly every doctor's appointment. I thought we would be doing this together. Early on we would talk about play dates and said we would each probably be the overprotective type because we had to fight so hard to bring our babies into this world. But, I'm still fighting.
I thought I would be sad. I guess there's a part of me that is. She's not on this journey with me anymore. I'm still fighting and in two weeks she will be holding her baby in her arms and taking him home. But there's so much more than that twinge of sadness. There's happiness, there's hopefulness, there's a lesson to be learned for all of us still fighting our way through this journey.
She never gave up. Her heart was broken, her world was shattered, but she never gave up. So, in a sense, this rainbow baby of hers is a rainbow to all of us. A light to guide each of us through our own storm and a beautiful reminder that in time, we will all get our own rainbow in one way or another.