It's that time of year again. My Facebook feed is full of beaming kids posing in front of yellow buses, all traces of flip-flops and bathing suits fading with their suntans. As I scroll through these back-to-school photos, none make me as happy as yours do. Because, even though we don't talk much anymore, and our lives have propelled forward in a blur of scraped knees and playdates, I look at your photos and I know how far you've come.
How far we all have.
I remember seven years ago, when a shadow fell over me as I struggled to understand terms like "spontaneous pregnancy loss" and "chromosomal abnormalities."I remember going online, looking for an outlet for my grief, and finding you, "women in their 30s TTC #1 after a miscarriage." You were strangers, and yet you were the only ones I could talk to when I felt broken, when I felt cheated, when I felt alone.
When people would tell me, "Don't worry, you'll have another" and I wanted to scream, even though I knew they meant well and just didn't understand.
When a friend wanted to show me her newly decorated nursery, and I stood there, frozen, desperately wondering if I'd ever have a baby of my own.
When I took five pregnancy tests in five days, because I refused to believe another month had gone by and I was right back where I started.
When I finally did become pregnant and began spotting, and I was suddenly back in a too-familiar nightmare.
When I was too scared to tell anyone I was pregnant, and spent my first trimester feeling anxious and alone.
You were the ones I talked to, because you understood it all -- the pain, the fear, the heartbreak. As we one-by-one became pregnant, we vented in the middle of the night about morning sickness, relieved to have a place where we didn't have to hide our symptoms, lest anyone discover our "secret" before that elusive second trimester. We obsessed about hormone levels, heartbeat monitors, and things that would sound paranoid to anyone else -- but not to us, not to our sisters on this difficult, private journey we shared only with our husbands and each other.
We admitted guilt we couldn't utter aloud: Why had we waited so long? What were we doing in our 20s that was more important than this? Was it all our fault?
And when our babies were finally born, we continued our confessions. We were tired. We were hormonal. We were overwhelmed. We could speak freely, without judgment, without being seen as ungrateful for our blessings, after all we'd gone through to have our healthy babies.
Today, as a mother of two, I don't know how I would have gotten to this point without you. Looking at the photos of your children, I feel a warmth in my heart. I know just how hard it was for you to keep trying, month after month. To watch friends getting pregnant while you felt your own dreams slipping away. To wonder "Will this pregnancy stick?" or if you'd be back in that operating room, telling yourself you could always try again.
And yet somehow you were strong, and your strength inspired me every day. And so, know that even though I don't check in as often as I should, I see your beautiful photos, and I think of you, and all you went through to make them a reality. And I thank you. Because the mother in my photos once felt broken, and you helped her find herself again.
No, I don't reach out as often as I should. But I see your beautiful families. And I smile.