A few years ago, I met my friend Stephanie. We became fast friends and I am thankful to have her friendship and love. When Leo died and I began to write about this experience, I had asked her if she would consider writing a post for my blog. She is a writer, so it seemed like a natural idea. She had already started writing it.
She sent it to me about a week after Leo died, but it hadn’t felt like the right time to post it. I thought today would be the perfect day, since it has been one month since my son left my body. I’ve decided that today will be the anniversary of his “birth” and also the anniversary of his death. August 14, 2013. The day we found out he died, August 12, 2013 now belongs to someone else. Adopting August 14th feels better.
I wanted to share her perspective as my friend, one of many that has been by my side every single day and has had to experience her own emotions during this time.
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My Friend, Isabel
I’m sitting with my son and we are watching the original Dumbo. In the opening scene, animals at the zoo receive gifts from storks in the night. My son says “Moon.” When he sees the storks, he says, “Bird-teet, teet.” As all the animals receive their babies, he says “Baby…Mama.” Then the elephant looks into the sky for her baby. It never arrives. My son says “Where’d it go?”
I burst into tears.
A week ago today, my best friend lost her baby boy. She was just shy of five months pregnant. His name was Leo, and he existed. He was loved.
“Straight from heaven, up above, here is a baby boy for you to love,” says the stork. I can barely keep it together. My son is squealing and I try to smile but I cry because he will never know Leo, and my friend and I had just started to make plans for these boys. We hadn’t done that for 16 weeks. We were cautious. We thought she was past the point of miscarriage. We were wrong.
Isabel and I met in 2008 at work. I had been a temp there for a few months when she was hired. We were put into the same orientation class together and coincidentally sat next to each other. Within the first few words, I was drawn to her on a spiritual level. I don’t know why, but there was energy there.
During our lunch break, Isabel left and I went back to my desk. Everyone wanted to know about the “new girl.” I happily announced to my co-workers “Her name is Isabel and I love her. We are going to be best friends. You’ll all love her too.”
And there it was.
Isabel joined our team and we became fast friends and everyone loved her. For the next three years, we shared lunch and lots of talks. Our life stories, secrets, love for Coldplay, new realizations, religious beliefs and disbeliefs. I went to her wedding; she came to my family BBQ and my house for New Years Eve. We had so much in common, including infertility.
Her struggle is a deep, long battle between her body and science. She suffered miscarriages and had undergone several rounds of various treatments before meeting me, all were unsuccessful. I myself had struggled with secondary infertility after having one child and trying for ten years for another. When I met Isabel, I was at the end of my hope.
We both have family members who seemed to get pregnant with apparent ease and with each pregnancy, we would console one another. Not because we weren’t happy for our family member, but because the sting of not being pregnant, the thought of attending another baby shower, the pain of watching others’ create families and grow children—that pain that we may never, ever feel that, is too hard to describe. Infertility is a constant reminder that our bodies didn’t work.
My struggle was emotionally tough, but not nearly as tough as hers. I always felt guilty because hey, “at least I had one,” but that wasn’t enough for me. I never really had anyone talk about or addresses secondary infertility. But Isabel did. One particular dark day for me, I explained my guiltiness to her. She said I had nothing to feel guilty about and that she totally understood the frustration that comes from “wanting our bodies to do the one natural thing they were made to do.” We felt broken. Even though I had a daughter, there was void and Isabel helped me realize that it was ok to be sad.
In 2011, I got pregnant. I couldn’t believe it. I drove to her house and told her face-to-face. She deserved that. And she was happy for me. I know she was. I was sad, guilt-ridden, happy and vulnerable. I love my friend and as much as I wanted this pregnancy – I wanted it for her first. Early on, we had difficult conversations about my feelings that our friendship would change. The fact that we discussed these thoughts together created a boundary that helped us get through the following nine months, and maintain a close friendship to this day.
I had my baby, and she was there for me. She took his photos as a newborn and again at six months. We talked candidly about my guilt. She reassured me, but didn’t minimize her sadness. This is one of the things I love about my friend. She will not minimize her suffering. It is real. She will simply converse and explain that today isn’t a good day, etc. and I completely, totally respect that.
A few months ago, she texted me a photo. It took a while to download on my phone and I remember being frustrated with my phone … and then there it was. A positive pregnancy stick. I lost my shit. She was pregnant!! BUT, I knew better than to celebrate my friend, for her track record isn’t the most positive. So I called her and tried to hide my excitement. I couldn’t. As soon as I heard her voice, almost immediately, I felt something different. The past year, she had done SO much work to get healthier, be more active, and evolve mentally and emotionally. In my heart, I felt that this was it—this was her time. She was more cautious than I, but I know part of her felt the same.
For the next few weeks, our conversations were timid. At times, our words walked on eggshells. With each week that passed, we just wanted to get to week EIGHT – Then TWLEVE—then THIRTEEN—and then FIFTEEN. Yes, we were encouraged that the rates of miscarriage significantly decrease after these monumental weeks. I cried happy tears when she heard the heartbeat. I saved the ultrasound picture. I bragged to mutual acquaintances. I cried when I saw her announcement on Facebook. Then, she found out the gender, a boy. And the tears poured again. My friend would be a mother! Our boys would be buddies.
“So how’d you guys meet?”
–“Our moms are best friends, we grew up knowing each other our whole lives.”
Isabel is family to me. My family loves her. And her husband is my husband’s buddy. And our boys would be lifetime friends. Cautiously, we let ourselves dream a little. I was SO HAPPY for my friend and her hubby, at times I couldn’t resist the urge to text her my dreams….she was 16 weeks—way past 13, things were moving along just right.
One night last week, she posted a photo of her belly. She doesn’t do that often and I took it to my husband. He said “WOW, she’s showing! I’m so happy for them.” And we were. But the next day, I received the news. Leo had gone still. Sometime in the past few days, his little heart stopped beating.
When I found out, I was in my car. I burst into inconsolable tears, and sat on the side of the road for a few minutes.
What do I say? What do I do? Why her? I cursed God. I wanted to hug my friend. I wanted to hack into her Facebook account and just delete it. Her most recent photo was of her growing baby and the one before, the gender announcement. I wanted to drive to her home….I wanted to make this go away for her.
NOT HER. NO.
I wanted to protect her. I wanted to comfort her. All of these things came to mind within 30 seconds. But I could do nothing.
I eventually got back on the road and I ugly cried all the way home and for the next three days, I cried.
What do you do when your someone you adore experiences this type of loss? What do you say?
I Googled what to say and found a great list of things to avoid:
So I simply said “I don’t know what to say. But I love you.”
For the next three days, my friend had to carry her deceased baby in her tummy. My spirit was with her. I was consistently trying to put myself in her shoes. I would have shared the burden if I could. But I couldn’t do much. It gave me comfort knowing that her husband was by her side, but my heart broke for him as well. He’s such a softy.
For three days, I just checked in with her. I never once asked ”How are you doing?” Not in the beginning and not during that first week because if you even try to imagine her loss – you would know, she was NOT ok.
As much as I wasn’t prepared for her loss, I was oblivious to the horrific details of what a mother goes through in those 72 hours. Induction or D&E? Cremation or discard as medical waste? Instead of picking out a going-home outfit, my sweet friend and her husband picked out a crimson heart urn.
I tried to stay strong, but I couldn’t. When your close friend is in so much pain, and there is nothing you can do, you feel so helpless.
“What can I do?” I asked her. I know it’s on the no-no list of things to ask. But we live pretty far apart and she didn’t want me to come see her yet. She said just knowing I was here was enough. But it’s not to me.
I spent countless time reading people’s condolences on her Facebook account. Most were genuine and thoughtful, but some, “it’s God’s will” – “God is preparing you for something great” — these messages drove me INSANE.
I have advice for people who don’t know what to say—JUST FUCKING SAY THAT— “Isabel & Randy, I don’t know what to say. But I am thinking of you. I care.” THAT is enough. When you take the GOD’S WILL route, you exasperate the unanswered WHYs—questions that will never, ever be answered and it’s not enough to say it was up to GOD. Because if GOD knew my friend the way I do, she would be a mom to her own child. So, don’t.even.go.there.
A week has passed since my friend suffered this unimaginable loss and trauma to her body that no one talks about. Unsurprisingly, she has already started a blog and joined a group to bring awareness to miscarriages, stillbirth, loss, and grieving parents. This process of losing a child in utero is one that no one talks about enough. Women aren’t encouraged to grieve. They don’t know their choices in the hospital. They don’t know the questions to ask. This is going to change. Isabel will help change that, the world, you watch. Isabel is going to be heard. Leo was a lion, and even if he isn’t coming back, you’re going to hear him roar through his mama and I’m going to be there for her forever.
I still cry for my friend. I do pray. But most importantly, I am just letting her know that I am here. I am available. I check in with her daily. I will listen when she wants to talk. I don’t have advice per se, but I will do my best to honor my friend through this process and into the future. And through our most intimate conversations, I do not judge her decisions or feelings, I will not ask her how she’s doing, and I will never tell her what to do. I will never know what she’s gone through and I won’t pretend to. I am a friend, and my friend is in pain. I just need her to know that I don’t know what to say. But I am here and I always will be. That’s what friends do.
Stephanie Garcia is a Comedienne best known for her quick wit, sarcastic sense of humor, and impersonations of “Drunk Girls.” From a young age, she was fascinated with sketch comedy. At the age of five, she would impersonate any SNL character and entertained friends and family for hours. Steph moved around often, attended several elementary schools and three different high schools and learned quickly how to make friends – by making people laugh. In high school, Steph wrote parodies about current friends, bad habits, teachers, and embarrassing situations. Eventually she turned these parodies into live entertainment by acting out the stories behind the songs. People started telling Stephanie that she should do comedy. So, with the encouragement of close friends and family, in 2004, she entered an open‐mic contest and placed second. Now, in her 9th year of performing on stage, Stephanie draws upon experiences from her drunken nights as a single gal to getting married to a U.S. Marine, to becoming a Mother. Professionally, Stephanie is a copywriter and is working on her first book. She regularly appears on Good Day Sacramento and was a finalist for America’s Funniest Housewife contest on The View last year.