real life

You're pregnant. Your best friend had a miscarriage. Can you still be friends?

Can I stop a miscarriage?

Issues of fertility and pregnancy can wreck unexpected havoc within female friendships. Perhaps you’ve been there. This is a situation one MM reader found herself in and it’s broken her heart and sent shockwaves through her life.

Lee writes….

Like most friendships that you hold close, my girlfriend and I had been through many ups and downs over the years. We had grown up together, gone to school together, socialized together, shopped, laughed and cried together.

We both married young at 22 years, and unfortunately she divorced 9 years later. My husband and I were devastated as the four of us had many fun times and we didn’t even know there were problems within their marriage. We were there to support her through this time and as tough as it was, it made us even closer.

Watch: Mia introduce Never Forgotten: Mamamia’s Pregnancy Loss Awareness Week.

She decided to forge a new path which involved a move east and she thrived over there. I missed her terribly but went to visit as often as I could – she was, after all, my shopping guru and I needed her! She had a wonderful time and I was living her single life vicariously through her and was having fun listening to her adventures.

She met a guy who made her happy and we were all thrilled for her. They decided to marry and try for a family. They started trying prior to even marrying as he was a bit older and they were ready.

My husband and I had been married 10 years by this stage and well and truly ready to start our family too. Unfortunately numerous issues arose and months dragged. We tried Clomid, it didn’t work and I got very sick on it until finally a laparoscopy was done to “check” everything out.

My gynecologist discovered I had “the worst case of endometriosis” he had ever seen and “it was a dogs breakfast”. After 3 hours of surgery he had managed to disentangle my uterus, ovaries and a nasty cyst which had decided to join all three together to create one giant mass 18cm in diameter.

We would need IVF as he was 95 per cent sure it was impossible for us to fall pregnant naturally.We were out to dinner, all four of us, (after marrying for the 2nd time my friend and her husband had moved back to be closer to her family).

“I have something to talk to you about,” she said. I said, “Me too”.

We actually wanted to talk to each other about the same thing, only at polar opposites of the subject matter.

'I was devastated that my best friend had just said to me that she may not be happy if I fell pregnant before her.' Image: iStock

I said "You go first ..." to which she replied “Well, I’ve been thinking about this and as we are both trying for a baby we both need to be mindful and respectful that if one falls pregnant before the other that the other may not want to hear all about it all the time."

I was shocked. I tried to make small talk for the rest of the night but I was devastated that my best friend had just said to me that she may not be happy if I fell pregnant before her. At this point, we had both been trying for about six months, and while sitting there I was thinking "we haven’t been trying long enough for this to be an issue".

I stewed on this for a few days and continued to be upset so I decided to write it all down to let her know how I felt (I was very upset and felt I wouldn’t get what I needed to say out in person as I’m too much of an emotional wreck in these situations). I told her we in no way wanted them to hide their excitement or worry about our feelings at such a special time in their lives. We would be ecstatic for them both and I would love to hear everything as it will help me for when my time comes. I told her it had hurt me that she felt that the way she did and was upset to think she may not be as happy for me.

She said she just knows she will be upset and that if that’s how I think I will feel, that’s great but "I just know I won’t feel like that”. Again I was upset, but I hoped it wouldn’t come to that, and hoped she would get pregnant before me.

A month or two later, they found out they were pregnant but unfortunately she had started to bleed and it was discovered that the pregnancy was eptopic. She had to have surgery but luckily her tubes and everything remained intact. She was advised that unfortunately there is a higher risk of the same thing happening due to scaring around the original implantation site. She was understandably devastated.

About a month or two later, they announced that they were pregnant again. My very first reaction to this news was relief. I didn’t have to tell her that I had fallen pregnant before her. Thank God. Then relief for her that they had had a first scan and all appeared to be going well. During that night my excitement for them grew, I wanted to know everything. The four of us had a great night.

The next day my mum and my sister asked me how I felt and I told them exactly how I knew I would feel, very very excited for them and relieved that the issue of me having to tell them I was pregnant before them wouldn’t be a problem anymore.

Two weeks later, my husband and I found out I was pregnant and we were elated, that 5 per cent chance was all we needed evidently. We waited a couple more weeks and had a scan and then told our family. The very next people we told were our best friends. We were all excited, although there was a little bit of a strange feeling there. They seemed to be holding back a bit but I didn’t realise until later what that was about. I was in that over the moon, "aren’t we clever" stage, and didn't notice it too much.

Later that day, she told me she had started to spot but was trying to stay positive. They had another scan booked for that week. She was at 11 weeks. We left to go home later that day feeling good but nervous that things weren’t quite right them.

Sure enough, the scan bought bad news. Their baby had died and they were devastated. We were all gutted for them and of course I was feeling low, being in early stages of pregnancy myself and concerned that now I was pregnant and she wasn’t. What could I do to make it alright?

I rang her a few times over the course of the next week to see how she was going, concerned for my best friend but mindful that I maybe wasn’t the best person for her to speak with at that time. They understandably wanted to have some time to themselves to grieve and heal both physically and emotionally. We all understood that. I bought an angel that I would give to her when I saw her next, something tangible to show how sorry we were, and a card.

It was a long time and a lot of angst and hurt feelings before she finally got to receive this angel, and unfortunately she will never properly understand the meaning behind this token.

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The distance grew between us. Image: istock.

Over the course of the next few months as my belly grew so did the distance between us. I tried to call a couple more times and emailed. Each time she would respond but not in our usual banter type of way. It was measured and distant. She was having difficulty coming to terms with the fact that I was pregnant and she no longer was, her worst nightmare had eventuated and she even told my mum that she found it difficult to be around me.

During this very special time in my life my very best friend, who I loved like my sister, was unable to be around me. That tragic event, which  could not have been helped by anyone and was no one's fault, fractures our lives.

What I haven’t mentioned is she is also my cousin.

At 20 weeks, the four of us went out to a quiz night and although it was a good night, she greeted me by saying “wow aren’t you popping out”, then said nothing more or asked me nothing more about how I was or what had been happening in our life over the last 13 weeks or so since we last had seen them. It was like my growing belly was a big white elephant in a corner that no one could talk about. How could this be happening, she was supposed to be my best friend? Couldn’t she at least pretend just a little bit to be happy for us?

Christmas was around the corner and I would be seven months pregnant at the time. Discussions about who was bringing what and what would be happening on Christmas day was underway. In an email to me she mentioned she felt the family had given her no support and that on Christmas Day all she needed from everyone was a big hug as they would have dearly loved to be pregnant too. Six month on and we were not any closer to getting over this.

All the family had tried to give her support. We had all called, or tried to arrange a meeting or had emailed but had been given only polite responses. Rightly or wrongly, we took this as she didn’t want to talk about it. Needless to say Christmas day turned into a complete disaster and things were said and done that day that two years on are raw.

I know many women who experience miscarriage get angry when people don't mention their loss. From the other side of the coin, I feel if someone wants to discuss something with me, then they need to show you that they're ready to discuss it. Having said that, I always acknowledge the fact that someone has had a significant change in their life (be it birth, death and everything in between). I do not keep bringing this back up every time I see them. But should I?

Obviously after the initial loss we talked about it and had a cry on the phone together. I often asked how she was going, how she was feeling but she never brought up her miscarriages again or how she really was.

Is there a right or wrong thing to do here? In this instance we acknowledged their loss however as time went on when she didn’t discuss it we took that to be that she didn’t want to discuss it - and it turns out this was the total opposite. She was angry at people for not bringing it up.

Grief is such a personal issue and something that each person does differently. There is no right or wrong way.

Perhaps we weren’t there for each other and that’s how it ended. But I have the knowledge now that it’s not how friendships should be and just perhaps we weren’t really that close in the first place ...

I would be grateful for any advice or experiences readers have to share with me.

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