March 11, 2019

By Sanda Rathamone

"Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own." - Robert A. Heinlein

Have you ever had a friend who was pregnant the same time you were, before losing your baby? I did. Her name is Teresa. We knew each other from elementary school and had the same second grade teacher. We also bonded more closely during second grade because her older sister and my Aunt Rosie (my mom's youngest sister) were in the same fifth grade class.

I remembered that our teachers assigned each student a "reading buddy." The fifth graders were like mentors, helping the younger kids read books. Teresa's older sister happened to be my reading buddy and my aunt, hers. 

After elementary school, we went our separate ways, since I went to a different middle school, high school, and then moved out of California. We rarely kept in touch throughout our adolescent years. Then, I graduated high school, moved back to my hometown and some years later happened to see her again. She was working at that same Ross store where my Aunt Rosie had once been employed and became manager (my aunt left before Teresa began working there).

While I was studying at Community College back in 2014, I decided to work at Ross part-time. Teresa had already been working there for at least a few years and she was excited to hear that I would be joining the team. Although, her shifts were usually in the mornings or afternoons and mine were in the late afternoons/evenings. If we happened to work on the same shifts, we were always assigned different departments. Of course, we found ways to chat, but it wasn't more than a few minutes or so of girl talk or catching up.

Unfortunately, I left the job after getting off a very, very late shift, which lasted way passed midnight. I would get off work after closing hours - usually after 10 p.m. - and it was tiresome getting home so late in the night. I also hadn't said a proper goodbye to Teresa and another new friend who also worked closing hours.

Fast forward to two years after leaving the job, I was shopping at that same Ross. But instead of shopping for myself, I was shopping for baby things. I was looking for gender neutral items, five months pregnant, and a week away from our 20 week scan. The scan that would show the full anatomy of our baby, which also meant that we would know if we were having a boy or girl.

At Ross, the baby department is just a walk away from the dressing rooms. Surprisingly, Teresa was there, working the go-back racks and helping customers with their clothes. I stopped by to say hello and she gave me an eye roll, asking why I hadn't said goodbye before leaving the job. After giving her an update on my work/school life, I commented on how tired she looked. Teresa admitted that she was exhausted and wanted to sleep... because she was pregnant! I hadn't yet shared my pregnancy and here she was telling me that she was three months along! I told her that I was pregnant too and this made us laugh and giggle like the giddy schoolgirls we once were.

"Ohhh myyy godddd!" 
"When are you due?!" 
"Do you know if you're having a boy or girl?" 
"Ohhh myyyy godddd, did you feel better after the first trimester?"
"I am always sooooo tired!"

We were touching each other's bellies and were thrilled at how we were so close in pregnancy. Before hugging her goodbye, I told her that I would be finding out the gender of the baby the week after and my due date was in late October. 

When we lost Elijah days after the 20 week scan, I thought about Teresa. I wanted to visit her at Ross and tell her everything that had happened, so much so, that I had a dream about it. Regretfully, I couldn't muster up the courage to come face-to-face with her pregnant belly after losing mine. Months had passed. Then a year. Then another. I still shop at Ross, hoping that I would find her still working there. However, it has now been nearly three years since Elijah died and I haven't seen Teresa while shopping there. Knowing that she had wanted to leave the job for some time, she probably left after having her baby. Her baby...

Elijah and her baby would have been close in age - if Elijah hadn't died. It's funny how Teresa and I were born in the same year, and we would have had babies in the same year as well. 

Earlier today, I played "secret stalker" and found her on social media. She has an Instagram dedicated to her baby, who is also a boy. Imagine that, our boys playing together, like how we played together when we were young. I found out that she named her son, Joshua, who was born on November 22nd, which is almost a month after Elijah's due date on October 30th. Our boys would have had close birthdays, if Elijah' hadn't died in June.

As I scroll through photos of her son, it breaks my heart to see that Elijah would have "looked" similar to Joshua. Elijah would have gone through a similar growth timeline as he had. Similar milestones, similar height and size, adorable boyish and toothy smile, pieces of clothing. I gaze at their small and cute family photos, and it makes me cry that we don't have photos like they do on their baby shower, at the park, or at Kincaid's.

The photo that tugged on my heart was the one of Joshua just after birth; new, pink, naked, and crying. His 6 pounds compared to Elijah's 9.9 ounces didn't match, and it hurt. It hurt that I was the one who had given birth first, but too early. Another thing that caught my eye was that Teresa had been in the same Alta Bates Maternity hospital as I was. Only, I didn't get to take my baby home.

It is strange to admit that I am not painfully jealous of her, like how I usually am of pregnant women after loss. Teresa looks happy. Her little family looks happy. She doesn't know this, but I hope that she continues to be happy.

With love,
Must Read:
Read Elijah's Story, "From Gender Reveal to a Spontaneous Delivery"

Photo: pinterest

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