Growing up, my mom was a teacher at my school. It meant I spent a lot of time at the school outside of classroom hours. She'd stay late for conferences, or grading papers, or cutting letters for bulletin boards, and I'd be forced to find something to do--or get asked to help. The summer before my fifth grade year, the school hired a new teacher. She had a daughter, Emma, who would also be starting fifth grade.
It was perfect. My sister was three years older than me, entering her teenage years, and totally uninterested in playing with a boring 10-year-old. But a new teacher's kid meant I had a built-in friend. Someone who would also be stuck at the school after hours. Not only did we have that starting point, we had basically everything else in common. We both loved volleyball and would spend hours in the fall peppering on the schoolyard until it got dark. We were both budding writers, and we'd pass a notebook full of adventure stories back and forth writing a book, one chapter at a time. We had the same taste in music, the same mocking critiques of our teenage older sisters, and the same level of boy-craziness--not enough to be like the "other" girls that we made fun of, but enough to pass notes about Don's new haircut or Josh's cute jeans.
We were inseparable. In the spring of our sixth grade year, one afternoon, Emma passed me a desperate note: I started Number Three. I instantly scribbled something back--words of solace and sympathy--"Number Three" was our code for period. I have no idea why, but it had it's own secret hand signal. The other girls in our class made fun of Emma. Some were obviously jealous of her "womanhood." I promised her we'd get through this--we'd figure out tampons together. I kid you not, two days later my period started. Of course, that made all of the other girls even more jealous. We were part of this secret club with the junior high girls now--we were women. No other girls in our class started menstruating for at least two years. Somehow, that sealed that our friendship was something special.
In high school, we spent every weekend at each others' houses. We both started playing varsity volleyball as freshman--and endured the hazing together. She was the starting middle hitter and I was her setter. Her boyfriend (now husband) even lived at Bobby's house for a few months his senior year. It made for perfect date nights for our new four-some. I've shared every secret I've ever had with Emma, and she with me. We made it through break ups, parents' job changes, different universities, and marriage. Emma and I waited together, both in long-term relationships while everyone around us got engaged and married. After five years, her boyfriend proposed to her--two weeks before Bobby proposed to me. We were in each others' weddings--only two months apart.
After a year of marriage, Emma and her husband moved across the country. It was the first time we were really far apart. We'd gone to different universities, but we were only ever a few hours away. And we'd plan our weekends home together, or spend the night in each others' dorm room. But this move--it was hard. At the time, Emma was really the only friend I had left with no children. And now she was several states away. She still came home to visit her family for holidays, and we always picked up where we left off. We could talk for hours with no awkwardness between us--despite having neither seen or spoken to one another in months. We'd talk about kids--how EVERYONE had them so fast, but neither of us shared why we didn't have our own kids--other than "not wanting to yet."
This August, I was at a Vikings pre-season game and received a text from Emma. So...Remember that promise we made each other when we got married about having kids? I felt like I swallowed my heart. I knew instantly.
I texted back: No...are you pregnant?
Yes. And you better be too by next week!
Ha. Um no thanks. But yay for you!
I was losing my best friend. I just knew it. This changed everything. She sent me a long email later that week explaining that she'd been really sick and being pregnant wasn't what she expected. She ended with, I feel like a traitor to young married women without kids everywhere. I'm counting on you to keep me sane and let me secretly vent about how ridiculous young mothers are. I NEED you.
This was it. I wrote back that I'd been off birth control for over a year and half and that we were "sort of" trying. She instantly answered, gushing that they too had started trying right around the same time we had, but (same as me) once she went off the pill, she didn't get her period for the first year. However, they were moving ahead with their plans to move overseas. She'd even begun researching fertility doctors in their area, but with the new job, they would be spending a year or so living in Iowa, getting ready.
So...for the many conversations over nearly two years where the two of us would talk about how ridiculous it was that EVERYONE we knew was pregnant and obsessed with kids...we were both secretly trying to get pregnant and both struggling through infertility.
Emma's baby is due in a few weeks. She's invited me to come stay with them this weekend (they live in Iowa now--yay! much closer!) and spend quality best friend time together before this baby comes. Part of me is so excited to see her, part of me isn't. I don't like talking about babies. I've stopped hanging out with many of my close friends because all they talk about is babies...and they don't seem to get the hint that I'm not interested. I hope, hope, hope that things with Emma will be different. I'm hoping that because she knows some of our story, she will be sensitive. Yes, she's enormously pregnant--it's hard to ignore--and I do want to hear SOME about this baby, I hope the focus on our weekend can be on other things.
Mostly, I feel incredibly afraid that this is the last time that Emma and I will be in the same life stage. From now on, she will always have a kid and I won't. Even if I have a baby in the next few years, she'll still be "ahead" of me. She'll be talking toddlers and preschool, while I'll still be in breastfeeding and bassinets. I know the core of our relationship will never change, but losing even just part of what makes us so close is heartbreaking.