Birthdays and Sad Days
We owe it to ourselves as women to honor, protect, and respect our bodies and their ability to create new life — we do this by educating ourselves about our options, listening to our gut, and having faith in our power.
By Shannon Gallagher
Last October, as I slid into the booth at Luna 61 to tearily divulge to my best friend my suspected pregnancy, she was also pregnant, about seven weeks. It was her second pregnancy; her first was ectopic and so sadly ended before it really began. But she and her longtime love were determined to have a baby, and so as soon as they could try again, they did. I was over the moon for her — excited to be an auntie (and even more excited when I found out the baby was due on my birthday).
When I found out that I was pregnant I wasn’t nearly as excited. It was unplanned and I was in a fragile, amorphous relationship. And while at first — true to her forthright personality — she acknowledged and affirmed my concerns and reservations about the pregnancy, she ultimately became my biggest ally. When I was crying, scared and overwhelmed, she’d cheerfully talk about the walks we’d take together with our babies, making homemade baby food, how they’d grow up to be best friends — it was going to be okay, because we were doing it together.
But in February, around her six-month mark, she got horrible news. At a routine ultrasound they’d detected a problem with the baby’s kidneys. She was given two options: carry to term and deliver a stillborn (for the baby would surely die), or terminate the pregnancy, which meant she’d have to be induced and give birth to a baby that would not survive. Not two days before all this she’d sat on my couch and let me feel the baby kicking, the first time in my life I’d ever felt that — I thought of every reason under the sun why this couldn’t be happening and the doctors might be wrong. I didn’t want my friend to lose her baby again, something she wanted so badly. And I didn’t want to lose her baby either — I needed them. Unfortunately, the doctors were not wrong and a couple weeks later my friend delivered a tiny little girl they named Belle.
Yesterday was my birthday, Belle’s due date. Today, my friend and her love planted a lilac tree in their backyard, burying the baby’s ashes beneath it. It was sad to see them cry, to know what a terrible loss it has been for them and their families. And it was hard to sit there with my swollen belly, knowing that she tragically lost something I still have. But it occurred to me, for the first time since February, how much she still bolsters me through this: If I can handle the birth of my daughter with half the grace, strength, and reverence with which she handled the death of hers, I’m going to be okay.
In the Business of Being Born, a must-see documentary that explores the demise of the birth experience in America at the hands of the misguided medical industry, it is said that a woman, in giving birth, is giving life, and that deserves the utmost reverence. We owe it to ourselves as women to honor, protect, and respect our bodies and their ability to create new life — we do this by educating ourselves about our options, listening to our gut, and having faith in our power. My mother did it 27 years ago, and her mother 30 before that. So I’m hanging up my “Little Miss Negativity” hat to respect the process — a birthday gift for myself, for my daughter, for my friend, and for her Belle.