Once upon a time, I fell in with a group of four other mums. We met up every week for about 18 months. We even all went on a weekend break together once.
They were nice, but that was about it. I never fitted in, I was always clearly the fifth person, and I was never particularly close with any of them. In fact, after a while I realised that after I saw them each week, I would come home feeling worse about myself and my life than I did beforehand.
But we carried on meeting up.
Because they invited me into their group when my youngest was just a few months old. I had a baby and a 2 year old and I was struggling to get through the days, struggling to give each of them the attention they needed. I was grateful to be included. I was also (probably) a bit depressed, not having recovered psychologically from the trauma of my first birth, and having had a narrow miss of a repeat on the second. My ‘real’ friends – the ones I would rely on in a crisis – live across the country from me. If I’d known how much I would have needed them when my children were babies, I’d have moved back to where I came from a long time ago. So I was lonely too, and like I said, grateful.
About six months after I fell in with this group, DH and I started trying for our third. I didn’t know it at the time, but so did one of the other mums. She also had two young boys.
When I miscarried, which was at just over 13 weeks, and after I got out of hospital, I explained everything to them. The mum who was trying, let’s call her Sally, said to me that she had started trying at the same time I had gotten pregnant. She got all upset because she wanted the same age difference between her children and she said with such sorrow in her voice “it would have been the perfect time for me to get pregnant…” She had tears in her eyes. Although I had just come out of hospital with no baby, she was upset because I had gotten pregnant and she hadn’t. I knew that TTC was an emotional journey – and I well understood the close-in-age issue as it was such an important thing to me, which I still grieve the loss of. So I put her tears down to that.
Time passed, and for a while we shared the basics of our TTC journey. Then, four months later, she tested on the morning of her oldest son’s 4th birthday. It was positive. At his birthday party she came over, shoved a bag of ovulation tests into my hand with a big smile and walked off (the confidence of those who haven’t experienced loss).
Meeting up each week became torture. Conversations revolved around Sally’s pregnancy progression, all the while we were trying and failing. We were at a picnic once and pregnancy was the topic of conversation (as usual), and Sally said to a new mum that had joined us “You don’t want to have a third, third babies are tricky aren’t they Rose?”
The other mum looked confused and said, “Are you pregnant as well Rose?”. I had to explain the miscarriage to her, and she looked really awkward and apologised a lot.
Sally had the baby just as I approached the one year anniversary of my miscarriage. I went to her baby shower and put on a brave face.
After the baby was born, she did a weird thing. Although I overheard her a couple of times talking to the other mums about how hard it was, and how difficult she was finding three kids under 5, whenever she talked to me directly about it, she told me it was the ‘best thing in the world,’ and ‘the boys are besotted by her.’ and ‘it’s just easier having more kids.’
I don’t know whether it was my state of mind, but it seemed like she was trying to make me jealous. Which of course she didn’t have to do, because I already was.
The five of us went out just before Christmas for a birthday meal (three of us had December birthdays). The conversation turned to housework and Sally shouted out “It’s just really hard to clean a house with three children, isn’t it Rose?!”
“I don’t know Sally,” I said slowly, “I don’t have three children.”
“Oh, well the baby doesn’t really do anything.” she said, and then carried on talking.
A little later, she waved her arms around to get everyone’s attention.
“Guess who I SAW!!?”
A chorus of who? who?
“Erica! She’s pregnant!! After her miscarriages she thought she’d never have another, she said she was going to stop trying, but she’s pregnant!!!”
Two of the mums looked a little uncomfortable. I suppose this was news, but it was still my birthday, and I still remember how uncomfortable I felt with her that evening.
When her youngest was 4 months old, I fell pregnant again (I’ve skipped over the chemical pregnancies I experienced in the interim). I told the four mums together after a scan I had at 10 weeks (my third, or fourth scan by that time).
And Sally cried. She cried over my happy news, because she wanted another baby.
When I lost that pregnancy as well, which was just days later, I sent them all a text. And that was when I realised my priorities were all wrong, and I broke out of my friendship ‘jail’.
The one that had made me feel so shit for so long. And I have never regretted it – I am so, so glad I don’t see them any more.
There were many other weird little things that Sally did and said that made me feel bad, odd comments, bitchy text messages, too many things to chronicle here. But the weirdest thing of all is that although I slipped out of their lives with ease, Sally, out of everyone, was the one who kept trying to maintain a friendship. She texted me several times over the next couple of months asking to meet up or suggesting activities for the kids. Once she asked if I’d tried to connect with her on LinkedIn (I hadn’t). I ignored the messages and eventually she stopped.
I don’t know why she was this way with me. Maybe she saw something in me that reminded her of something in her past, or maybe she felt that she could be ‘better’ than me because I kept losing my pregnancies. I don’t know.
Why am I telling you all this?
Because I am still friends with one of the nicer of the four mums on Facebook – she lives literally round the corner from me. And although I’ve seen her a few times, and she’s never mentioned it, Sally is pregnant again. With her fourth. I know because she was in a baby shower photo that was tagged on Facebook. Bloody Facebook.
As if Sally didn’t give me enough to complain about while we were friends, I’m now haunted on Facebook by pictures of her about to have her fourth child. I don’t want this to sound like it’s some kind of competition – it’s not about numbers. What upset me this morning is simple. Jealously. Jealously that she can just get pregnant, whenever she wants, and have a child. Jealousy that she will have grown and given birth to TWO babies in the time we’ve been trying. That my uterus has remained stubbornly empty of a beautiful new baby and she will have borne two children from hers.
I hope we never, ever meet again, because I can imagine her fake condolences, “Oh, so you never managed to have another baby then? Such a shame…”
I know I have nothing to complain about, really. And I know that given my mental state I could have misinterpreted things she said and did. And I know I should have broken off the friendship with her and the others long before I did. But it still felt like an arrow through my heart when I saw the photo of her and her huge belly this morning.