I was 24 weeks and 6 days pregnant when I heard the words that no parent ever wants to hear: "I'm sorry, there's no heartbeat." I'd known something was wrong, deep down, but hadn't wanted to entertain any ideas of what it might be. When the doctor couldn't find a heartbeat using the fetal doppler, we went in for an emergency ultrasound. And there we saw our son's tiny body, completely still.
I'd been sending updates in a group text to some of my friends. I'd started the thread the day before when I'd stayed home from work because I was feeling off. The girls, almost all of them mothers, sent encourageing messages to listen to my maternal instincts, that they were praying for me, or asking how I was doing emotionally. One of them even offered to come to the ultrasound if my husband wasn't able to get away from the office.
When I told them that my baby no longer had a heartbeat and that I was going to be induced that evening, they didn't hesitate. I don't know what I was expecting when I sent them the message, but they did so much more than I expected anyone to do for a friend, especially when they all had young children or jobs or both.
One of the women arrived at my door with smoothies to make sure I had something in my stomach before delivery. Then, she drove us to the hospital and stayed with us until I was moved into a delivery suite. While I was in labour, the group pooled their resources and filled my house with groceries and maxi-pads. Over the past year, they've checked in regularly via texts or phone calls, with invites for coffee dates (where they've sobbed with me in public), and left meals and care packages on my porch. They even had a sculpture made of our family for us, with two angel babies – one babe lost to miscarriage and the second to stillbirth.
In those months after my son died, the food my friends supplied kept us from starving. The grocery store was a painful place – there were pregnant bellies and babies everywhere – and I cried at the sight of each of them. In the year since, the constant flow of messages from these women checking in to see how I'm doing or sharing an Instagram post from another loss mama, have helped me to know that even on my saddest days, I'm not alone. My arms may be the only empty ones in the group, but I am still loved. And I am still recognised as a mother.
Through all of it, even after they've added more babies to their families while I've struggled with infertility, these women still cry with me over my boy and still check in to see how I'm doing day to day. If I could have my son in my arms, I would. But losing him opened my eyes to the wonderful women in my life that, despite our differences and despite their own struggles, have committed themselves to lifting me up and loving me. I'm more grateful than they'll ever know.