Five years ago I posted this photo on my quilting facebook page:
I wrote that I was using up scraps to create some colorful quilt blocks. The next day I put them in the closet and there they sat for four years. I had no idea then that these squares would be part of a different kind of rainbow after the storm.
A budding friendship
J and I met when she did some photography for me. Slowly, over a few years, we developed a friendship. She lives a few states away, so our connection involved texting and phone calls. Just like I put a lunch date on my calendar with a local friend, J and I would put phone dates in our calendars. We truly enjoyed getting to know one another, learning from each other, figuring out what it means to cultivate a new friendship as adults.
Last spring I could tell something was going on with her, but I didn’t pry. I knew she’d tell me when she was ready. Eventually she started to perk up a bit and I kind of forgot that she struggled so much.
One evening in late August we were on our scheduled phone call. We talked for almost an hour before she said wanted to share with me. For the next thirty minutes I listened to her painful story of finding out she was pregnant earlier that spring, losing her baby, then not long after getting pregnant again. The thought of losing another baby terrified her. She was also anxious about losing our friendship.
I was shocked and heartbroken for her. I was so sad that she lost her baby, but the tears didn’t come until she told me she was pregnant again. We sat there on the phone together while I cried. I cried for her loss and for my loss. I cried for all the pain she experienced and all the pain I’d experienced. I cried because I, too, didn’t know what this would mean for our friendship.
Finding a way forward
After talking the whole thing through with this smart guy I know (and married!), I realized this was a safe way of easing into the murky waters of friendship with those who are pregnant. It was perfect, really. I wouldn’t have to see her growing belly on a regular basis. She was willing to withhold updates if that’s what I needed, or share news if I was open to hearing it. I was able to support her as she struggled with the fear that this pregnancy wouldn’t last. We both learned deeply what vulnerability looks like in a trusted friendship.
What I’ve loved about the past nine months of our friendship is that we have completely honored what the other person needed. She knew I couldn’t be the one she called about feeling the baby move or deciding on a name. I knew she wasn’t the first one to call when I was feeling sad about another pregnancy announcement. We respected what the other one needed and we loved each other through the hard moments.
Back to those quilt blocks
So, fast forward a few months from that conversation with J and I came across those colorful quilt blocks again. I immediately knew what they were meant for — a baby quilt. A baby born after a pregnancy loss is called a rainbow baby. I wanted to give this rainbow quilt to my friend as a reminder of the life that came through the storm.
I was planning to give this quilt to J in person. We scheduled a visit halfway between our homes. We had a room booked at a local Bed and Breakfast. We were all set.
Until I wasn’t sure I could do it. I didn’t know if I had the strength to spend 24 hours with a woman who is eight months pregnant. I felt awful agonizing over whether I would cancel. Her graciousness comforted me as I tried to decide.
Ultimately I decided not to go. I knew I’d need extra recovery time after the visit, especially since I was already in a very tender place (if you read last week’s blog, my massive tears over the last Parks & Rec episode was a day after I decided not to go on this trip — I think I made the right call!). I knew I wasn’t in a good head or heart space to make this visit happen.
A rainbow after the storm
I wanted to hand this to her. I wanted to tell her about the different pieces of fabric that are part of this quilt. I wanted to tell her that several of these scraps were part of quilts that went to other friends and family who also had miscarriages and rainbow babies. I wanted to tell her that I started these blocks five years ago having no idea what they were for. Five years ago I didn’t know her; I didn’t know I was infertile; I didn’t know I would never have a child. I didn’t even know what a rainbow baby was back then.
Five years ago I was just filling some time one Saturday afternoon and made some pretty blocks. Those blocks are now part of J’s story and her baby’s story — and our story.
Soon I’ll go visit and give her a big hug. I’ll hold her baby because I want to be Aunt Anne to another beautiful child. And someday, while snuggled up with this rainbow quilt, I’ll tell J’s child the story of how we met and why I made this quilt for them.
Although I don’t always see the rainbow after the storm, I do look for it. Maybe it’s in the looking—in the chance that it might be there—where hope is born. I never would have imagined that friendship with a pregnant woman would be part of my healing, but J has offered me hope time and time again just in her willingness to sit with me through the storms. Together we’ve been a rainbow for one another, each shining Light when the storm slowly begins to pass.