I believe in the healing power of friendship. On February 2, 2007, after a flawless pregnancy, I gave birth to a beautiful daughter. She had her father’s eyes, hair, hands and feet, and my nose and ears. She was perfect in every way. Except that she never took her first breath. My husband, Chris, and I named our silent baby Maya Gabrielle, and we held her for several hours, finally able to parent the child who, three days earlier, had given us her final kick goodbye. We cried, smiled, comforted each other, and reminded ourselves that we were happy to have known Maya at all.
When we returned home empty-handed and broken-hearted, we were at a loss for how to proceed with life. Our friends started coming by, one by one, anonymously leaving flowers and homemade food on our front porch. Our midwife, who had been with us for Maya’s birth, spent time guiding us through our grief and trying to answer our questions. Friends visited, called or emailed us constantly to make sure we were getting the support we needed. Friends of friends wrote to say they were sorry, or to share that they had suffered a similar loss. Neighbors stopped by to deliver hugs. My sister flew in and she, along with our closest friends, cleaned out our refrigerator. They disposed of rotting food and empty juice cartons from the last months of my pregnancy, washed and dried salvageable containers, and made room for fresh, incoming food and drink. My parents and Chris’ mom arrived with enough food to fill this newly created space. Chris and I sat and cried while our house bustled with loving friends and family. Condolence cards piled up, and somebody put them in a neat stack. Dishes piled up and somebody washed them and put them away. Garbage cans were emptied, dirty clothes were washed, our cat was tended to: Somebody took care of every mundane detail of our lives, allowing Chris and me to mourn as much as we needed to. Our family and friends helped plant a pomegranate tree over Maya’s placenta, and everyone shared beautiful words of wisdom, hope, sorrow and compassion.
We relied entirely on our friends and family for emotional, physical and spiritual support during the first several weeks after Maya’s birth. I don’t know how we would have started to heal without them. Slowly, Chris and I are mending our broken life. We laugh more often and cry with less desperation. We spend time with our friends because we enjoy their company, not just to fill the emptiness. My body has recovered from giving birth, and we are talking about trying to conceive a little brother or sister to Maya. Our family and friends still check in on us often. And they have made tremendous gestures of generosity and kindness. I believe that the love and support of our friends and family carried Chris and me through the most difficult journey life has to offer.
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