I recently finished a remarkable book, She Matters: A Life in Friendships by Susanna Sonnenberg. As a writer and a woman who may be a bit obsessed with memorializing life events and people, this book ignited a spark inside me. As I devoured each chapter, I found myself imagining, if I were writing a book about the friendships that were formative in my life, who would I write about? I couldn’t stop thinking about the book, and reflecting on my childhood, college years, and adult life, and the women who were instrumental in shaping me during these years.
I told my friend and fellow blogger, Jessica of School of Smock, how much I was enjoying the book, and she picked it up and also finished it quickly. As it turns out, reading the book evoked the same response in her as it did in me. An idea was born.
Female friendship is an extremely rich and complex topic. From the childhood friend who broke your heart to the college roommate who witnessed you at your highest (literally?) and lowest, from the lost friendship that ended bitterly to the devoted companion who is still in your life, from the bond that was forged due to shared grief to the shaky connection born with new motherhood, we would like to explore as many layers of friendship as we can. We want to hear about the friends that have been influential in your lives.
Friendship with other women can be awkward at times; I have often felt like I was going out on a nerve-wracking first date when making new friends. These bonds can be more intimate than marriage, and just as essential to emotional health. Some of us may reveal more of ourselves to our girlfriends than we do to our partners. I believe we get something unique out of each individual friendship, and even those friends who are no longer in our lives are still a part of our history.
With HerStories: Tales of Friendship, we are excited to hear your stories of these relationships, be they lighthearted, gut-wrenching, or somewhere in between. Send your essays to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today I will start the series with the story of my dear friend, Erica, and the circumstances that brought us, and kept us, together.
The week before I was to attend my friend Leslie’s baby shower, I took a pregnancy test. It came back positive, and I floated through the festivities the day of the party with a combination of smugness at my secret and the sensation that I was bursting with desire to share my news. My first daughter was four years old, and I had experienced miscarriage prior to her conception, so I was mindful to keep the exciting news to myself for as long as I could. As it turns out, as long as I could wasn’t very long at all.
Erica, a woman I knew just slightly from the music class I taught that she and her son attended, was also at the party. When she shyly declined the offer of a mimosa, I exchanged a knowing glance with her. She confessed that she was six weeks pregnant, and unable to contain myself at this news, I blurted out that I was five weeks along. (*Interesting sidenote: when I shared this story with her, Erica’s memory was a bit different. She remembered that I was the one who spilled the beans first! Memory is a funny thing, isn’t it? )Maybe I will have a pregnancy friend, I thought excitedly, getting ahead of myself. I never had one when I was pregnant with Izzy! The two of us babbled excitedly with a mixture of neuroses and enthusiasm, promising to get in touch after the shower.
About a week later I received an email from Erica. The subject line read simply 🙁 and I knew immediately what had happened. She wrote, Hey, FYI: I had a miscarriage yesterday at seven weeks. I hope things are going better for you!
I started bleeding the next day. The subsequent weeks were a frenzy of emails as we offered support, advice, and an opportunity to vent to one another. I found that I had little interest in interacting with anyone other than Erica. Only she truly understood what I was going through. I knew my other friends cared for me and had the best of intentions, but even the ones who had previously experienced loss weren’t experiencing it right at that instant. Erica and I could tell each other everything, from our feelings of bitterness and frustration to our intense desire to begin trying to conceive again as soon as possible.
We shared meals, coffee, and wine as we wryly discussed our obsessive fertility charting and our half-hearted attempts to pretend we were approaching our next pregnancies with a laid-back, Zen attitude. It was safe to cry with her, but more likely than not we sat in the back booth of restaurants shaking the table with our raucous laughter. Waitresses walked by us smiling as we bellowed details of our personal lives that were not frequently shared in public.
Erica and I both got pregnant again, and our daughters are about two months apart. In the two and a half years since she became my confidante, I continue to turn to her with situations that I feel uncomfortable discussing with others. We are a sounding board for each other when struggling with parenting issues, marital challenges, or personal fulfillment. Though there are times when one of us calls in tears, the hysterical laughter has become a cornerstone of our friendship. Erica is one of the funniest people I know, and no subject is off limits for her self-deprecating commentary. I will laugh until my sides hurt as she describes her awkward moments of pumping breastmilk in her office, and I know she will appreciate the story of my daughter making up song lyrics about the anatomical terminology she learned for her private parts.
We possess an emotional intimacy that I treasure, and our shared pregnancy loss was only the beginning of our connection. If one must find a silver lining in times of sadness, I claim my friendship with Erica as one of the most beautiful things to come out of a time of grief.
We can’t wait to hear your stories! Please contact us at email@example.com with any questions or ideas you may have. We will ask for an essay with approximately 500-1000 words as well as a 2-3 sentence bio.