As an avid watcher of Friends, both when it was on and now in reruns, I often relate back to quotes and thoughts from the show. I had a “work wife” and friend with whom I would use quotes back and forth constantly, like “I’m breezy” when either of us had to poke around for some information in a casual manner.
But lately, my thoughts have shifted to another scene—a back and forth between Rachel and Phoebe. They are sitting in the coffee shop talking about Monica and Chandler’s recent engagement and start off by saying how happy they are and not at all jealous.
Then, Rachel admits that OK, maybe she’s like 2 percent jealous and 98 percent happy.
They both agree that is nothing until Phoebe ups it to 10 percent jealous. I can’t remember where the percentages stop, but it is something I have been feeling a lot lately.
I have been so lucky to meet some incredible loss moms who have become some of my closest friends, but it comes with the cost of knowing that we are all there, that we all met, because of terrible tragedies.
For me, it was about five months after my daughter Colette died that I finally acknowledged how nobody else really understood what I was thinking and feeling and found a support group to attend. There, almost instantly, I felt bonded to a group of people who, when I said things aloud, nodded in agreement and responded in kind.
When others spoke about their journeys or their days of triggers and what-ifs, I felt like I was a mom finally bonded to other moms. But, without any children at home while trying to get pregnant again, I also envied these women who had had one or more children. So, maybe it was like 80 percent grateful and 20 percent jealous.
And that balancing of emotions has continued throughout the years since losing Colette.
When I finally admitted just how terrified I was to get pregnant and we went the way of gestational carriers, I was so grateful for this woman who entered our lives and committed to doing all she possibly could to help us bring a child home. After finding out she was pregnant and it looked like we would bring a baby home, I was thrilled and excited, 100 percent so, until that jealousy that she got to carry our child and I did not snuck up on me.
Much like in the TV show, it first felt like 98 percent excited and 2 percent jealous, that is, until the jealousy and the accompanying regret started to consume me to a point where it felt more like 98 percent jealous and 2 percent happy.
Eventually, after a very emotional breakdown and then seeking some resources for help, like finding another mom who had used a gestational carrier and was actively parenting a baby to talk to, the scales balanced back and I was about 75 percent excited, 20 percent terrified, and maybe 5 percent jealous.
But, the balancing continues.
As much as I love parenting our son and as much as I am at peace with the decision we made to stop trying for more kids, I also am still grieving our daughter and I am also still grieving the picture of the family I had in my mind.
I had always wanted to have two daughters, probably because my sister and I are so freakishly close that I thought it would be fun to be a mom to two girls. So to say I was surprised and even a little sad about having a son would be an understatement.
However, being a boy mom has been beyond enjoyable in ways I never thought would be possible. That doesn’t mean, though, that there are not moments when I see him and think of all the things I had imagined in a little girl—doing her hair, dressing her in gorgeous dresses, playing dress-up—and feel a little sad, or better yet, maybe 90 percent happy and blessed and 10 percent jealous and sad.
Plus, saying that we only have one child at home, a child who will likely be seen as an only child for the rest of his life, is sad and infuriating. Yes, he is healthy, adorable, loving, and amazing, but those moments creep up as I think that he will not know the traditional sibling relationship. He will, of course, have (and already has) a relationship with his sister who is not here, but he will not know the joys or terrors of a sibling bounding into your room despite your pleas to leave, or a sibling who plays the “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you” game or who shadows you to the point where you want to scream.
He will not know what it is like to plot with a sibling, to be part of two or more people who are a united front against Mom and Dad, or as the years go on, to have a partner in making decisions regarding parents’ health.
It leads me to a mix of emotions: 70 percent happy, 20 percent worried, and 10 percent sad.
For a long time after Colette died, I used to feel terrible about these extra feelings because it feels like the world tells you that you always need to be feeling one emotion at a time and if it’s more than one emotion, the two emotions cannot conflict with each other. But, any of the percentages or estimates of percentages that I have provided do not take away the positive feelings, they just make them slightly more complicated.
Above all, I am always grateful to have my son, but that gratitude does not come easily—it comes with a cost, usually that of jealousy, grief, anger, and sadness. And finally, I have learned to be OK with that, or at least 80 percent OK with that feeling and maybe 10 percent confused and 10 percent worried.