Guess what! I'm pregnant!" my brother's wife, Laura, announced. "Wow! When are you due?" I replied. Oops. "I mean, when are you due?" By coincidence, that very morning, I had watched my own home pregnancy test turn positive. I hadn't meant to spread the word for a while, so I kept mum -- until a week later, when my sister Patti discovered that she was expecting too.
Incredibly, our due dates were so close that, theoretically, we could all deliver our babies on the same day. My mother, of course, was over the moon. I was just thrilled to have company.
Although this was my fourth pregnancy, it was a novelty in terms of camaraderie. I had hit on a mother lode of mothers-to-be.
My first time around, I was the first in my family and in my immediate circle of friends to procreate. At work, I had just missed a whole crop of pregnant colleagues, who were already delivering their babies when I was making my first prenatal appointment. This timing had a few advantages, such as getting to borrow some great maternity clothes. Basically, though, it meant that I waddled through the entire nine months on my own.
And that was too bad. Because what every pregnant woman needs -- in addition to the perfect pair of black stretch pants, a doctor or midwife she trusts, and the requisite amount of folic acid -- is another pregnant woman.
Ideally, this should be someone whose due date falls within a month or two of your own, so that you can compare notes with timely urgency -- important, considering how quickly your body and emotions change during pregnancy. Who else but another mom-to-be has the bottomless appetite for such intimate minutiae as comparing stretch marks? Or will patiently shop for baby gear with you for the whole morning, then break for an early lunch with dessert?
Though always close, Patti, Laura, and I suddenly discovered a bond like never before. Our dialogues were endless, even though we live in three different cities. (Thank heaven for e-mail, but we ran up plenty of long-distance phone bills too.)
"How much weight did you gain last week?"
"Did you pass your nonstress test?"
"You've got to check out this baby website."
"What names are you thinking about? I won't tell anyone."
"Any Braxton Hicks yet?"
It's not that no one else cared, but when it comes to the highs, lows, fears, thrills, and chills of gestation, a pregnant pal is an especially rapt and ready audience. Nonpregnant friends may be enthusiastic, but eventually they want to change the subject. A partner's devotion may be boundless, but he's clueless when it comes to swollen ankles and outlandish food cravings.
You don't have to explain about ultrasounds or umbilical cords to pregnant compadres; they know. Moreover, they're tuned in to your level of absorption and panic, at the same stage of anxious edginess about their own fetuses. Patti, Laura, and I worried together through Patti's flunked glucose screening, Laura's breech version, and my anemia, all the while tossing off obstetrical terms like a secret language.
In an expectant chum you also have a handy reality check. No need to paste on the public face of blissful Madonnahood: You're free to complain and whine. We reassured one another too. What a relief to learn that other women also gave up exercise once they could no longer tie their own sneakers. And to know that I wasn't the only one sick of wearing bras that looked like two yoked parachutes.
Our last trimesters coincided with the hottest summer on record. Most conversations began like this:
"How are you?"
"Hot and huge."
"Me too. How do you feel?"
"Big and slow." (Accompanied by groans.)
"Me too." (More groans.)
By the ninth month, when each day held the promise of D day, we read into one another's every cramp and hot flash like tea leaves. Whenever my husband saw me on the phone, he'd shout, "How's her mucus plug doing?"
As it turned out, we didn't deliver simultaneously. I went into labor three weeks early, having my baby first even though my due date came last. Once I was out of the swell-belly club, an unexpected distance crept into our relationship. My baby's cries elicited their envy. My complaints of sleep deprivation didn't compute. I was too busy for lengthy chats.
It was another 18 days before Laura's Brantley Dennis joined my Page Jubilee. Patti went four days beyond with Louisa June. Finally, all new moms, we were back in sync, comparing notes on lochia, BabyGap sales, and the wonders of Lansinoh on tender nipples.
I can't wait for these three little cousins to grow up and play together. Make that four: Days before I delivered, my other brother's wife discovered that she was expecting. I was thrilled, but I was also disappointed that she'd missed out on our nine-month sisterhood.
What I wish for her -- besides not-too-terrible morning sickness, uninterrupted naptimes, and a healthy outcome -- is at least one or two pregnant pals of her own. May they confide, complain, commiserate, and compare away the months, enjoying all the mom-eraderie that every mother-to-be deserves.
Contributing editor Paula Spencer is the author of the PARENTING Guide to Positive Discipline.