Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Best Friend's Gift of Love

by Rae Sells, Guest blogger

Amy and Rae never dreamed where their
friendship would take them. (Picture from last fall)
The journey of our friendship began in 1999.  I was living with my best friend Leslie in the apartment complex where I would meet my soon-to-be husband.  I was in my long hippie skirt and quite the delinquent when I met Amy.  Jon and I had just started dating the first time I was introduced to his best friend Charlie's wife.  It is safe to say that we both judged each other immediately.  We were opposites in almost every way.  She was small, blonde, with perfect hair and makeup, and fashionably dressed.  I probably had on a tie-dyed t-shirt that hadn’t been washed in weeks and I smelled like incense.  She was a newlywed and I was, unequivocally, a hoodlum.  When we were introduced we said about three words to each other and then I retreated back to my apartment.  If you would have told us on that day where our friendship would be 15 years later we would have both laughed in your face and told you to take your meds.  Not going to happen.  Fast forward one year and she was fastening a string of pearls on my neck as I prepared to say “I do” to my husband. 

They've made lots of fun memories in the last 17 years!
This picture was taken about 3 weeks before Seth 's birth.
As I grew up and matured our friendship deepened and we really got to know each other.  We found out that we had more in common than we originally thought.  When it came time to start thinking about having kids our relationship grew even more.  We both desperately wanted to be mothers.  We talked about it constantly.  I was just about to graduate from college in 2005 when Amy told me that she was pregnant.  We were both ecstatic.  It consumed us in the most magical way possible.  Baby names and breastfeeding was the topic of conversation on most days.  We thought about decorating nurseries and talked about what we thought being a mom was going to be like.

 On the day before graduation, as we were having a party at the house, I got a call from Charlie.  He asked to speak to Jon, but I knew something was wrong.  I refused to give the phone to Jon until he told me what was wrong.  They were in the ER and Amy had lost the baby.  I remember sitting in our tiny bathroom and crying until I could get myself together and rejoin the party.  The next day though, there she was.  Sitting with my family and watching me walk across the stage to get my diploma.  I told her that she didn’t need to come, but she wouldn’t hear of it.  As much as she was hurting, she wanted to be there for me.  I thought that I knew her well, but on that day I learned much more about her heart than I ever could have learned in happier circumstances. 

Amy and Hannah in January, 2007.
About nine months later we learned that her daughter Hannah was on the way.  We were once again ecstatic and consumed with all things baby.  I started infertility treatments, and one week before Hannah made her appearance in November of 2006 I finally got those two lines on a pregnancy test.  Amy and I were both huge breastfeeding advocates and nursing our babies was extremely important to us.  When Ella was born my milk supply was horrible because of my PCOS and more than once she listened to me cry hysterically because Ella was losing weight and I couldn’t nurse her exclusively.

 In 2009 we decided to add to our family and we began infertility treatments again.  Things proved to be even more difficult this time around and it would be 2 ½ years before we would finally be pregnant again.  I cannot tell you how she was there for me during this time.  We cried together, prayed together, and she was just as excited as I was when we found our Charlotte Leigh was on her way.  I had joked that she needed to get pregnant again so we could be pregnant together and our youngest kids could be close in age.  In September 2012 I got a call from her and she said, “Well…..it looks like you’re going to get your wish.”  She was pregnant with her fourth and our babies would only be about five months apart.

A few weeks before Amy delivered Seth.
I will say that I already knew how strong and how amazing Amy was, but what would occur over the next several months would only deepen my love and respect for her.  At her gender ultrasound Amy found that she was carrying a boy, but that there were several complications.  The day after Christmas Amy and Charlie found out that their son had Trisomy 18, a condition that is considered “incompatible with life.” Amy made the decision that she would carry Seth as long as the Lord allowed.  The next few months were a blur.  We cried and we talked and we cried some more.  I watched this amazing woman handle the unimaginable with such grace and faith.  She was in pain, both emotionally and physically.  During this time I was trying my best to nurse Charleigh, but was having a lot of issues once again.  I was not making enough milk to nurse her exclusively and had to supplement.  I used formula and was fortunate enough to have a friend, Alyssa, who donated milk and would ship it to me all the way from Texas. 

On May 2, 2013, I was in the room with Amy and Charlie when sweet, tiny Seth was born sleeping.  I think there are days in our life that our so seared into our memory that we see it almost as pictures when we look back.  That day is one of those.  I was able to have some time with Amy that day while she labored, and we were able to even have a couple of moments where we laughed together.  As Truvy said in Steel Magnolias, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”  There are two moments, in particular, of that day that I will never forget.  The first is watching Charlie bounce and rock Seth in his arms as the doctor cleaned Amy up.  And the second is the sound that Amy made right after Seth was born when her mom came to embrace her.  If I never hear that sound again for the rest of my life that will be just fine.The whole day there was such a sense of calm and grace in that room…..I have never experienced anything like it.  If there was ever a case of “peace that surpasses all understanding” then this was it.  I have never lost a child so I could never fathom the pain that Amy and Charlie have gone through, but the greatest pain I have ever felt was watching someone that I love so fully go through this. 

Amy was gifted a rental of a hospital grade pump from A Nurturing Moment to help ease her discomfort of her milk coming in and to relieve engorgement.  When she started to pump she called me and, in true Amy fashion, showed me the depths of her friendship and love for me.  She wanted me to have Seth’s milk to help in supplementing Charleigh.  She knew how important it was to me that Charleigh have as much breastmilk as possible.  So in the time of her greatest pain she, once again, thought of me.  The night she gave me all the milk she had pumped we stood in her kitchen and cried. 

From left: Charleigh, Ella (Rae's children),
Hannah, Mason and Levi (Amy's children).
Breastfeeding and breastfeeding advocacy has brought so many amazing women into my life.  And my own struggles with breastfeeding have made me more sensitive and empathetic when other women experience similar problems.  The most important lesson that breastfeeding my girls taught me is that sometimes love means sacrifice.  Actually, I think MOST of the time love means sacrifice.  But when you love someone so much, that sacrifice is worth it.  I feel incredibly blessed and fortunate that the perky blonde I met nearly 17 years ago stuck with me long enough for me to grow up and be worthy of her amazing friendship.  Her love and selflessness have never gone unnoticed. 
Rae Sells is a breastfeeding advocate, homeschooling mama and busy wife. She runs a small embroidery and monogramming business in her spare time. It is especially fitting that this is published on International Women's Day because it is the perfect way to honor one of her favorite women!

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