Michael recalls feeling like a father from the word go. But Nancy’s maternal instincts took slightly longer to kick in. “I remember walking the hospital halls that first day weeping as I pushed Laney in one of those newborn carts. It was a weird feeling. It came from not being able to give birth to her. You feel this love, but the mother-daughter connection wasn't there yet. I was upset and scared. Was she really mine?” Fortunately, Nancy’s initial reaction was short-lived. “I don't know what changed, but the next morning I woke up, and all of a sudden, it was okay.”
Kathleen was elated to see them as a family, but her adjustment to parting with the child she’d carried was more painful than she’d anticipated. She asked Nancy and Michael not to leave immediately with the baby, and they stayed in Ohio for a few days. After they left, Kathleen seemed okay for a few weeks, but then about five weeks after Laney was born, she experienced a kind of postpartum depression, where she became emotionally isolated from the people closest to her. “She wouldn’t take my phone calls,” remembers Nancy, “and when we did speak, if Laney let out even the smallest little cry in the background, she would instantly hang up on me. I felt so guilty, as if I’d taken my friend away from her family: as if Brian had lost his wife, and their two kids had lost their mom for the five weeks it lasted. I was in tears, fearing our friendship had changed forever.”
Despite the emotional rollercoaster, Kathleen decided to go forward with being Laney’s godmother. Back in New York for the christening, she continued to fight back tears whenever she heard Laney cry. But seeing all the Rodgerses again seemed to help. “She recovered soon after that,” recounts Nancy.
Looking back, Kathleen attributes her withdrawal to “raging hormones” as her body readjusted after the birth. “Those few weeks were hard. I can’t explain it," she says. "But those feelings went away shortly after I went home for the baptism—perhaps it helped to see Nancy again. It wasn’t because I wished Laney were mine, or felt any regret. She was always Nancy’s and Michael’s baby.” And Kathleen laughs when she hears how much Nancy worried about losing their friendship after Laney was born. “Whatever inability I had then to express my muddled emotions, that was never on the table for me,” she says. “Never once did I contemplate ending our friendship. The pit in my heart would be too large.”
Today, Nancy and Kathleen are better friends than ever, and their families are especially close, too. “It’s an enormous pleasure to see how excited my daughter, Karrah, gets when she hears that Nancy, Michael and Laney are coming to visit,” says Kathleen. “She has a special bond with Laney that no one will ever break. And my son, Connor, has more patience with Laney than he does with any other toddler. He will sit and play games with her, and laugh with her while she plays with our family cats.”
For her part, Nancy is reveling in motherhood, and eternally grateful to the friend who helped her achieve it. “Having Laney is so much fun. Her laugh. All the things she says. She’s happy and smiley every single day. And every day she learns something new, as I do about myself. Whereas before I might have gotten annoyed at something, Laney makes me realize what’s important in life. With Laney, our house is full.” And Nancy’s medical prognosis means that Laney will have her mom for a very long time. “I’m told I have a 92 percent chance of the cancer not coming back,” she says.
Kathleen sums up the experience for all of them: “Being a parent is remarkable, and kids are the most fantastic thing that ever happens to you,” she declares. “I know that Laney is surrounded by love 24-7. She is such a joy. And she was so wanted. This is really the story of all four of us—me and Nancy, Brian and Michael—and how happy we are that we all worked together to bring Laney into our world.”
A Best Friend’s Gift|
Feb 24, 2009
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