When my best friend called me from the other side of the country to tell me she just found out she had gestational diabetes, I wasn’t surprised.
It wasn’t that her health history made it predictable. She’s the healthiest person I know, works out regularly and consumes kale, quinoa, and kombucha like they’re actually enjoyable. We became vegetarians in high school, and while I survived off of potato chips and cheese pizza she took vitamins and ate vegetables. Years later she’s still a vegetarian and I’m (cough) not so much.
Maybe I knew something was wrong because we’ve been best friends since grade school and I have a sixth sense for what she was feeling. Maybe her unusual silence in the days after I knew she was going in for testing was a giveaway.
Either way I should’ve been prepared. I understand what it’s like to get the news that you have diabetes; I don’t know what it’s like to hear it when you are carrying another human life inside you. It seemed like an illness with an expiration date that was more complicated in many ways than regular diabetes, because she had to learn fast and in the middle of so many other weird things the body does during pregnancy.
I wanted to tell her that it’s not as bad as it sounds. I wanted to reassure her that everything they tell you seems daunting at first, but it is entirely manageable. I wanted to assuage the guilt in the back of her mind that it was somehow her fault. I wanted to tell her it was not a tragedy but another challenge and that no matter what we would figure it out together.
But when she told me about the diagnosis and the tear-filled weekend that followed, all I could do was listen and offer encouragement. I never got around to saying “me too.”
It seems like every time the opportunity to disclose comes up like this it’s like a time travel warp in a 90’s movie that will close forever if you don’t jump through in time. Every moment after that window feels like it’s irrevocably too late.
The next phone chat is the second best time to tell her, but even when we talk about her struggling with the new diet and routine of blood testing I offer my support but not expertise. The calls after that, the text when she loses a relative, the days approaching her delivery date...with every new occasion it feels more and more awkward to say it, like it’s at the worst selfish and at best irrelevant.
And with the passage of time, what you didn’t say becomes what you can’t.
But this is truly not a irreparable state, and I will tell her, because I know simple candor will cut through the awkwardness that accumulates each day I continue to hide it. I have faith in the Chinese proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today” and the countless other adages that guide us past a view of the past as quicksand prohibiting progress and cementing mistakes.