It’s National Infertility Awareness Week! While there is so much to say to those carrying the cross of infertility, this is for the Simons and the Veronicas, the ones helping us carry our crosses and offering respite and comfort along the way. The Simons and Veronicas are the best kind of friends, the friends you meet vulnerably and honestly amidst suffering. The Simons and Veronicas mutually share their heart, their vulnerability, their sufferings, and both of your crosses become lighter because of this mutual exchange. My Simon and Veronica goes by a different name; her name is Bridget.

Where do you begin when talking about someone who tosses you a buoy when the waters are so choppy that you can’t catch your breath, someone who holds your hand through the lowest valleys and cheers you on as you reach the heights of a mountain, someone who knows of your heart’s deepest desires and prays fervently that they will be fulfilled? Where do I begin when talking about Bridget?

For years, my most requested prayer was for good friends that would be “lifers,” the ones that seem less like friends and more like family. From neighborhoods to high school, from work to college, I met some great people along the way, but none of them were quite like Bridget.

Bridget was technically my supervisor, but I never once felt that way in our time working together. Although we started work on the same day, she was from the area and knew the ins and outs of the Diocese. However, rather than letting that factor become a source of pride or arrogance, she always gave me the 411 and filled in the gaps for me along the way.

Just a few weeks before our first day of work, I had miscarried my first child; I wasn’t ready to share this with many people, especially a new coworker. However, not even four months into working together, I miscarried my second child, and I knew I wanted to share this with Bridget, due to the time I would need to recover physically and the friendship growing between us. Little did I know that the sharing of my deepest suffering would blossom into the most beautiful friendship.

“Jillian, I know you have had a difficult few days. How are you doing today? Is there anything you’d like to talk about?”

Because I had shared my heart with Bridget, she could quite easily tell when a cloud was hovering over my heart. She always noticed me and offered to receive whatever was on my heart that day. Being noticed is such a gift when carrying the cross of infertility; it can be so lonely, and to have someone notice how we are doing can quell the storm that is brewing in our minds and hearts. Whether I was ready to share or not, I was relieved to know that she had truly seen me in my suffering and was carrying me in her heart each day.

“Jillian, you have been a mother to me today.”

Working in a parish can have many challenges for those with infertility. While I am so thankful to be in constant contact with families of all sizes, it can also be a constant reminder that my family looks much different. Whenever I was struggling to see the good the Lord was doing, Bridget always gave me concrete examples of my fruitfulness that day. Whether she pointed out the love the youth at the parish had for me, my aesthetic and eye for beauty at the parish, or my care for her that day, specific reminders of my motherhood were so dignifying.

“I am experiencing some odd symptoms. You carried your cross so bravely, and I am hoping you could help me talk through what I am experiencing.”

During her pregnancy, Bridget always let me know how she was feeling, and always wanted to hear my thoughts, especially when she had a concern. While my miscarriage was traumatic on many levels, she redeemed my suffering. Bridget gave value to my experience by asking me to shed light on hers. Because of this, Bridget affirmed for me the Mother’s Intuition that is in each of us. I was able to reclaim many moments and experiences of my pregnancy with a new posture of gratitude and service.

“I am in the hospital. Can you pray for us?”

Bridget and I were briefly pregnant at the same time before I miscarried. While this certainly could have exacerbated the cross I was given, because Bridget included me in some of the most precious details of her pregnancy, I was able to rejoice with her. Not only did she want to relieve the weight of my cross, but she also wanted to give me a priceless gift: practical ways to help her carry her cross as well. On days where I felt helpless, I knew that my suffering could be practically and specifically offered for a dear friend. In a very real way, Bridget invited me to also give birth through my suffering.

“I know that your husband is working all weekend. Would you like to come over and spend time with us?”

One of the most common experiences of those with infertility is loneliness. My husband and I were new to the area and worked opposite schedules. Because of our schedules, not only did I feel alone spiritually, but I often felt alone physically. Bridget accompanied me in so many ways, offering to go for a walk, eating lunch together, or inviting me to come over to her home for games, food, and community. Infertility is a cross that can make asking for help difficult, but Bridget would offer to walk with me before I even had to ask.

“I wanted to give you this gift since it reminds me of your children.”

As you can perhaps tell from the past tense, Bridget and I no longer work together. The Lord asked my husband and I to move, and it would be an understatement to say I was not looking forward to saying goodbye to Bridget. But even in a difficult moment, Bridget found a way to make the burden of my cross a bit lighter through a gift that both honored the name of our children and added to the beauty of our home. Each time I look at the piece of art she gave me, I am reminded of my children and a dear friend.

Through the words of my dearest Simon, my most thoughtful Veronica, I hope the friendship that Bridget has given me might offer some suggestions to the other Simons and Veronicas out there who are helping a loved one carry the cross of infertility.

I ended my goodbye to Bridget just as I will end this post:

I love you, B.

Jillian Kubik is a wife of three years, mother to two lost in miscarriage, and a lover of their pup, Phoebe. She earned a B.A. in Theology from the University of Dallas and currently uses that for parish ministry in North Dakota. When she isn’t working, you can find her reading the Code of Canon Law, hosting wine tastings, or two-stepping with her husband in the kitchen.