Growing up, Bonnie and I were never that close. Our parents were friends so we ended up spending a lot of time together, but there was always a bit of a distance between us. It wasn’t dislike, we just didn’t fully relate to each other. I was a total girly-girl, into dress-up and my pink Huffy dirt bike as a child and boys and parties as a teen. Bonnie was studious and outdoorsy, with a fascination for her own grandparents and family traditions. I was obsessed with TV, and she was always reading a book. Each of us recognized the other as a smart, kind and decent person. We just didn’t have that much to talk about.
When I got married, Bonnie was at the wedding wearing a sensible dress and flats. I was in full Bridezilla mode, ordering around my family and friends as I tried to orchestrate the perfect matrimonial moment, and I can remember feeling self-aware and a little embarrassed when Bonnie walked by and caught me complaining to one of my bridesmaids about the volume of the music.
For the first 25 years of my life, Bonnie was always there in the background. Someone I trusted but didn’t really “get,” and I’m pretty sure she felt the same way about me. But in my case, I always felt slightly judged. Bonnie never said anything to make me feel this way, but somehow when she was around, I would realize if I was being silly or vain or selfish. Something about Bonnie always seemed more evolved, and that made me feel slightly ashamed of myself by comparison.
We both got pregnant with our first kids within a week of each other. Bonnie was living in Vermont making jewelry, which she sold at art festivals and outdoor concerts. I was living in New York City and spending too much on everything. Like Bonnie, I was super into healthy eating, although in Bonnie’s case it was for the sake of the environment and with an eye toward avoiding toxins and nonorganic food. In my case, I was determined to be super slim and healthy looking while still being able to enjoy wine and dinner out. But we each tried to eat right, even if for Bonnie that meant growing her own vegetables while I hired a trainer and purchased an expensive juicer. So you can imagine how surprised we both were to find out that we had gestational diabetes (GD), or diabetes of pregnancy.
When my doctor told me I had GD, I thought there had to be a mistake. This condition is usually found in expectant mothers who are overweight or have high blood pressure or a history of high blood sugar. I took offense, actually. Was someone trying to tell me I wasn’t eating healthy enough? That I didn’t love my unborn child enough to provide her with the healthiest womb possible? Was the universe telling me I was fat?
I called my mother, outraged. I just could not believe that I, the grand master of healthy eating and perfect pregnancies, could be diagnosed with a disease often caused by unhealthy eating and linked to excessive birth weight. The diagnosis meant I would have to monitor my food on a whole other level and test my blood every time I ate.
“That’s such a coincidence,” my mother replied. “I just got off the phone with Bonnie’s mother and she was diagnosed with gestational diabetes today, too.”
I had to admit, hearing that the queen of granola and clean air had been given the same diagnosis was pretty surprising. But even more unexpected was how Bonnie was taking the news.
“She’s a mess,” said my mother. “She told her mother she thinks they made a mistake.”
I had to laugh. I’d already scheduled a retest with my doctor, even though the gestational diabetes test is a half-day commitment that requires you to fast and then elevate your own blood sugar intentionally by drinking this awful orange syrup. The test itself is bad for you if you have GD, and medical insurance was never going to cover it twice. But like Bonnie, I was positive that someone like me could never be diagnosed with something that made me less than the perfect vessel within which to grow a human being.
That evening, Bonnie called me and we took turns expressing our outrage at the situation. Our indignation quickly turned to dismay, and eventually we confessed feeling incredibly scared. We had both been putting so much energy and effort into having the healthiest pregnancies ever because we shared the fear that our babies might not be healthy, and worse, that it could be our fault.
Despite all those years of seeing each other as the opposite of each other, we realized we had one thing in common: We were both a little too obsessed with perfection and truly terrified of not being the most ideal version of ourselves. I honestly don’t think there was a single other person in my life who quite understood how I felt or who felt the same way. I’d been a perfectionist all my life. Who knew that my Birkenstock-wearing, no makeup-applying family friend would be the one person to appreciate my obsession with perfection.
We both ended up having perfectly healthy babies and we both grew into perfectly imperfect mothers — Bonnie homeschooling her kids from her farmhouse in Vermont while I conquered the New York City public school system by volunteering for every PTA event possible. I see Bonnie a few times a year, usually when our parents are getting the families together and I’m up in Vermont for ski season. Our kids have absolutely nothing in common, but they manage to have a good time during these visits. I look forward to catching up with Bonnie and hearing about her life in Vermont, which seems so foreign to me. I’m grateful to have history with someone like Bonnie, and to see myself reflected in someone who is the complete opposite of me.
Everyone needs a girlfriend!
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