The cramps are gone, but now Sarah’s entire body has begun molting. Everywhere she goes, layers of skin fall off, leaving little anthills of white stuff behind. Our couch looks like the Canadian Rockies. And she’s always itchy, scratching until her skin is red and splotchy. She’s got me scratching those impossible-to-reach spots on her back  (“HARDER! HARDER!”), and she isn’t satisfied unless I practically break the skin. I’m thinking of keeping a pair of spaghetti tongs on the bedside table.

Meanwhile, her belly is round, but it’s certainly not huge. Every day, some smartass asks, “Are you sure you’re pregnant?” which leads to undue stress. And a stressed-out pregnant woman means a stressed-out fetus, which can lead to an underdeveloped fetus. It’s a vicious circle.

“Your child is small,” Dr. Harth confirmed at an OB appointment this morning. “But not alarmingly so. It’s doing just fine.” Good enough for us. The interesting thing was, at the very moment that she said the word “small,” the fetus kicked so hard that Sarah’s whole body lurched. When I told Nicole about the episode, her take was pretty straightforward. “Small and feisty and doesn’t care for remarks about body weight?” she asked. “Sounds like a girl to me.”

While Sarah and I are wrapped up in the minutiae of our amazing journey, life goes on for the rest of the world. In my family, it’s going on with a vengeance. My grandmother got diagnosed with breast cancer, and while undergoing the lumpectomy to remove the tumor she was forced to go off her meds, which resulted in a stroke. Then my uncle, not to be outdone, while dealing with his mother’s incapacitation was told he had cancer of the lung, kidney, and thyroid. He’s 53.

Another uncle, who is epileptic, added to the fun with a blood clot in his leg, which led to a lung embolism. He’s now on blood thinners. Then my sister-in-law, as if on cue, had two car accidents on the same stretch of road in the span of a week, and suffered some neck damage.

I battled selfish thoughts of annoyance that my family was “raining on my parade,” then I remembered: I hate parades. I picked up the phone and checked in with everyone, a series of calls that left me drained. They also made me feel lucky.

Then, yesterday, another blow came—and this one hit us hard. A good friend who got pregnant at roughly the same time as Sarah, and was going through all the same things at the same time, lost her baby. I don’t know if it was a miscarriage, or the fetus was aborted because of a genetic defect, or something else. When a friend loses a pregnancy, you don’t ask those questions. I called to ask what we I could do for her, and her answer surprised me.

“I don’t think I can be around you guys for awhile,” she said, choking out the words. “I’m sorry, but I just can’t do it.” Seeing Sarah’s bulge, that constant reminder of what she’d lost, was too painful. It was heartbreaking. When I hung up the phone, I couldn’t breathe. A wave of dread pulsed through me, first full of sadness for my friend, then of anger at the unfairness of it all. But more than anything else, what lingered was fear. Nothing about the next couple of months is going to be easy.