Tierney specifically hoped to contain word of her pregnancy for another few weeks, until mid-May, so she could tell Joan on Mother's Day. But then came the car trip.
Tierney and Joan were in Tierney's midnight blue Honda Accord, en route to Marlborough, Massachusetts, a gritty little city halfway between Boston and Worcester. Their destination was Marlborough High School, to attend a symphony concert featuring Joan's older daughter, Tara.
Tara was thirty-two, a year older than Tierney. She was single, living in Worcester, a veterinarian by profession and a violinist by avocation. If they tried, the two sisters could pass for twins, a fact that pleased them both. Growing up, they were both good girls, "A" students, pretty, well-mannered, and polite. As children, they shared a love for koalas, and they had even invented their own imaginary koala language. Their bond had held strong over the years. In their teens, they had clung to each other through their parents' divorce; they had remained close as adults by regularly making the hour-long trip between their homes and by talking frequently on the phone. Tara was the only person to whom Tierney had confided her difficulties trying to conceive.
When Tierney saw Tara before the concert, she knew she couldn't wait any longer. "I have something to tell you. It's a secret," Tierney blurted out. They hurried off together to a bathroom. Tierney pulled out the ultrasound pictures. "I'm pregnant!" she said.
The sisters hugged and cried and struggled to pull themselves together. Tierney didn't want to spoil her Mother's Day present to Joan. They composed themselves and left the high school bathroom like teenagers who had just snuck a cigarette, though they never would have dared such defiance as girls. They emerged straight-faced and bright-eyed. Their stealth worked, but it didn't last.
After the concert, they drove to Tara's apartment. Standing in the street, getting ready to say goodbye, Tierney decided she could wait no more — she wanted Tara to share their mother's joy. Impulsively, she pulled out the ultrasound photos. But night had fallen and it was too dark to see. So Tierney, Tara, and Joan moved into the glare of the Honda's headlights. They huddled together, their heads just inches apart.
"That's my baby!" Tierney said. Joan cried for joy. Mother and daughters hugged. On their drive back to Hartford, Tierney told Joan about the months of fertility problems, the in-home tests, everything that happened on the long road to pregnancy. Joan listened quietly, feeling guilty the whole time. She told Tierney she wished she hadn't chosen that very afternoon to tell the story about her friend's stillbirth.
"I'm so sorry," Joan said.
"Don't worry, Mom," Tierney said. "Everything will be fine."
In the weeks that followed, everything had indeed gone well. As she approached the halfway mark to nine months, Tierney had no complaints beyond her inability to fit into her favorite clothes: a bulge was developing nicely on her normally flat stomach. She suffered through only one day of morning sickness, and that was only because she was so busy with work that she had forgotten to eat.