There are friends who do everything together. And then there are Kristen McLeod and Mary Wasileuskas.
The women, both 31, have known each other since middle school. They went to Lowell High together, where Kristen played volleyball and lacrosse, and Mary was a gymnast and cheerleader. They were part of a large, loyal, close-knit group — fixtures in each other’s homes, honorary members of each other’s families.
They stayed tight in college, Kristen at the University of Maine, and Mary at Merrimack College. Kristen studied nursing, eventually landing a job at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where she works in the inpatient medical unit. Mary also became a nurse, and, because she knew how happy Kristen was at Beth Israel, she got a job there too, on a trauma floor, across the street from her old friend.
“Having somebody to go to, to vent to about work after a long day, who understands you, that’s been huge,” Kristen said.
There ensued the long cycle of weddings and bridesmaidery common among certain large groups of friends who stay close though college and beyond. Kristen married the best friend of Mary’s brother in 2017, and Mary was a bridesmaid. Mary married in 2019, and Kristen was in her wedding party.
They both ended up back in Lowell, their houses 10 minutes apart, their husbands buddies, too. When their schedules aligned, they carpooled to work. They were riding in together one morning last fall when Kristen told Mary she was pregnant. Her baby was due July 14.
Mary had had an inkling her friend was expecting. She also had news of her own. But she didn’t share it right away.
“It was so hard not to tell her,” Mary said. “But I didn’t want to take that moment away from her, she was so excited.”
A couple of nights later, they were driving home and Kristen was bugging Mary to get pregnant soon, so that their babies could be born close together. Mary smirked.
“I am not a good liar,” she recalled.
“Are you pregnant?” Kristen asked her, incredulous.
Not just pregnant, but due on the very same day: July 14.
“We do everything together,” Mary joked.
Their pregnancies matched, too: No morning sickness to speak of, pretty easy on the whole — though the coronavirus added complications. Mary had to move to another unit when her floor became an ICU for COVID-19 patients.
“We passed every milestone together,” Kristen said. They shared worries, advice, and the same obstetrician.
They couldn’t have traditional baby showers. Instead, they had drive-through events, Mary’s on June 6 and Kristen’s on the 13th. Friends and relatives pulled up to drop off gifts and catch a glimpse of the women before they collected their treats and drove away.
Ten days later, Kristen’s doctor delivered news that spoiled the synchronicity: Her baby wasn’t waiting for July 14. She was being induced.
“I hope you’re ready to be an auntie,” she texted Mary.
A few hours after she was admitted, a text came in.
“My water broke,” it said. Mary was in the delivery ward, too.
“I thought I had a few weeks left, up until the second I didn’t,” Mary said. She’d worked until 5:30 p.m. that Tuesday, gone to the grocery store, and had been disinfecting her groceries when it happened.
Kristen’s daughter Emery was born at 6:19 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24.
Mary’s son Conor emerged a few rooms away, just over an hour later, at 7:42.
Now the friends who’ve been in sync since they were kids are navigating the exciting, terrifying world of new motherhood together. Naturally, Emery and Conor are on similar schedules, which makes it easier for their mothers to text each other in the middle of the night about their worries and emotions.
“It’s just nice to have somebody who is going through exactly what you are going through,” Kristen said. “Not only that, but somebody you consider family.”
The story of their births will become the kind of family lore that, like so much in this crazy, lousy year, seems impossible. One day, when everything is less awful, these almost-twins will start growing up together — in person — just as Kristen and Mary did.