When Ashlee Gadd pictured a woman miscarrying, she always envisioned her suffering within the walls of her home, or in a sterile hospital room. Then she had a miscarriage herself.
"That’s been the hardest part for me, reconciling how to walk through my normal days while bleeding and grieving," said Gadd, who is the founder of the Coffee + Crumbs storytelling community for moms.
"There’s so much I didn’t know about this kind of loss," the 35-year-old California mom of three told TODAY Parents. "I never understood how much ordinary life continues swirling around... how this process doesn’t happen in a day. It lasts and lingers. I never considered how many women are walking around in public places in the process of silently miscarrying."
Thankfully, Gadd is surrounded by a support network: Women like friend Anna Quinlan, who she has known for a decade.
"We met right before Anna became a mom (and) I became one soon after," Gadd explained.
Soon after Gadd miscarried, Quinlan reached out.
"I've seen so many of my friends endure really hard times... husbands and children with cancer, miscarriages, divorce, sudden deaths of parents," Quinlan told TODAY. "I am always amazed at the crowd of women I see gather around to offer support in those times."
Quinlan wanted to support her friend in a way that felt valuable, adding that it's often "a girlfriend" who organizes dinner drop-offs, fundraising, childcare, or errands.
Instead of asking how her friend was doing, Quinlan texted Gadd a multiple choice question.
"Checking on you. Please choose from the following," the text read. "1. I pick your kids up anytime after 3:30 today & show them a good time through dinner (which would be at Chick-fil-A, obvi, & would include takeout brought back for you). 2. I send DoorDash dinner of your choice to you (This offer is valid any day this week. Also next week.) 3. I have to go to Target today, I can pick up anything you need & drop it on your doorstep & not talk to you at all. 4. I can send prayers & good vibes & you can politely decline any tangible services at this time."
The grieving mom replied to the text with a photo of a single roll of toilet paper.
"Would you believe me if I told you this is all of the toilet paper in my entire house right now?" she wrote. "Would gladly take you up on the target offer — we need toilet paper. You'd be saving me a trip."
Quinlan assured her friend, who also requested a box of Cheez-Its, it would be on her porch that afternoon.
"Regular flavor or white cheddar, which is objectively superior but I won't judge you if you like to keep it classic," Quinlan joked.
"Regular. Can we still be friends," Gadd asked.
To which Quinlan added, "Barely. But yes."
That afternoon, toilet paper and Cheez-its arrived to Gadd's porch.
Quinlan explained to TODAY that when she has a friend who is suffering or struggling, she thinks about what resources she has and can use that are helpful.
"I know that Ashlee has other friends who can offer totally different resources, like sharing their own vulnerable stories of miscarriage or offering beautiful flowers or gifts," Quinlan said. "I'm not as great at those resources, but I can drop toilet paper and crackers on your porch by 3 p.m."
Gadd said the text was exactly what she needed and shared it to social media with the caption "Friendship: a thread." The post has garnered more than 14,000 likes and hundreds of comments.
"More often than not, I think most of us default to, 'Let me know if you need anything'," she said. "I’ll speak for myself — I’ve sent that text a hundred times. She gave me something tangible to grab onto, without the emotional fatigue of trying to think of what I needed."