They were in the same third-grade class.
Shawna: “(That’s when) the magic started.”
From that year on — which is to say, for more than 20 years — Coree Dickson, 29, and Shawna Moulder, 28, have remained best friends. Through summer days playing baby dolls and going to the pool, through junior high and high school, through dark times, first jobs and the senior prom; through college classes, marriage (where, of course, they were each other’s maids of honor) and now raising children, they have been each other’s support and listening ear.
Shawna: “Basically, she can’t get rid of me.”
Coree: “She stuck like glue.”
There are other friends, to be sure. Not the same.
Shawna: “If other people call me their best friend, Coree gets very upset.”
Coree: “Yeah, they’re not your best friend. …
“You can have mutual friends, and other friends, but you can only have one best friend.”
They laugh, but the fact remains: There’s no one who knows Shawna like Coree does — and vice versa. Not even their husbands, although they do their best.
Shawna: “I just know that no matter what, she’s got my back. If I’m having a rough day and I just feel like no one else gets my family dynamics or (what’s going on at) work, she’s the one I vent to. … She knows exactly what to say to calm me down. I don’t have to explain things to her.”
Coree: “There are times (her husband) can’t put her mind at ease or make her feel better. And so she calls me. I don’t know if I ever solve the problem.”
Shawna: “Just listening … Acknowledging. … ”
Coree: “ … That what she’s feeling is valid.”
For instance, when Coree found out that one of her twins had died in utero, Coree’s husband turned to Shawna for help.
Shawna: “I said I was going to ask (Coree) out to lunch. He said, ‘Thank you … I don’t know what to do, Shawna.’ I was like, there is nothing anybody can do or say. You just gotta be there for her.”
The memory of that day brings tears to Coree’s eyes. But that’s what they’ve been to each other: There.
• • •
When Shawna first started dating her future husband, among his qualifications was how well he’d measure up with Coree.
Coree: “I’ve always like Robbie. He was really funny right off the bat. … I think he tried hard that night (we met) because he knew our relationship (was important).”
Shawna: “Our marriage probably wouldn’t work if he didn’t accept her and she didn’t accept him.”
Shawna and Robbie Moulder were married in 2007 with Coree, naturally, as maid of honor.
Shawna: “She would have taken somebody down if I would have picked somebody else.”
Coree, too, knew that when she started dating her future husband, he would have to meet her best friend’s standards.
Shawna: “He makes you laugh. Like, all the time. So (he’s) all right.”
Coree: “She sees that I’m happy and that’s all she cares about, really.”
Coree and Scott Dickson were married in 2014 with Shawna as the maid of honor. Seniority, Shawna jokes. She had seniority.
• • •
When Shawna had her first daughter, Coree was there through the pregnancy and the 19-hour delivery. Coree’s social life expanded to include dance recitals and child-size birthday parties.
Coree: “I just always fit into that puzzle.”
Shawna was a surrogate mother for her second and third pregnancies. That means she was “the oven,” she jokes, for a fertilized egg from donor parents who, for various reasons, couldn’t support a pregnancy. As always, Shawna worried about what Coree would think about her decision but — as always — Coree was Shawna’s faithful supporter.
Coree: “It’s probably one of the biggest gifts you can give somebody — and that says a lot about a person. (Shawna) had to go through a lot to make that happen.”
The process was physically grueling (making sure her body wouldn’t reject the egg), but Shawna loved being pregnant and loved being able to give birth to a baby for someone else.
“It was such an amazing experience; in fact, I would do surrogacy 80 gazillion times over again if my body could handle it. … It’s completely worth it.”
By virtue of their friendship, they both went through the pregnancies and deliveries together. As Shawna became very close to her first surrogate’s family, so did Coree.
Coree: “I’ve only met them a handful of times but they’ve always welcomed me like they’ve known me forever.”
Shawna: “They knew how important you were to me.”
The two were on different time schedules for their own family planning, however. Coree and her husband were newlyweds last year when Shawna and her husband decided it was time for a second child for their family. As it turned out, it took Shawna a while to become pregnant and Coree very little.
Shawna: “We joked when we found out they were 10 days apart — what if they were born on the same day?”
• • •
Coree’s pregnancy was difficult, beginning with the loss of one of the twins. She had a lot of pre-term labor and was in the hospital or on bed-rest.
Shawna: “I was just trying to get her to 35 weeks.… She was, like, ‘I hope I can make it to 33 weeks.’ I’m like every day, you hold on to that baby. Don’t try to get to weeks; every day that baby is going to be healthier.”
Coree: “She was more or less just my ears, listening to me complain.”
At 37 weeks into her pregnancy, Coree went into labor in earnest. Her husband texted Shawna: “I think we’re going to have a baby tonight.” It was Shawna’s turn to go to the hospital and return the support of her friend. About 11 p.m., she was standing by Coree’s bed when she felt something odd.
“I thought, ‘Did my water just break?’ I was like, no! But it kept coming. I thought, I can’t say anything; this is her time to shine. … This is her moment; I’ve had my moments before, but this is hers. …
“She’s about to have her baby. I can’t miss her baby!”
She joked with Coree and Scott that she had either peed in her pants or her water broke; they didn’t believe her. Neither did her husband, with whom Coree and Shawna had been known to pull a prank or two.
Shawna: “I figured the hospital wouldn’t let me leave (my room) once I was admitted. … and then I’d miss everything. Nope. I’ll just cross my legs and pretend like nothing happened.”
(Shawna turns to Coree in the middle of the story and asks, “What if I had peed in my pants?” Coree doesn’t miss a beat. “We wouldn’t be sitting here. Nobody wants to hear that story.”)
At Coree’s urging, Shawna finally got checked out and, yes, she was in labor. She was given a room right next to Coree and marked as “walking the halls” so that she could be with her.
Shawna: “It was crazy. I was in there when she was having (Ella) and to think I was seeing it — and that was going to happen to me hours later. … I don’t want to say ‘a shock,’ but a realization that, ‘Wow, this is happening.’”
Coree: “We’re having our babies on the same day.”
Shawna: “This is really happening. I’ve been wanting this to happen.”
Ella Dickson was born at 12:56 a.m. on Jan. 11. Mackiah Moulder was born four minutes shy of exactly six hours later.
Coree: “I joked with her — I even made a comment to my midwife: ‘Georgianna, she’s stealing my thunder.” But I actually was hoping we’d have them on the same day at that point. I thought, how cool is that, they’d share a birthday.
“I never thought you were stealing my day. I joke about it, though.”
And there’s two more details that tickle them both. Their babies were both girls. And they weighed exactly the same: 6 pounds, 9 ounces.
• • •
Shawna and Coree text — not every day, but enough to know they’re thinking about each other. They tag each other on Facebook, FaceTime for stuff that can’t wait, talk when it’s too much to text. It’s all about keeping in touch. (As far as the sisterly squabbles, they’re few and far between. “As kids, we would say we don’t fight. We argue,” says Coree.)
Now that they’re both stay-at-home moms, they are looking forward to play dates, trips to the zoo, collaborative birthday parties, walks in the park and more two-family gatherings, now that they all have children.
Shawna: “It’s not like two moms, but (Mackiah will have) you in her life.”
And the girls will have each other.
Coree: “When they’re old enough to understand their birth story and how their mommies have been friends since third grade and that they were born on the same day … that connection. I don’t see how you can’t have a connection when you have a story like that.”
They hope that their friendship can be a model for all their children.
Shawna: “I have been waiting. (My older daughter) Mackenzie is 8 years old and that’s when we met. I have been waiting for Mackenzie to find that friend that’s she’s going to have for the rest of her life. She has (a close friend), but I don’t know if she’s going to be ‘the one.’
“I’m just so excited for when she finds her Coree.”
Katherine Jones: 208-377-6414, firstname.lastname@example.org, @IDS_Photography Know someone living “from the heart”? Idaho Statesman photojournalist Katherine Jones spotlights someone in the Treasure Valley who influences our lives by what, how and why they do things. Call 377-6414 or email kjones@idahostatesman. com.
Heart alumni update
Charlie Linville, who was wounded in Afghanistan and had his leg amputated below the knee, is making his third trip to Everest with The Heroes Project. Twice before, they made it to Base Camp only to be turned back by devastating natural disasters that closed the mountain to climbing.
Charlie is currently in training and will leave for Kathmandu in April. After nearly a month of acclimatization and training climbs, they will set their sights on Everest’s summit mid-May, depending on the weather. Follow the climb on Facebook and read his story at IdahoStatesman.com/heart.