Mine is not a family that says "I love you" often. The love is there, and stronger than it is in many families, I believe. It's just not something we said often, it was always just understood.
After Sean died six years ago I realized that we'd each only said "I love you" to each other once, that our relationship had also been based on a mutual understanding that those feelings were there. I made a commitment then to always say how I felt about someone, but the commitment didn't last because the world I was living in simply didn't welcome such an open expression of emotion. When Ben and I were dating, he was the first to say "I love you." I knew I'd felt it too, but I was reluctant to say it. My upbringing didn't require me to say it, and years of dating had taught me that those were words one should not say too swiftly for fear of running a man off. "I love you" had gone from something that didn't need to be said to something to avoid saying at all.
Some might say I was defective or emotionally stifled. I've never felt there was anything wrong with me because of my inexperience at saying the words, because I knew I felt love. However, I wanted my own children to hear "I love you" and to hear it often. But during Gabriel's time on earth, even knowing how short it was likely to be, I had to remind myself to say it out loud to him. I trust that he knew love, but I wanted to be sure it was said.
Meanwhile, I noticed a change in how I interacted with others. After years of a simple understanding of love, my parents and I started saying it out loud with more frequency. I also took note just today of another change in me. In my interactions with other anencephaly mommies who I've met online, I noticed that many of us say "I love you" to each other very often. These are women I have never met in person, and who I have known, at the earliest, since February when I joined an online support group. Yet we frequently say those words that had eluded me, often subconsciously, for years. We say that we love each other, we say that we love each other's children. We call each other sisters, and say things like "We're in this together," and "Though I am far away I am standing beside you." Just one year ago this would have felt strange to me, but I realize now that Gabriel gave me the capacity to love, and to express that love, in a way that I never loved before.
I can honestly say that I loved Gabriel just as much before he was born as I did the day he died. I loved him before he was ever even conceived. I've lived my life waiting for him, and for Baby Cude, and for any brothers and sisters that follow, though I didn't even know they were missing from my life. That love has always been there. I was made to love them.
I thank all of my children, those conceived and already moved on to Heaven, and those yet to be known by me, for opening my heart and giving me the freedom to love.
Recently I was saddened to learn of a woman whose unborn baby was diagnosed with anencephaly. I do not know her, I was told of her case through a friend who was surprised to know two women effected by anencephaly so close together. My heart was broken to learn that as we were speaking of her, she was in the hospital, having elected early induction of labor. I remember her fear, I remember the shock of the diagnosis, and I remember wondering what to do. Ultimately I made the decision that was morally right for Gabriel and the one that was right for my eternal soul, but I had no idea how Ben and I would possibly get through this time. I had no idea how my life on earth would be enriched and made better by carrying Gabriel to term. People say that we made a selfless decision, but that's not entirely true. The fear of going to Hell is a tremendous motivation for a faithful Catholic and it was certainly a factor in my own decision. Now, when I reflect on the way I am now able to relate to other people I am amazed that such beauty could come from such sadness. My heart aches, but it is somehow made bearable by the way I have been opened to love. I have learned to lean on people and to let them love and take care of me and it feels good to be loved. Though no one, not a new puppy, not a future child, no one can replace Gabriel, I can find solace in the newfound friendship and love that I am now experiencing. Gabriel did more for me than I did for him and if there was one thing I could tell any woman standing on the edge of an anencephaly diagnosis, it would be "Do it for yourself, because you will be rewarded."