This evening at Mass, Ben and I ran into one of the couples from our childbirth class. She was carrying twins, and they had troubles during their pregnancy that led them to have to see a specialist in San Francisco. They expressed that what they looked forward to most about their twins' birth was finally knowing that they were alive and healthy. When we saw them tonight she was clearly not pregnant anymore, but there were no twin babies with them. I spent much of Mass, and learned later that Ben did too, wondering whether their babies were okay, hoping that they were. We caught up to them after Mass and learned that their twin boys were born on May 25th. They spent about a month in the hospital but were now home with them. They were okay.
She asked if Gabriel's obituary had recently appeared in the paper. I told her that it had, and she said she was sorry, but was excited that we had ten days. We told her that it was more than we ever hoped for. She had tears in her eyes as we talked, and I know that she understood our fear, maybe even understood our pain as much as anyone can without experiencing it themselves. She hugged me and then Ben, and he shook Ben's hand and hugged me also.
As we watched them walk away, Ben and I talked about how relieved we were that their twins were okay. We wish our grief on no one.
I am surprised at the ease with which I am able to be happy for other new parents. I spent much of my adult life envying friends, family, and even perfect strangers who had and were about to have babies. I'd cry when I found out about new pregnancies and wonder if I would ever have that opportunity. I even struggled to keep my thoughts from straying too far, never wanting them to wander to a place where I actually wished them harm but knowing that my mind came close. If I was incomplete without children, I didn't want to be alone in my incompleteness.
My mom used to remind me to never assume that their pregnancies or their lives were ideal. You never know what might be going on in the private lives of others, what burdens they might be carrying. I know this well now, as most people looking at my pregnant belly probably never would have known the pain that came with it.
Now, to my surprise, even in this sorrowful time I am able to find joy in other people's happiness. Seeing children, especially little boys, is still painful but I can't help but smile. I truly understand now that every child is a gift, not just to their parents but to me too. I will always remember that this was the year of the boys, starting with my cousins Danielle and Kaycee giving birth to their sons, Noah and Ezekiel, in January, followed by our family friend Marissa's delivery of her son, Andrew, in February. This fall my cousin Nicole will have her son. There will be times when it will hurt to know that Gabriel isn't here to go through life's stages with them. But they will also help to remind me of Gabriel, a way for me to keep track of how old Gabriel would have been and what he might have been doing. I will see pictures of them on their graduation day, attend their weddings some day, watch them have children of their own, and smile a sad smile knowing if Gabriel were here, he might be having the same experiences, but that while he was never meant to live that long life he still lived the life intended for him, and his life was beautiful.