Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Vampire Eyes

When I was pregnant with Gabriel I joked that being pregnant was like being a vampire; my skin glowed, my hair was luxurious, and sometimes I wanted to bite someone's face off. I completed the Twilight Saga while I was pregnant, and as I tend to do when reading fiction, I found myself relating the novel to my own life. Though I never related much to Bella, who I found needy and annoying, and never related Ben much to Edward, who I also found needy and annoying, at the very least, Bella and I were pregnant together. Still consumed by blissful pregnancy ignorance, the pregnancy was where mine and Bella's similarities ended. There was to my knowledge nothing as dramatic as carrying a half-human/half-vampire child happening in my life. Where Bella's life was in danger, mine was not. Bella and Edward had no idea how their child would look, what he or she would be, or how he or she would come into the world. Their child, ultimately a she, couldn't even be seen on an ultrasound.

But Gabriel could. It was in an ultrasound image that Gabriel's anencephaly was discovered. The joy of the pregnancy was choked by fear when the words "incompatible with life" were uttered.

What would we do? Following the initial diagnosis, Ben and my parents and even I began to fear for my physical well-being. Was this anencephalic "monster," as such babies were once called, going to threaten my life? Was I really prepared to risk my life for a baby that wouldn't live either?

Our fears of my own doom were soon put to rest when we learned that carrying an anencephalic baby to term presents no more risk than a typical pregnancy. Our choice then became clear, and that was that there was no other choice than to carry what we learned was our son to term.

But I was afraid of Gabriel. I loved him with my whole being, but I was afraid of what he would look like. I knew that these babies were once considered "monsters" even in medical textbooks. I could pick apart the term "anencephaly" and knew that it meant "without a brain." I imagined in my mind a child literally born without a brain, and without a skull cap. What would that look like? How could I ever look at, let alone hold, even my own son if he looked like such a monster? But then again, how could he be a monster, really? He was my son. I was assured even by a neonataloligist that parents don't see their child's defect. When they look at their child, even one the world would consider alien, they see love.

Like Bella's father-in-law Carlisle, I searched the internet for information on the type of child I was about to give birth to. I quickly decided not to look at pictures of the exposed defect of anencephalic babies. I loved my child and would love him no matter what he looked like, and I would not develop a prejudice towards Gabriel by looking at pictures of other people's children, who were loved regardless of their own defect, and frightening myself. Gabriel would know only love.

I became ferocious in my protection of Gabriel. I rarely let anyone touch my pregnant belly, knowing rationally that just a touch would not hurt his delicate head but still fearing for his safety. I held my belly protectively, creating another barrier between the world and Gabriel, while still assuring people that Gabriel was human, just a baby, worthy of their love.

Breaking Dawn had long left my mind with all I was going through with Gabriel, until the movie was released last week. On the day of the movie's release I watched the film with new eyes. I developed a respect for Bella that I never had while reading the novels, as well as a respect for Rosalie. While others would refer to the monster that Bella was carrying as a fetus, Rosalie was quick to say "Call it what it is -- A BABY. It's JUST A LITTLE BABY."

Did anyone know, did even Bella know, that they could love a little baby monster so much? Yet two little monsters, Gabriel and Reneesme, stole the hearts of everyone around them. The world held their breath to learn what was in store for Gabriel and Reneesme.

I've learned through what I call my new vampire eyes not to fear the word "monster." We are all, to some degree, monsters driven by our own carnal desires and free will. But we all make choices every day, choices to succumb to our desires or choices to rise above what we want in the moment and choose instead to act selflessly. We make choices to love even those we fear.

In the Twilight series novels, a theme arises that the movies never substantially address. Edward, the vampire protagonist, wrestles with his fate as a vampire. Is he damned? He thinks he is. Bella, however, refuses to believe that someone with a kind heart, someone who makes pure, selfless choices, is damned, even for all he's done wrong in the past.

The possibility of damnation exists for all of us. Temptation surrounds us. So does love. And love can rescue us from even the darkest of places. Love can sustain us and inspire us and indeed as a Christian I believe the salvation of our souls is the product of the purest Love of all.

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