When I was 14, two of my teeth were ripped out of my mouth when I was fielding a softball in right field, which I missed and instead struck me in the face. I had 14 hours of oral surgery; first, eight hours of emergency surgery the day after, then a few months later another six hours. Several lesser procedures were also performed, for which a local anesthetic was administered, but the most painful moment that I can recall is getting several stitches in my gums without anesthetic.
Every year after that when I visited the dentist, he would without fail say the same two things: "What a shame, you had perfect teeth before the accident. So do you still play softball?" In fact, that was the last year that I played on a real competitive team. I was a freshman in high school and my vanity was shattered by the mess the accident had made out of my mouth. Besides, I had found other things to do and I was never very good at softball. I was actually afraid of the ball -- a fear that proved justified but only because I didn't listen to the years of instruction warning me to cover my face with my glove when fielding. But I wasn't afraid to play the game. I still played now and then for fun, even joining a team with a few co-workers. The accident was devastating at the time, and even life-changing as when I stopped playing softball a world of other opportunities opened up to me. But I don't regret playing the game.
Sometimes you lose. Before I met Ben, I loved others, and had my heart broken. I took my relationships seriously and as a result sometimes suffered serious heartache. I am a person who loves deeply and without abandon and that can be a risky endeavor.
But sometimes you win. When I met Ben there was an immediate connection but I think he felt it faster than I did. We met in the bar that I worked in during law school, and it wasn't long before my co-workers started telling me about Ben's interest. I had sworn off dating men from the bar but my mom convinced me to go on a date with Ben when he asked, and now here we are. I was apprehensive and even a little afraid but once I resolved to go on that first date I opened my heart to the possibility that I could find love with that man, and I did. Ben was worth the risk.
I am afraid now, as we struggle. I am afraid because our relationship is rocky and difficult and sometimes it hurts to love Ben. But I don't believe I should quit something because it gets difficult or is sometimes painful or uncomfortable. I am more afraid of the heartache of living without the man I love, even though I know that if he breaks my heart too and walks away from me I will not give up on romantic love, than I am afraid of the difficulty of loving him. I'm not easy to love either; but I think I'm worth the risk too.
Life is never going to stop giving us lessons in heartache and pain. Just as I began to feel secure in my future, at 21 weeks pregnant with what I thought would be our rainbow baby after miscarriage, I received the most devastating blow that my heart had ever experienced, when I was told my little rainbow would die shortly after he was born. Though my faith guided me in making the decision to carry Gabriel to term, my heart always told me that loving this baby was worth the risk. I had waited so long for him, and I never regretted loving his brother or sister before him that I had never met. That miscarried mystery baby only made me more passionate in my love for Gabriel, and so Gabriel will only make me more passionate in my love for future children. Gabriel was worth the risk.
I was that mommy who, immediately after Gabriel was born, was ready to do it all -- pregnancy, labor, delivery -- over again just to get to that moment when I could first hold my child in my arms. I have said often that I would love to be pregnant ten more times, because I loved being pregnant with Gabriel so very much. If, God forbid, the Lord sent me ten more anencephalic babies, I would make the same decision in every instance that I made with Gabriel. Love is worth the risk.
But I don't believe that is God's plan for me anyway. I have an abiding faith that the Lord has healthy, perfect children waiting for me and waiting for Ben too. And even those children will come with their share of heartache. My sister Victoria has grown up before my eyes and it always makes me a little sad to see her pass so quickly through life's stages. Now, as she gives away her dolls for good and prepares to begin high school next fall, I can hardly believe she is a teenager when it doesn't seem like that long ago she was my snuggly baby sister. It's hard to start to let her go, but it's been worth the sadness to watch her become such a beautiful young woman, inside and out, and for the moments when she'll still rest her head on my shoulder.
Life is painful and risky and sad and sometimes you lose. But it's also beautiful and satisfying and worth taking chances on. Because sometimes, you win.