Baseball was going to be "our thing." It was going to be that thing that Gabriel and I watched together. Gabriel and his Uncle Tim and Grandpa Steve were going to bond over playing catch together. I was going to finally get to Seattle to see the Mariners play with my little boy in tow.
Softball was the only sport I ever played. I was never very good at it, and never particularly enjoyed playing the game. What I loved was the way it connected my dad and me. I loved that he loved to go to games and practices. I love that going to games is something our family does together even now. I love that baseball keeps Timothy and I talking. I love what that game does for our family, and I wanted so much to share that with Gabe.
Before Gabriel was ever born, those kinds of dreams were taken from me. A doctor told me with one word, "anencephaly," that my child would never play professional baseball, would never cure cancer, would never win an olympic gold medal, would never be President, would never graduate from high school, would never need help with his homework, would never play league baseball, would never learn to tie his shoes, would never catch lady bugs in a paper cup, would never build a sandcastle. . . I would be lucky if my child could cry, and swallow. . . I would be lucky if he were born alive.
I wonder if every parent wants their child to be exceptional. I did. I wanted my child to be a perfect blend of Scotty Smalls and Benny "The Jet." I was also concerned that he look like me, with dark hair and dark eyes. I thought that if he looked like me he would be "more mine," and that if he were brilliant and talented he would be easier to love.
As it happened, Gabriel was exceptional. He was the one child in 1000 to have anencephaly. Though 25% of anencephalic babies carried to term are stillborn, Gabriel was born alive. Though another 50% live less than a day, Gabriel lived an exceptional ten days. He has, since he was introduced to the world as a special little boy before he was even born,, changed lives - maybe even saved lives. His mission has been my pleasure and my privilege witness. Today, he is a saint in Heaven. Not many moms can say all of that about their child.
And how little I wouldn't give to have an average 15 month old Gabriel here with me now, with his blond hair and steely gray-blue eyes. I'd take him babbling through movies, resisting nap-time, pulling on Gideon's ears, dropping shoes in the toilet and generally making life very difficult for me. I wasn't sure that I could love a child who was a challenge, but now I'm living the challenge of loving an exceptional child who isn't here.
Lately I've been considering that maybe God's plan isn't for me to have more biological children. I don't think I'll ever give up my dream of being a mother again, but I've begun to consider that maybe that will happen in a less conventional way. I've been considering embryo adoption. Inevitably the response to that announcement will be "Don't give up yet; you're young!" but I haven't given up. I'm just considering options. Embryo adoption, like adoption of a born child, is a process that will take time, and requires money; all of that requires advance planning. It also requires me to consider whether I can love a child who isn't a biological part of me. One might think that carrying the child alone would be enough to bond us, but what if it's not?
What if, as I fear most of all, I am a terrible mother? Maybe it's very easy to love a child who only lived for ten days, and doesn't require my sacrifice beyond that. Maybe it's easy to love a child who isn't keeping me up at night, or consuming my time, or needing things from me. Maybe after 30+ years of generally doing what I want to do, nine months and ten days was all I had to give to another person. Maybe the love I have for little Saint Gabe makes any child I have down the road feel that he is always living in Gabriel's shadow. Maybe I'll unwittingly treat him like he can never measure up. Maybe another child just can't measure up.
Baseball, what was once the American pastime, doesn't seem to measure up in a lot of books these days. When I say I like baseball, a common response is "Baseball is boring." But it's not. One thing I love about baseball is how every pitch has the potential to change the game entirely. To look at baseball as exciting, a spectator has to appreciate that, and enjoy that anticipation. Because every pitch ISN'T going to change the game. Not even every hit is going to change the game.
I truly believe, though, that every person changes the world just by living in it. Our mark on the world isn't always earth-shattering. We're not all going to be widely recognized. We're not all going to become saints. But like every pitch in baseball has potential until it's complete, every person's potential on earth is limited only by the time we're here. I want so much for another chance to show that I can nurture another child's - any child's - potential. I want a chance to prove that if I'm blessed with another child, no matter how average he or she is I can find them exceptional too.