Monday, March 10, 2014
It's hard to believe that it's been three years since I came "out" with Gabriel's diagnosis of anencephaly, but what's harder to believe is that I almost didn't. I didn't really know what to do. There's no instruction book on how to respond to the news that your child is going to die, at least not that I know of, though perhaps there should be. I thought I could carry the secret of Gabriel's condition until he was born and passed, until the day I didn't walk out of the hospital with him. Now, it's so hard to believe that I almost denied the people around me the opportunity to know my special little boy for as long as they could while he was here. I almost denied them the blessing of his sweet life.
Nearly every moment since that fatal diagnosis has been a carefully crafted attempt to appear as though I am not flying by the seat of my pants, even while I continue to struggle to live in my new normal. As many times as I've misstepped, I still can't help but feel that everything worked out just the way it was supposed to. Somehow, everything's been alright, and everything's going to be alright. I didn't know it would be, and I certainly didn't know what kind of reaction to expect the day I left a stack "coming out" letters at The Wright Place to be distributed, and posted the same letter on Facebook to circulate the shocking news that Gabriel, the child who at that point was known only as The Pumpkin, had anencephaly. How could I have known that I would be met with love and support beyond my wildest dreams? How could I have known that people all around me from all faiths and all walks of life across the country and all over the world would take this journey with me to give my son's life an even greater meaning that I ever could have wanted? My son has intrinsic value as a person, a child of God. The legacy he left behind in his passing, the legacy that continues to develop, is thanks to the network of support that he has inspired.
In the last week or so a Facebook article has been circulating, revived after more than a year, telling the story of a mother of an anencphalic baby, Grayson, whose photos of his exposed defect caused his mother and the photos to be banned by Facebook. The photos must have been reported, presumably by someone within the family's network. The story has been sent to me, posted on my wall, and posted by others with my name tagged numerous times over the last week. When the story first came out I posted a photo of Gabriel uncapped in a show of solidarity with the Walker family. My response then was the same as it is now: As angry as I am that someone would report photos of an innocent child as offensive because he didn't look like everyone else, I am beyond grateful for the compassion that has been showed to my son. When I made the decision to show photos of Gabriel with his defect exposed, I was met with the support that I have come to expect in the last three years. No one ran. No one shielded their eyes. No one could see anything "wrong," all they could see was the infectious smile that Gabriel has become known for. There are some pretty lousy human beings out there but they are far outnumbered by the incredible, kind, compassionate human beings.
How fortunate I am to have fallen in love with one of the latter.
When, after my child died and I became single again, I suspect few people looked at me as a single mother. Although Gabriel was a part of my every day life, I also assumed that if and when I found someone again that part of my life would be private, mine, something I was expected to keep to myself. So when I met a man who admired the mother that I am to my deceased son I was stunned. When I met a man who considered Gabriel not only a part of me, but a part of me that he loves deeply and has loved about me from the beginning of our relationship, I thought he was too good to be true. And when that man asked me to marry him, as he did this past weekend, I knew that I had to be the luckiest girl in the world.
I'm coming out: I have found in Marcos Lopez, everything I ever could have hoped for in my new normal, and everything I've searched for all my life. He is going to be not only the kind of husband that I've dreamed of, but the stepfather to my son that I never dared to hope for, with a love for both of us that I didn't know could be. He is already the greatest father that I could have asked for our unborn child.
I'm never going to "get over" my past. I'm always going to carry with me the pain of some of its devastating events. But I've met someone who loves me not in spite of that past, but because I've pushed my way through it. I can't wait to walk with him, my hand in his, our baby in my arms, my son in our hearts, towards our future.