I picked up my phone one evening to find urgent message from an unusual source: "Please contact my friend Missy. Her baby was just diagnosed with anencephaly and she sees a specialist today to confirm," Josh pleaded with me through Facebook's instant messenger. "You can find her on my Facebook friends list."
Immediately I found Missy's Facebook profile and contacted her, knowing she would soon be asked to make a decision as to whether to carry to term. She had already decided that she was going to continue the pregnancy with her daughter, due in March. She'd already found great peace, and seemed to be coasting along. After sighing a prayer of relief I took a step back and recognized Missy from an anencephaly support site. She'd already been doing her research and found the same group that I'd found three years ago.
From there I scoured her Facebook profile, beginning with our surprisingly long list of mutual friends located in our "small" town of 365,000. My mind started to stretch as I realized Missy and I must have gone to high school together at some point. I wandered through my memories, trying to recall her. I pulled my stack of yearbooks from a bookshelf and flipped through the pages, still uncertain of Missy's maiden name, hoping that I would find a clue, all the while remembering the hope and promise that filled the high school version of me that had never heard of anencephaly.
I sent Missy a friend request, and sat back and waited. Finally one day a post from one of her family members pulled the trigger, when Missy's maiden name, the name by which I would have known her, was revealed to me. As far as I knew, she was Melissa back then, but then again, I didn't know her at all. We shared friends, and she had a unique name, but she and I had never had much interaction that I could recall.
Still, I started to see the pieces come together. "Andrea, have you met Missy?" our friend Justin tagged us both one day. Her interactions with our mutual friends began to pop up on my news feed - her interactions with my good friends, her interactions with my mere acquaintances, the interactions that told me we must have run in the same circles and still, our paths had never quite crossed until now. How had we missed each other those nearly 20 years ago? What kind of God had brought us together in 2014 through the shared adverse diagnosis of our children? He must be the same God that whispered to our hearts the words we needed to continue to foster the sweet lives within us, when so many others feel it is a cross they cannot bear.
So here we are: I am three years post-Gabriel; Missy is three months 'til Imogen. It doesn't seem fair, really, that we once shared a school, teachers, friends, perhaps even the stage in the auditorium, or a bench at a football game - And now we must share this. Only 1 in 1,000 women will walk in our shoes, so how did we become 2 in 2,000? I wish that no one ever had to share this experience. But here we are.
Yes, here we are. And what a pleasure it has been to get to know this woman, so strong, so full of faith, so in love with her little girl. And I know THAT'S what unites us. Our love for our children, no matter what they look like, no matter how brief their lives may be, no matter how afraid we may have been or may be of what it means to love a child that cannot stay. The world is full of uncertainty and things to fear, but thankfully it's still a small world, and it's still filled with love.