Gabe and I talk about Angel Daddy. Regularly. I have purposely not shown him pictures of Angel Daddy with the name (but of course, he has seen pictures, and also has had it associated with "Angel Daddy", which is fine as well). I want him to know and understand him on his own; his own association of this (which is blossoming beautifully), shows me what I need to know. He KNOWS who Angel Daddy is, even without me constantly trying to pair the association. He KNOWS how important Angel Daddy is. HE KNOWS. And ultimately, that matters to me, to us, to our family.
I know that the concept of Angel Daddy is very uncomfortable to many. I have been told it several times by very well meaning individuals, several that are the closest to me. I know that they are telling me their thoughts, their concerns, with the best of intentions. And I appreciate it from those closest to me. However, I can tell you, wholeheartedly and unabashedly, that they are wrong.
I had thought about parenthood before Matt died, and then desperately thought about it after he died. I had been wanting a baby, and could not wait until it was "our time" to have our family. I had been wondering what it would be like- to be a mother- and I had been wondering what it would be like- to never have that chance. I wanted this so incredibly badly that I could not even manage my own thoughts. I could not control that Matt was gone, but I had control over the chance of becoming a mommy, and the circumstances surrounding it (or, so I thought). I thought I was going to just do it all by myself. I thought I was going to become pregnant by myself and go through pregnancy by myself and be in labor by myself and just do it all by myself. And I could have, and I would have. When I approached my doctor about this, he told me that I was young, and that I would find someone. I cannot even tell you the hurt, the pain, the sorrow and the grief that this brought me. I did not want someone else. I did not want another man's baby. I only wanted the baby that I could call Matt's and mine. That's what I wanted; that's what WE wanted. And, unfortunately for my doctor, I let him have it. Grief, pain, hurt, intellect- it all came out to him. Grief included- I was an intelligent woman who can make decisions for myself in my best interest. And now, they include a child. And now, I am still an intelligent woman who can and will make decisions for us in our best interest. I will not always have the answers; situations have and will come up that I am not sure how to handle. But you can be damn sure that when I make a decision, it will be the right one for our family.
What I am trying to say is that even the most well-meaning and even well-educated individuals have never been in my position. They have never been in a place where the pain of losing a spouse paired with the loss and grief of not having a child and a family with that person is too much to bear. They will (hopefully) never know this pain, this sorrow and this grief. Some may experience this loss and this secondary grief as well, and they may very well not make the same choices as me, and that is absolutely fine- trust that an individual in this situation can make decisions like this. (I know I sure thank those that trusted me and my decision!!) But, even with the same loss, they have never experienced this loss through my eyes and in my life, just as I have never experienced their loss through their eyes and in their life. Because of this fact, anyone and everyone other than me is not an expert on my life. This decision I have made, this terminology I have used, this is special to our life. This is special to our circumstances, and this is incredibly special to my heart. I stand by this choice, and will, for forever.
Angel Daddy is in our lives daily. Angel Daddy is important to our well-being. Angel Daddy is the reason that we have our own little family. Angel Daddy is the reason that I love and we love like we do- that we know that whatever we have we could lose at any second, so we want to not only hold on, but hold on tightly, to the wonderful people in our lives. Angel Daddy is the way that neither Gabe nor I feel isolated in this world. The term Angel Daddy came to me almost immediately when I decided that I wanted this child that had come to me- no- when I accepted the gift of this child that had been given to me. Like many thoughts, feelings, ideas that I have, I feel they came from God and Matt- they are a piece of him living through me. And I will never second-guess this.
The other night, we were at a friend's house for dinner and a birthday party. It was a special night, and we are so incredibly thankful that we were and are included in this family's thoughts and gatherings. These are very special people who we met before Matt died. In fact, I had met many of them before I had met Matt. They love us, and we love them. Some of them I told about Gabriel during my call-sessions to my closest friends as I was on my way to pick him up. They stand by me, support me and love me, and now they stand by us, support us, and love us. And they accept us.
While there, Gabe, again, brought up the concept of "daddy". He has done this a few times before. This was the first time he had done it in a slightly more public setting. The first time he did it, we were the house of some other friends. He called my friend "Daddy". He sees my friend as part of a happy family with a Mommy, Daddy and two kids. He sees the kids call their daddy "Daddy". He hears the kids' mom say "go ask Daddy". When he called my friend "Daddy", it melted my heart, and also about ripped it out. I was so happy to see him identify this man as a "daddy", as someone that he felt comfortable enough with to give hugs when we leave, to go outside with when (his own) Mommy stays inside with this man's wife, having "Mommy" conversations, and he feels comfortable enough to play games with him. This man is the only man that I have left my child with for an extended period of time that is not family. I also knew that this meant it was time, that my son is ready to have a man in his life like this. This family supported me; they helped me find the humor and irony in the situation. They also love us and accept us.
When at my friend's house this weekend for the party, when Gabe did this more publicly, I was comforted to know that, I think, only one person noticed it. Luckily, this was someone that I feel very comfortable with. Someone that Matt knew and was friends with, and someone that I truly feel will not and did not judge me for this happening. Gabe wanted to go outside where all the men were; he was looking for "Daddy", just as he had seen the other kids run in and out all night doing. He knew there were daddies out there. He just wondered which one was his. And he was truly excited about it. His excitement made me realize how much he wants this- to open this "present"- and how I am letting him down right now.
When he did this, I was embarrassed. I was awkward and didn't know what to say. I was NOT embarrassed at the actions of my child. I was embarrassed at the fact that I do not yet know how to handle this; I hadn't made a decision. I do not yet understand how to best approach this with my child, my wonderful, honest, caring, loving child, nor did I know what my reaction should be in front of others. I was also petrified of what their reactions might be towards us, which, I suppose, is the reason for writing this. I need to prepare for the reactions. And, I am not just preparing myself.
When I chose the terminology "Angel Daddy" for Matt, it was not to constantly remind everyone, including Gabriel, that Matt is dead. Of course, this is true- he is indeed dead; he is indeed gone from us for the rest of our lives, and there is absolutely nothing that I can do nor that anyone else can do that will bring him back. I did not do this to confuse my child. I did not do this to make him not fit in with the other kids. I did not do this to make him feel alone, different, isolated. I did this out of Love.
I chose the term "Angel Daddy" so that Gabe could differentiate and understand our situation. I did not want Gabe to ever believe that we are biologically his- THAT would confuse him: I want him to be PROUD of the fact that he was sent to me through a miraculous event and divine intervention. I want him to understand his story- our story. I want him to know that he fits perfectly with me, with our family, and with our friends, and that he is loved, so, so loved. I wanted him to know that, no matter what, he has a Mommy who loves him very much, and a man that wanted nothing more than to be a Daddy to him, and to share him with his Mommy. Because of circumstances beyond our control, this did not happen as it was planned, but regardless, it did happen. I did this because I want him to feel loved, special, part of something important. I want him to know that Angel Daddy is something that he can be proud of, and also that Angel Daddy and Mommy are always very proud of him. I wanted him to believe in the powers of God, in the reality of miracles, and in the Love that we give and receive daily.
I also chose the term Angel Daddy so that I could leave it open for a time when someone special came in to our lives. I wanted him to have the freedom to have a daddy, if he so chooses- this will absolutely only be Gabe's decision if he wants to open his heart to someone and call him Daddy. What my child is telling me now is that he does want a daddy. What a special person this will be.
That night, we came home and we talked about Angel Daddy. He knows that Angel Daddy loves him. He knows that Angel Daddy is important in our lives. He knows that Angel Daddy is in Heaven with Jesus and God, and that he watches us and loves us from far away. Gabe knows that Mommy loves him and he knows that Mommy misses Angel Daddy every day. He also knows that even though Mommy misses Angel Daddy, I still enjoy life, and I still work, plan, enjoy, have fun and am loving and kind to those around us. Gabe knows that he is very, very special to my life. He knows that someday he will have someone to call Daddy. Gabe knows Angel Daddy's name is Matthew Gabriel Wagstaff (and quickly says "I'm GabwielWagftaff too!").
What I have given to my son, then, is the best of both worlds. I know this makes people uncomfortable, but that is not my choice- that is other people's choice. And from the beginning, I have said that I need absolutely nothing but love and support and positivity in this area of my life- of our life. And I absolutely mean that. I have a sweet, well-adjusted, intelligent, funny, loving, caring, adorable and courageous child. And I have a child to whom I have given the best of both worlds. I have a child that knows that he is loved wherever he goes, and I have a child that also knows that it is okay to love and move forward in life, even if those we love are no longer with us physically. I have a child that will believe in miracles, and will believe in giving love and kindness to others. What more could any parent ask for?