Thank goodness for us all, Mary was not living in the age of Planned Parenthood or abortion on demand. Thank goodness for us all, Mary had faith in God that her baby was with her for a reason. Thank goodness for us all, Mary put aside her own fears and worries for her Son, so that we may all come to know God.
In the homily at Christmas Mass, our Priest said something that grabbed my attention: Mary's Son was born to die. Born to die. Wow. What a phrase to hear...but it was the truth. What a brave mother Mary had to have been....knowing she would bear a Son, the love of her life, only to have him die. This scenerio is very relatable for those of us who have been pregnant with children considered to have a "low quality" of life, or children whom we were told would die. What a tough thing to hear from doctors. What a tough burden to carry. And yet are we told to have faith, and press forward as bravely as Mary did? No. More often than not, women are offered the chance to terminate the pregnancy. More often than not, women are told it's "better" for the child....the child shouldn't be born to a life of suffering or death. And sadly, more often than not, women give in to this lie.
We were offered this option with Meagan. At 20 weeks, 23 weeks, even up to 28 weeks pregnant. We were asked on several occasions if we were "continuing the pregnancy." Gosh, that sounds so much nicer than asking if we were going to "kill our baby," doesn't it? The wording is very carefully thought out, and so are the reasons. Every possible reason to terminate was mentioned to us: from Meagan's needs being too hard on us, to her care taking attention away from our four healthy children, to her life being full of unnecessary suffering. I have to admit...the reasons they gave for termination weighed heavily on us - not to terminate, but, about how our lives would change.. how our children's lives would change. But never were these worries reason enough for us to consider killing our unborn child.
The more and more I think about our journey with Meagan, I realize we even had it easier than Mary. Our daughter wasn't born to die a horrible public murderous death. She may have needs that challenge us... or may have to endure suffering we'd prefer her not to experience, but she was born to live. She was born to live the life God meant for her ... not the life my husband and I may have envisioned for our children. Often, even our healthy children choose paths in life we may not have envisioned for them - Meagan is no different. We just know about her different path ahead of time.
Diving deeper into what Mary must have been feeling, I think at some point, she had to understand what was going on, even if she didn't realize it. She had to know that even though she would have a Son, only to watch him suffer and die, she knew there was some greater purpose for all that pain. Her Son may have been born to die - but He was born to die so that we could live. Perhaps that is God's intention in giving certain families special children like Meagan. Perhaps He is reminding us through her birth into a life of suffering, we will truly live. Meagan is so close to God - maybe her being with us is reminding us we need to be closer to God too.
On Christmas Day, I have a small "tradition" that I have been doing for years now... I go to a local nursing home and play Christmas music for the residents. I used to go with my mom when I was in high school, and some years since then have continued this tradition either on my own, or with my mom when she is visiting during the holidays. The residents gathered around - some 'younger' and some very old. Some of sound mind, some not. Some with family, some who were forgotten. We played and sang a lovely array of Christmas carols, hymns, and popular music. As I looked around, I realized that I was staring in the face at something familiar. Many of these residents were like Meagan - they suffered, whether mentally, physically, or emotionally. They had good days and bad days. They probably felt forgotten by the majority of society, and in fact, most people probably felt sorry for them. The one older lady who had family visiting at the time of our concert found out she wasn't going home for Christmas that day as planned. I overheard the mom say as they came in "Sorry Grandma, but we won't be bringing you over to the house today." How awful, I thought.. I'd be so sad! How lonely some of these people must get - especially when plans they knew about fell through. Yet here they were - full of life...sometimes listening intently... sometimes singing in wonderfully awful out of tune notes...and sometimes talking over the music. But all I heard was wonderful harmony. Like Meagan, they pushed through, and no matter what, they were going to have a wonderful Christmas.
I realized last night, that I had experienced the complete circle of life moreso than at any other time in my life. There I was, with a baby who wasn't supposed to be born.... among our oldest generation of people, who weren't supposed to live. But Meagan and those nursing home residents prove us wrong everyday. Just like Mary experienced with her Son - everyone, every person, is born with a purpose. That purpose may be joyous, or it may be sad, but it is a life that is valuable and should be respected. It is honorable to want to take away suffering from our fellow humans, especially our children....but our honor is ruined the moment we advocate ending a life to do so. And how do we measure suffering anyway? How do we say someone is only worthy of life if they do not suffer? How do we know the true good value of life, if we do not have suffering for comparison? We should all be gone then - because whether silly or serious, short term or long term, if you want the truth of the matter... we ALL suffer. Sure, it may be on different levels, but suffering is suffering, is it not? How can we then choose for children to be born because they may suffer? Even our healthy children will suffer at some point in their lives..... yet we never thought a moment about terminating their lives. Why was Meagan's life in more danger in the womb simply because I was given the gift of knowing about her suffering ahead of time? Was my suffering of seeing Meagan's hardships as she grows more important than her life? Was Mary's suffering more important than Jesus' life? I think not.
We should all reflect this year on what a true miracle Christmas is. It is not only the celebration of our Lord's birthday, but also the reminder that he was born to die. For us. How amazing that Mary, who probably like any other mother wanted to see her Son grow and thrive into old age, still stood by her faith, and accepted her role with open arms... her role to be a mother to a child she would have to watch suffer. Why is our soceity not more like Mary? Instead of offering the option to terminate pregnancies with special children, we should be opening our arms to these children. When you think about it, we are truly all born to suffer and die. That is life. By judging the value of these special childrens' lives as a reason point to kill them before they are born, we are possibly terminating a life that could have made a great difference in our world.
As I sat by the tree with Meagan last night, on Christmas night, I was enjoying her cooing and looking at me. She seemed to be having a great day so far. Then, the cooing stopped. She stared off into space, her eyes flickered back and forth, and her head jolted to the side. Sure enough, she had 2 very strong seizures over the next several minutes. I was saddened by this because she was in obvious discomfort...and she had been doing so well. But then I happened to look up..and on our fireplace I spotted our Nativity scene. And then I remembered I shouldn't feel sad for Meagan's suffering, but just be by her side, as Mary was with her Son. I needed to be thankful that God had given us a living, breathing miracle in our lives. I needed to dwell on the great things she'd done that day - the cooing ...the smile she'd given me (the first one since her first smile the week before) and her working hard on tummy time. I needed to be thankful He trusted us with such a special child whose purpose would unfold in years to come. And I needed to be thankful for this Christmas - where 5 words in a Christmas homily spoke to me so clearly.
I looked around at my loving husband who had worked all day on Christmas dinner.... my four healthy girls who dote on Meagan constantly... my parents who help us in more ways than they know ... and my grandma who made the trip all the way from Texas to see this baby....and then I looked down at Meagan, my little miracle. I curled up next to her on the chair, I held her body tightly, and with more meaning than ever, I whispered to my baby..... "Merry Christmas my angel." And merry it certainly was.