In theory, today, March 25, is the Solemnity of the Annunciation, or, in layman's terms, the celebration of the day that the Archangel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that, should she be down with it, she'd be the mother of God. (Get it... March 25... December 25... It all works out.) However, today is the last Monday in Lent and is part of Holy Week, so the celebration of the Annunciation is postponed until Monday, April 8th (since April 1st is Easter Monday). Much to Maya's dismay, we will not be going to an Annunciation Mass today. (The kids both really love Church... Bobby has now accurately memorized the Eucharistic Prayers and prays them- in their entirety- along with the priest, including the mimicry of his movements from lifting the chalice or host, to kneeling before the altar... I actually will be a bit surprised if the religious life isn't an option for the two of them...) That being said, in my head, March 25th is the Annunciation and it's what I've been thinking about, so... That's my post for today. I'm sure I'll have plenty to chat about on April 8th. :) (And, just as am interesting note, the Orthodox Churches do not change the Feast of the Annunciation based on Holy Week, etc; there are accomodations made and, as a major feast, it is always celebrated on the 25th.)
So, the word "Fiat", which is what we normally call Mary's response to Gabriel, "Let it be done to me according to thy word," is basically a fancy way to say "yes". The Biblical reference to this is taken from the Gospel of St. Luke (1:26-38).
This has me thinking a lot about my recent year. I try to take time to meditate especially on the Annunciation each year. In 2008, I was dying. Nicholas and Sophia had died the month before and I remember sitting in church, just sobbing. A piece of my soul was missing; how could I possibly go on? How could I possibly say yes to anything? In fact, as shameful as it may be to admit it, I was slightly jealous of Mary. (And, keeping in mind we have the foresight of knowing exactly the price of her yes- to her, to Jesus, to the world- was, I think it's kind of awful to be jealous of the pain and suffering that was to come, even in light of what I was feeling at the time.) I mean, an angel was announcing the joy of a new baby! There was no infertility, no fear of miscarriage, no baby dying... It was just joy. (Clearly, the rantings of someone bereaved since being a pregnant teen who was engaged to someone who was, definitely, not the father of the baby, back in those times was a death sentence...) As I said, I was dying inside.
In 2009, I was newly (like 11dpo newly) pregnant with Bobby and Maya. We'd lost Alexander just before the previous Thanksgiving, I had more miscarriages under my belt, and I was feeling a bit anxious. It's no wonder, but my post conveyed just how much I was hoping to have my own fiat moment.
This year, with three and a half (where has the time gone by) year old twins and twenty two and a half weeks pregnant (again, where has the time gone???), I am once again brought as a fly on the wall to Mary's encounted with the Archangel, a time and place where this young girl- the age of my own birthmother- is given this extraordinary news. It's news that she can accept or decline. Her yes or no will change her mark on history forever. Clearly, tradition and sacred scripture tell us that she accepts, and with a poet's grace: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord... for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant." (the entire response can be found in the Gospel of St. Luke, 1:46-55).
And so we are back to that yes... that 'let it be done to me'...
The monk who is one of the namesakes of our newest one, Father Michael, was mentored by a nun, whose favorite saying was "Always say yes. No will present itself."
In the fall of 2011, when we were struggling with what to do with ourselves following an unexpected 2010 miscarriage and the knowledge that we might actually be able to conceive on our own without help, it was the excellent counseling of priests, a barrage of reading materials that deepened our faith and our marriage, and a lot of prayer- along with meditating on Sister Gabriella's words, that led us to the decision to have the TAC placed by Dr. Haney at University of Chicago. It was our own little fiat. Our saying yes to whatever would come, be it another pregnancy, no pregnancy, a miscarriage, or a full term birth. It was the only choice that, at the end of the day, we felt we could live with.
2012 brought a lot of running and marathon training and, although we discussed whether we'd ever get back on the trying to conceive train, we also felt a great deal of peace with just being us. It was, I suppose, another 'yes', another 'let it be done to us', another 'we're open to life, even if we are infertile'. But even with that, the positive pregnancy test last November left me with shock and, quite honestly, fear. More than any other year, I think I identify with what the Virgin Mary may have actually felt in those moments when Gabriel uttered those unbelievable words. Me? Pregnant? You must be kidding...
As my pregnancy has progressed, through my miscarriage times, out of the first trimester, quickly through the second trimester while leaping over losses and milestones, and now as we approach the less-than-100-days-to-go mark and viability in a week in a half, I am constantly reminded of how our yes back in 2011 changed the course of our history, of our family, of our world.
There are no guarantees- I know that. But this? This is a yes and a path that I didn't see coming. It's something that, although I knew was possible, seemed like such a long shot at best. And yet... And yet, here I am. Belly protruding out, baby moving and kicking, an almost done nursery to remind me, every time I walk by, that we are 15 weeks away from a baby being here. Every time Bobby runs up to me and says "hugs", then wraps his arms around my belly (he hugs my neck when he wants me) and says "Michael" or, his new one, "brother", tears spring to my eyes as I realize what making that single decision to follow Church law and our own beliefs has done. When Maya begs to hang clothes in Michael's closest or goes on (and on and on...) about how she will give him baths/change his diapers/feed him, etc, I am amazed at just how much our fiat has become a "yes" for her, too.
Each day, I find myself amazed, afraid, joyous, terrified, and looking forward. Like Mary, I have no other way except to find a deeply held faith, a faith that at times I didnt even know was buried inside. Without it, there is no way to believe that viability will come... that we'll have a fun (and very active!) vacation without fear of whether or not we will need to find the closet Level III NICU to our resort... that we'll hit the third trimester without concern... that the biggest problem I'm going to have is what to pack as we go to the hospital on July 10th. There's fear and anxiety, but the only prescription for them is a deep breath and a prayer; we've already said yes. There's no going back. And that yes embraced all the possibilities, even the ones that include outcomes no parent wants to endure.
I find myself constantly repeating those words of Mary. Not just the "Let it be done to me according to thy word", but also the opening lines of the Canticle, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant... the Almighty has done great things for me and Holy is His Name." I find myself believing that this time, this time, things will be different.
This time, no matter what, there will be a different ending to the story.