Tuesday, October 12, 2004


Being an atheist doesn't make me a bad or immoral person. I believe that I live a decent life, married to my husband nearly 12 years, no infidelities, no abuse of person nor narcotics (except occasional use of pot, which is now off limits), no murder, etc.

I like religious people of all kinds. I find their faith incredible and have immense respect for it. It's interesting to hear of their beliefs. My youngest brother and his wife are devout Christians. They love their church and through it they've found happiness. As long as they don't try to convert me or pressure me, we can enjoy each other's company and be very at ease.

I just don't have any faith. I don't. I was raised Catholic as a child. I believed there was a God. Well, I believed until hell hit our home in the form of an abusive stepfather. I prayed for help and peace and it didn't come. I had to take matters into my own hands. Some would say that my actions were the result of my prayers. I believe that my actions were the result of my choices. I no longer believed that someone was looking out for me. That would include not only God but my parents as well. I could find strength only in myself.

It is a little scary. When you don't believe there is a net to catch you. When you feel alone when you are alone, and that death is the end of life. Life seems a little more precarious.

When times are good, I do not give credit to God. When times are bad, I do not blame God or ask him to fix it. To pray only when times are bad seems hypocritical to me.

So today my best friend Valerie asked me to pray her baby. Her 5 month old is having open heart surgery tomorrow to repair her broken valve. It's common with Downs babies. Valerie knows I don't believe so I know she feels funny asking me, yet she still thinks that my prayers could make a difference.

So I struggle. I could easily go through the motions. Say some prayers or tell her that I did. Yet I don't believe. They would not be sincere. It's not that I don't love her baby or want her to do well tomorrow. I love her with a hugely strong intensity that I can't describe. It's more than just a love for a best friend's baby. It's fiercely protective. I fear for future pains and want to make sure she has what she needs even when she becomes an adult. It's not about love for the baby.

It is about love for my friend. If saying these words will comfort her, I will probably say them. I don't understand how that can give her comfort, but then I don't understand much about faith. Am I being untrue to myself by saying prayers for her comfort? Or is it the humane thing to do under the circumstances? If it were not heart surgery for a child, I would not agree to pray for someone else. I would tell them instead that I love them and I will keep them in my thoughts.

Valier also sent me a poem which tells the story of God picking out special mothers to send disabled children too. Again, this is something that I think gives her comfort, but I read it and it upsets me. Of course the story is meant to be an homage to these mothers, but it bothers me. If God is hand selecting mothers, then why aren't some infertile women pregnant? They include all the qualities described. Why did I have such problems conceiving? Am I not good enough? I know, I know, I'm taking this poem all wrong. I know that, okay? It also makes me sad because not all disabled kids get the mothers described in the poem. It's not made special for them or any other baby. It's science and not someone deciding who is worthy enough to become a parent. Damn drug abusers get pregnant all the time.

Instead, I tend to see that it's the woman and her actions that make her a good mother to a special needs or any child. With my friend, when her daughter was born with Downs, she went through tremendous grief and shock. Neither the triple screen nor the ultrasound had predicted this, and they didn't test for it in her late amnio. Valerie had just suffered through the still birth of her first daughter only two years earlier. Her husband had brain surgery just 5 years earlier.

It took time, but the shock and grief did dissolve. She's now deeply bonded with her baby and considering becoming an advocate for Downs children. She'd be a great one. She has a master's in psychology and was working as a social worker for children before her daughter was born. She's extremely strong willed, open and direct. She's afraid of noone and actually enjoys confrontation for a good cause.

I think she's a good mother to a disabled child because she's a good and strong person. She didn't choose this road, but now that she's there she's going to go beyond what is usual to do more simply because of who she is. I admire her greatly, although I try not to act star struck in her presence.

So was she chosen to be a good mother to a child with special needs? Or did she become one? Again, I have to give full credit to her.

So when she sent me the poem I told her it was beautiful because she does embody all the characteristics that are described. And if she asks me to pray, I will go through the motions for her comfort. It feels sort of dishonest, but at times like these, when she's facing what she's facing, I'll do what I can to make it easier for her. She knows how I feel and what I believe and so will know that I'm doing this for her.

And as for my genuine authentic self, her daughter will be in my thoughts and hopes. I am flying out there tomorrow even though I can't be by her side (only parents allowed in the PICU), I can stand vigil in the hospital. They do these surgeries all the time. The surgeon is the best in the state. My rational mind tells me that she'll be fine. My emotions are uneven as I fear for her and my friend. I'd do anything to make it easier for them and if this is what it is, then that is what I will do.


Blogger Alana said...

Yea. I know what you're saying. I always tell friends (who ask for prayers) that they will be in my thoughts, and hope that they will not expect me to be too literal. Because in their crisis, it's not about me anyway, it's about them, and they are asking for some comforting words.

11:19 PM  
Blogger akeeyu said...

I'm with Alana. When people ask me to pray for them, I say "I'll think good thoughts for you," which I figure amounts to about the same thing, anyway.

2:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a Christian - but I think if you tell your dear friend that she and her child are in your closest thoughts - that's kind of like a prayer. Not to any "god" or higher power - but just putting those thoughts out there in support of your friend. I don't think you need to "go through the motions" to satisfy some technicality in what people consider prayer. Prayer is different for everyone. And if you're not a believer - then I think your good thoughts are quite enough. Your friend knows you love her, and that's what counts.

Since I do believe, and do pray - I will add your friend and her baby to my prayers. I will also keep a happy thought for them.

All the best to you.


7:06 AM  
Blogger Merely Mom said...

I tend to agree with what the previous poster said. I am right there with you in the God department. Just last night I was telling my mother in law about my upcoming IVF cycle. It will happen over Thanksgiving week and wanted to give her a heads up about being on stims during that time. She said it was nice to be informed so she could better focus her prayers..... She is a devout Christian. I wanted to tell her that all the prayers in the world didnt make my first IVF cycle or FET cycle work.

Tell your friend how much you love her child, and that your very best thoughts are with them. Being there will prove that.

I'll keep her in my thoughts as well

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good, close, positive thoughts not only count....they're priceless.

Adding my own to the mix.

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I consider myself an agnostic, and like you, I was raised Catholic. I no longer pray nor do I have faith in the power of prayer for similar reasons that you described in this post.

I think in a situation like yours, I might ask my friend if she would say a prayer for her child (out loud) as you sit with her. For me, just connecting with another person who is scared/hurting/grieving/sad is a form of prayer in itself.

I will think good thoughts for your friend and her child.


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