Sunday, June 27, 2010

An answer to Kristin's "Big Questions"

If you want to read the post that inspired this then go here: Kristin's "Big Questions"

Now, gentle readers, if you've been following along you've read The God post and it's follow up In addition to the God post. These are my thoughts on God all summed up with a neat little bow on top. Please refer there before reading this.

However, my thoughts on prayer are a little more murky. You see, I do pray. Now, someone may question me "Emily, why would you pray if you don't believe in God?" and my honest answer would be "ya know, I'm not sure...but when I do it, it just feels right".

And that would be the sum total of it. Basically I don't really expect anything to come of my prayers. I do not expect them to be listened to. I do not expect God or anyone else to answer as if he (or she) were picking up my distress signals like an SOS or a message in a bottle. I don't expect my prayers to change the outcome. But, I ask for things to turn out the way I want them just the same.

For me, praying is like reaching out for hope. Like reaching out to touch what is good in this world and pull it around me. Like grasping hold of a blanket in the cold or an umbrella in the rain. It's a form of protection for myself. To show myself that I still believe good things can happen. Like when I first started bleeding in my pregnancy I begged "Please, please, let my baby be okay". If I didn't believe that it was at least possible, why would I bother to ask for it? To me it is a way to connect to hope, to connect to my inner strength of belief that good things can happen. They might not always...but they can.

But no, I don't believe God or anyone else can perform miracles. I actually out right object the the word miracle. I absolutely abhor it. It always angers me at my hospital when they talk about some kid's recovery as 'a miracle'. Because HELLO! Miracles are by definition RARE. Another person with a similar problem would find themselves in the majority if they experienced a very different and less 'miraculous' outcome. Yet by calling something a miracle, it somehow puts the recipient in a 'deserving' light. As if MY 23 weeker died because he somehow wasn't as deserving as some the other RARE 23 weeker who survives. It's just another way to look at statistics. The chances of survival of a 23 weeker is about 17% from things I've read. Therefore it's rare. If Aidan had survived he would have been one of those 17/100, but since he did not he joins the other 83/100. There is no magic involved. If you are wishing for a miracle you might get it...or you might not. It's all just up to chance.

As for the plan question, I don't think there is a 'life plan' out there for me. I think the choices I make, and the things that have happened in the past, narrow down the things that could happen to me in my future. For example, I speak English fluently. I don't speak any other language. Therefore, despite living in a country with two official languages, it was 'destined' for me to marry someone who also spoke English. Cuz, duh, it would be hard to communicate with someone who doesn't. So that narrowed down that decision. Now, I was also living in a certain area of the country when I decided to seek out a boyfriend who it turns out became my husband. I wasn't about to go looking outside of my main city, or very far outside my own age it was destined that I'd find someone fitting those criteria. So voilĂ , you've now narrowed down the people for whom I was 'destined' to marry to a certain population. Namely, male, within my age range, living fairly close by to me, who speaks English. You can see how this would quickly narrow down your choices in life.

But, perhaps more in line with your question Kristin, I do feel a certain 'Alice Through The Looking Glass'-ness when I now see photos of myself as a child, or a teenager, or on our wedding day and think "wow...I didn't know it then, but my future held a dead baby..." But then I think, no it didn't. In those pictures I wasn't pregnant. Aidan was a non-entity. A million things could have happened other than a dead baby...but they didn't. It wasn't meant to just is.

As to whether God is responsible for all the good things in my life, and/or all the bad things? I don't believe that either. I just can't. If I 'deserved' all the good things in my life, then would it also mean I 'deserved' all the bad things too? I just don't think it works that way. There is no mistake I've made that deserves a dead baby, nor is there anything so wonderful that I've done that made me deserve to survive and do well with the heart defect I was born with. I can be absolutely dumb struck by my statistical chance in both cases...but I don't feel deserving of either.

And sadly, I don't know the meaning of life.

Although I have a sneaking suspicion that there isn't one.


  1. emily, thank you, your last line made me laugh. i find it funny how nicely your response to kristin's questions tied into the post you had already made earlier today. i consider myself "religious," but many times in my life, most especially now, i have struggled with my faith. i have read your previous "god posts," and very much appreciate your non-religious explanation of how you view prayer. "reaching out for hope" is pretty much what i'm doing when i pray, too. as i said in my response to kristin's post, if my praying is what's going to make the difference next time around between a dead baby or a living one, i must pray. it is my hope.

  2. Having 'one of each' when it comes to my own 23 weekers, the miracle tag makes me feel a bit ill. I thought they were both miracles, still do. Babies don't survive because of their 'fighting spirit' or the 'love of their parents who kept believing', it really makes me angry when people tell me things like that. In my opinion its part dumb luck and part medical technology and expertise.

    I always wondered why it is that, despite the fact that I also don't pray with the expectation of being heard, that I still pray. I think it is of pulling in some positivity and some hope to myself. I never thought of it like that before but what you have written makes perfect sense to me.

    I'm also fairly certain that there isn't some overarching plan. I can't decide whether that is upsetting or liberating really.

  3. Thanks Emily. You always give me a lot to think about! :) I have had the desire to pray, often, since Stevie died, and it does seem more like me reaching out for hope. I need to re-read this and all the other comments on my blog and process. Lots of interesting thoughts!

  4. This is very well-put, Emily. I agree that there is likely no "plan" and no rhyme or reason. If my baby dying was part of God's "plan" I have no respect for that plan.