Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Warning: May be offensive to some readers

Disclaimer: I don't wish to offend anyone who reads this blog--and I appreciate any and all who do and who comment--but at the same time, this is my place to vent my feelings related to TTC. Some of you who are devoted believers in God or in the power of prayer may find this post offensive. You have been warned.

I was raised strictly Roman Catholic by my father and my devout Irish grandmother. (My mother, raised Protestant--Presbyterian, I think?--promised when she married in the Catholic church that her children would be raised Catholic and thus supported this path as well.) Until I went to college at age 17, the only Sunday of mass I had ever missed was when I had the chicken pox at age 6. . . and then only because I was still contagious. We even attended mass on holy days of obligation, made sacrifices during Lent, didn't eat meat on Fridays, prayed the rosary, the whole deal.

So I guess it's no surprise that I often think about religion and sometimes consider going back to attending church regularly. I'm not certain that my beliefs are any longer aligned enough with Catholicism to allow me to attend the church of my youth every Sunday (though I do still go on rare occasions), and I've not found another church where I feel more comfortable.

Church is also an activity in which MM has no desire to participate. He was raised Lutheran and went to church regularly with his mother until he was confirmed at age 13. . . . after which he was told that whether to go to church was his decision and he promptly stopped. Pressed to describe my husband's religious beliefs, I would likely say he is agnostic. He believes in a supreme being but doesn't particularly believe in organized religion. He thinks that most of the questions which religion seeks to answer ask the unknowable. (He thinks that "religion is a crutch for the weak-minded," too, but that's another post.)

I've been thinking about God and religion these past few days for a few reasons. One is that a dear friend of mine has asked me to be one of her infant son's godmothers at his Episcopal baptism on Easter Vigil. I am very honored to have been asked! Although my sister long ago asked me to be Rowan's godmother, Rowan has not actually been baptized as yet, so this will be my first time serving as godmother. So I will be going to church again--a church much like my own--in the near future.

Also, happily, the case on which I serve as a CASA volunteer may soon be coming to a close because it looks as though a successful adoptive placement has been found for little M. I don't want to raise my hopes too much, lest things fall through (as they have before), but M had a positive first meeting with the prospective parents last weekend, and things are proceeding. I really hope this is "it" for her; every child deserves to have a permanent, loving home. Thinking of M's circumstances thus far in her young life (a mere nine years) often makes me question the existence of a benevolent God.

Then I heard about two other things today that give me additional food for thought. A coworker related a story about a two-year-old girl who she encountered at an urgent care last night whose mother (younger infant also in tow) exhibited an apparent disregard for her child's needs and developmental level. And an online friend of mine who recently had IVF found out that she is not pregnant.

Working as a volunteer with abused and neglected children in foster care and just living life and observing what goes on around me, I have long found it hard to see a benevolent God at work in deciding who becomes a parent. I've known parents who are abusive, more who are neglectful, and parents who put their addictions before their children's best interests. I've known plenty of people who never wanted children and didn't really want them once they arrived. I've known an even greater number of parents whose behavior would not qualify for the intervention of Child Protective Services or the like, but is damaging to the child all the same.

In addition to my 7+ plus years as a CASA volunteer, MM supervises felons on probation, so there isn't a week that goes by when he doesn't hear about someone's unplanned (and usually unwanted) pregnancy. Most of his male felons have little or nothing to do with the children they father, either in terms of financial support or actual involvement in the child's daily life. I suppose it is possible for someone to be a convicted criminal and still be a good parent, but that's not usually what MM sees.

At the same time, I know a number of decent, caring, successful people who are unable to have children of their own. As one example, one of the partners in my firm--a devoted, Christian family man who has been married for nearly 40 years--has two grown children, both of whom have struggled with infertility. (His daughter ended up having two children through IVF, and his son and his wife are still waiting to adopt, after having had one adoption fall through--heartbreakingly--just before Christmas last year.)

As we have continued along our own longer-than-expected journey to parenthood, I've met (via the internet) even more people who fall into this latter category. It sometimes almost seems that one's fertility is inversely proportional to one's ability to be a decent parent. (Well, not really, because I do know a few good people who have four or more children and are good, loving parents.)

Putting aside the obvious effect on those who want children and cannot have them--because one could argue that it's somehow part of "God's plan" for some of us to wait longer/work harder to become parents--when I think about this state of affairs, what makes me doubt God's involvement in the process is the children themselves. What child deserves to be born to a parent who will abuse or neglect her? Or to be unwanted? Or even to be born to a parent who will fail to nurture her and allow her to live up to her full potential?

The only explanation that has allowed me reconcile what I see in the world with God's existence is this: whether and when children are born, and to what parents, is something with which God does not involve himself. Like war, or famine, or disease, it's simply a part of the human condition, and no amount of prayer or devotion will affect it one iota.

The other logical explanation--that God allows innocent, defenseless children to suffer needlessly--is just unacceptable to me.

I know there are those who "pray to become pregnant," and I certainly don't judge them. I have prayed about numerous things in my life myself. But I for one don't believe that prayer works for this. To the extent that I pray about TTC at all, I pray that God will grant me the grace and serenity to accept whatever happens and to cope in the event that I never have a child of my own.

And yet if I *DO* ever have a baby of my own. . . . I am sure I will say that I am blessed.


  1. A very thought provoking post. I am no religious scholar and I often have the same questions you have written about. If prayer alone could get you pregnant, I believe I'd have 2 or 3 children by now!!

  2. I agree with much that you have written. I do believe it must pain God to see that the children are being mistreated. Wouldn't we feel the same if our creation were being wronged? We have freewill, and sadly many of us do not make the right choices and even worse it affects the innocent people.

    Infertility has really made me question my beliefs. I hate to say that it put a separation between me and God. I hate that I let it get that far. I am trying to come back, but it is hard with a husband who won't go to church with me. I miss church, but cannot bring myself to go without him.

  3. WOW...I hadn't read this before I posted my entry today. Does it scare you how much we think alike? I know it does me!

    And I will say this - for all that it is worth - when I do go to Catholic Mass, it's alone. My husband won't attend because that wasn't the faith that he was raised in...and I understand this. Catholics, as a whole, are a bit judgmental about other faiths and are perhaps exclusive. My husband gave my parents the greatest gift my agreeing to be married in my childhood church...and I know that we'll find middle ground eventually, but I keep putting it off because I know that it would break my mom's heart. But I do find some solace in attending alone - when I do.

  4. Great post. I struggle with this as well--if I'm okay with saying "blessed" for the good things in my life, then why do I feel less comfortable with attributing pain that I and others experience to God as well? It seems to me that this inability to be honest with God about how we are angry and think God is responsible comes from a somewhat shallow belief system, that can't handle feelings of injustice and grief. Either that, or we've been too influenced by the evangelical Christianity view that Christians must be happy all of the time. But interestingly, the psalmists didn't seem to struggle with this at all--they directly ask God why he has abandoned them, and lament their sufferings by blaming God for them. So perhaps it's completely appropriate to do so? (sorry for the long comment)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.