Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Heathen Cub

I was interviewed not too long ago by a sociologist who was doing a study on atheists in organized groups. She wanted to know my back story, what groups I belonged to, why I wanted to belong to them, and how that impacted my life. She is an atheist herself, so I trusted the questions were sincere and not some guised attempt at luring me back to "the other side." We had a very candid, personal conversation that in turn brought things to the surface for me in a way that I hadn't bothered seeing before.

I've been an atheist for many years - 17 years actually, and while this is a core part of who I am I never felt compelled to seek out others like me until I was pregnant. Motherhood (well Parenthood - let's not leave out the daddies) has a strange way of making the dormant part of ourselves come bubbling to the surface for scrutiny and evaluation. I wasn't doubting my atheism by any means, but rather thinking about how I would raise my son and as a Free Thinker how I would encourage him to seek his own truth through study and critical thinking. I had a rough pregnancy. We battled fertility to begin with and when I finally was pregnant it just got brutal. I had morning sickness until the day I delivered, vomiting sometimes 10 times a day, scares of pre-eclampsia which had me hospitalized more than once, oh and did I mention I'm a Type 1 diabetic on an insulin pump? So of course, the believers in my life were lighting candles and saying prayers throughout it all and while I found this a sweet gesture, it wasn't actually helping anything.

I think for even those closest to me, the thought was  that experiencing all this hardship would actually make me spiritual. My water even broke 7 weeks early. My son's heartbeat began to drop and wouldn't come back up. They had attempted to stop my labor but couldn't. Due to the dropping heartbeat they had to do an emergency c-section. By the time I was in the operating room there wasn't enough time to numb me so they had to knock me out. Then they couldn't get me intubated so I coded on the table. Nurses were screaming for a crash cart and my poor husband sat completely uninformed in the next room waiting for someone to tell him what the hell was going on. My son was born with no heartbeat. The neonatal specialist in the room revived him and off he went to the NICU while they got me stabilized and off to the grown-up ICU. 18 months later we're both doing great.

So...was this divine intervention? Absolutely not. It was medical intervention. Good old fashioned science equipped me to struggle with and conquer my diabetes and other medical issues during pregnancy so this boy could stay in the womb long enough to survive when he made his early debut. My husband and I had to be an advocate for our little fetus and discussed putting me off work with our doctors as early as 5 weeks into the pregnancy so that I could make taking care of myself a full-time job until showtime. I've had people ask me how it is that I don't consider this a miracle. While I sometimes refer to my boy as our miracle baby, I don't literally mean he is some sort of gift handed to me by a mythological character. I know that is offensive to some, but frankly it's offensive to give credit to anyone but me, my husband and our medical team for our awesome outcome. I choose deliberately and wholeheartedly to reject the idea of a higher power, as I know there is no power greater than the belief in oneself. I had two miscarriages before having my son. No great nor evil power is to blame for that. Those losses are what made me buckle down and believe in myself strongly enough to make sure this one made it. And he did. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.