The Atheist Prays (and other musings on existential crises)

17 Jun

So I’ve been really down the last couple of days. I’m still pretty sure about our decision to count on Ole’ Lefty, but I feel like I’m already preparing myself for the next inevitable loss. I mean – my luck has been so crappy thus far – I highly doubt I’ll catch a break. The bottom line is I’m scared out of my wits.

I spent the day going back and forth in my head about this decision. Debating. Discussing. There was even an emergency call to my shrink to talk it over with her, in which as usual, she dropped some wisdom and perspective on my ass. Basically, she said I’m upset not because of the decision, but rather because neither decision is ideal. She also pointed out that on a lot of levels, what we have is good news, because my body has been deemed healthy enough for us to try again naturally. A wise woman indeed.

But all of that didn’t do much to allay my fears. I keep on googling incessantly to try to figure out what the chances are of a left side ovulation going into the right tube. And Dr. Google is failing me miserably.

I’ve written here quite a bit about my general heathenism. I have a serious issue with organized religion, and I don’t really know what I believe in. I would categorize myself as an atheist, yet today, I found myself trying to bargain with god, or fate or the universe, or something.

It was toward the end of my yoga class, where I’ve been avoiding twists due to the fact that my right side is still sore from the HSG (is that normal, BTW?).

We were sitting in a sort of meditation and I found myself speaking to the heavens:

“God, or Universe, or Fate, or whatever you are – please make this work. Please let me get pregnant through the correct tube and let this baby stick. I promise that if you do I’ll believe in you. Please prove to me that there is something out there by granting me this one humble request.”

This whole bargaining thing kind of caught me off guard. I surprised myself with this internal monologue. But Twofer’s words keep on echoing in my head: “God owes you one.” And “all you can really do at this point is pray.”

My shrink and I have been talking quite a bit about how this whole repeat miscarriage thing is a manifestation of this ongoing existential crisis that I’ve had for as long as I can remember.

At the age of 8, I realized that I was going to die, and that I didn’t believe in God, and I had my first ever panic attack right there on the spot (just like any normal 8 year old, right?).

Since then, I’ve been plagued with anxiety and a constant search for some sort of comfort or spiritual direction, with no luck. I’m a born skeptic. This may sound pompous, but I’m too smart for my own good. I out-smart myself all the time and go into fits of circular logic.

I know I’m kind of rambling here. But I do have a point – I think.

I wish I could have faith. I wish I could just plug my nose and dive in and be sure that everything will be alright, because “God owes us one.”

But instead, I’m back to Einstein. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. Statistically, I’ve already been screwed in every way possible. there’s only a 5% chance of infection from a D&C, and I fell into that percentile. There’s like – what? a 1% chance of an ectopic? Check. About a 40% chance of a repeat ectopic? Double check. Not to mention that there’s only a 15% chance every month for a woman to get pregnant and somehow Shmerson’s super sperm have managed twice to swim up a partially blocked tube and knock me up against all odds on the first month out of the gate, not to mention his first bulls-eye which led to the Blighted Ovum.

So – the chances of Ole’ Lefty not picking up the egg from my left ovary and it swimming over to Righty instead are most likely slim. But I’m apparently a freak of nature. Statistics count for nothing.

So all I have left is prayer. And that’s kind of a crappy place to be when you’re an atheist who has been in a constant existential crisis for over two decades.

Today I sat there and begged the universe for proof of some meaning. I bargained. I hoped beyond all hope that there was something – anything – listening.

I wish I was a believer. Maybe then all of this would make sense on some level.

But for now, I’m stuck somewhere between Einstein and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, sitting in a Yoga class, begging for some faith, and making deals with someone or something that I generally don’t think actually exists.

Maybe that’s the definition of insanity.

15 Responses to “The Atheist Prays (and other musings on existential crises)”

  1. Esperanza June 17, 2011 at 02:50 #

    I am also an atheist but in my 20s, and then very much during my ectopic, I started really pining after some sort of spirituality. I needed something to turn to when the going got tough, when I couldn’t find any answers. I knew I didn’t believe in God and my dad had some stuff on Taoism and Buddhism lying around so I started looking to those. I found the meaning in life that I was looking for in Buddhism and while I don’t have the time to dedicate to it now, I am so glad I have it to fall back on if I ever need it.

    I think bargaining is a very normal, natural human fall back. When we want something we do what we’ve always done to get things in the past, bargain. Unfortunately there are (so many) things in life that can’t be bargained for. Those uncertainties are the hardest to handle because in many ways there is no “I’m owed one” or “it’s my time”. Some people never get a time. That is just the way it is.

    If you need to make sense of all the suffering in the world I would highly recommend a short but powerful Buddhist tome. Even if you are not Buddhist I think it would be very, very helpful and comforting. It was the ONLY thing that touched my heart and soul after my ectopic. It’s called When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron and it’s wonderful. If you can get a hold of it, do. If not, tell me and I will send you my copy.

    I have bargained a lot in my life. It’s hard to accept that some things can’t be bargained for and in the end, none of us are owed anything. When you think of how little so many people in the world have, I wonder why us “westerns” think anything is owed us ever.

    Once I was reading a baby loss blog and the bereaved mother said something to this affect, “I kept asking, over and over, why me? And then one day I asked, Why not me? And I was humbled.” Ever since I read that, when the going got tough I always asked myself, why not me?

    I don’t know if any of this makes sense, or if it’s what you want to hear. It’s just what I feel I’ve learned along the way.

    I hope you get the answers you are looking for.

    • Mo June 17, 2011 at 02:59 #

      It makes perfect sense. I often look at my life, and see how lucky I truly am – to have a happy marriage, a loving and supportive family, reasonable financial stability, and feel unworthy – even frustrated with myself for not being grateful enough and instead dwelling on my losses.
      My Yoga instructor actually recommended the Chodron book and I haven’t yet been able to get a hold of a copy, so I may take you up on that offer.
      Thanks for the insights.

      • Esperanza June 17, 2011 at 04:08 #

        Please do. I would love to send you a copy. Bodega Bliss has my copy but it’s not very expensive and I could easily send you another copy. It’s really wonderful.

        I also want to say that I don’t mean to imply that you shouldn’t be devastated by your losses. I’ve been devastated by much less loss in my own life. I just think sometimes perspective can be helpful. Of course we can always find people who’ve suffered less than us, but the reality is most of the world suffers more. Sometimes that is helpful to remember. Sometimes it’s not.

        Email me with your address and I’ll send you the book. It’s great.

        • Mo June 17, 2011 at 16:37 #

          Thanks hon, and I didn’t feel like you were minimizing my losses. I totally get what you’re saying. It’s all about perspective.

  2. Port of Indecision June 17, 2011 at 03:34 #

    From one atheist to another, I think it’s fine that you were praying/bargaining to god/the universe/FSM/whoever. As far as I can tell, atheists’ prayers are about as effective as believers’ prayers 🙂

    I’m with you. I don’t believe. I *cant* believe. I never understand when passionate members of a modernly accepted religion scoff at the ridiculousness of, say, Greek mythology. Modern religions are equally far-fetched to me. And (and this is a post I’ve had banging around in my head for some time), I’m actually relieved to not believe. I’m relieved to believe in science and a world that is neither benevolent nor cruel, it simply is. I’d find it really disturbing to believe in an omnipotent being who keeps knocking me up with fetuses that are going to die.

    • Mo June 17, 2011 at 16:38 #

      ” I’m relieved to believe in science and a world that is neither benevolent nor cruel, it simply is”
      Beautifully stated. I really found comfort in that. Thanks hon.

  3. chon June 17, 2011 at 03:41 #

    Even though I too don’t believe in God I find myself sometimes asking him for a break. But I think that we are in actually just asking for a break from anyone who will listen, or maybe for me I just need to hear myself talk. All I know is that you and I and all these other infertile, fertile m/c women need a break just like anyone else in life.

  4. Ready4Miracle June 17, 2011 at 03:51 #

    Sending love!!
    Also- to help make sense of things, maybe give Rob Bell’s book Love Wins a chance… An atheist friend of mine is reading it (as is my womens bible study group)… It’s an interesting read with some interesting theories! (at least in my opinion)! 🙂
    I pray that ur prayer gets answered honey!! 🙂

    • Mo June 17, 2011 at 16:39 #

      Thank you. 🙂

  5. missohkay June 17, 2011 at 04:07 #

    I’m a believer but having just as much of an existential crisis as you are, sounds like. My problem is exactly what The Port of Indecision identifies… God could have made one of my babies live but didn’t and that pisses me off, even if it’s all part of some grand plan. Which I can only assume it is.

    • Mo June 17, 2011 at 16:41 #

      I think no matter what we believe, we all try to think of things in a grander context and try to give them meaning. I think the problem comes when we can’t take a step back and look at it that way, or what we face just seems so senseless it’s almost callous to try to assign a grand meaning to it. Does that make any sense?

  6. Christina June 17, 2011 at 04:37 #

    I sometimes find myself “praying” or bargaining with whatever the higher power(s) that may be there for things to work or continue to go well. I do somewhat miss the joy and ease of having blind faith in something. Those people seem so happy and things generally seem to go their way or close to it.

    Just remember – there is one sure thing about probabilities and statistics. You can fall on either side of it regardless of it being a “low %” or a “sure thing”. You can never predict which proportion you’ll fall into and you can’t really do anything to change it. Just try and enjoy the ride!

  7. Jjiraffe June 17, 2011 at 09:21 #

    Oddly, this post reminded me of the musical “The Book of Mormon”, which just won a bunch of Tonys. I heard the writers, who are atheists, interviewed, and they were saying that they yearn to be believers, because there are undeniable benefits, but they just can’t do it.

    I have found that many members of the ALI community gravitate towards Buddhism, because of its acceptance of loss. I personally maybe have been most comforted by this statement from the very wise Justine of A Half-Baked Life: “I don’t think we should grow up believing that life should be free from pain or disappointment.” and yet, I did. Trying to free myself of this belief is hard.

    This has become ramble-y. I think your shrink is right. And go with your instinct. Wishing you many hugs.

  8. Cattiz J June 17, 2011 at 16:30 #

    I really hope this will work for you, you so deserve it. I too like many others have found great comfort in Buddhist teaching. For me most of it is common sense and very much put things in perspective. Go with your instinct and be kind to yourself.

  9. BleedingTulip June 17, 2011 at 20:48 #

    I think this is all so natural. You’re in my prayers. I can’t imagine going through all that I have gone through, or what you have gone through, without my faith. I don’t think I’m going to really convince you to believe, although I would say that I see the world and it makes sense to me, is logical to me, that there be something bigger out there. Your recounting of your 8 year old experience made me chuckle because I have had panic attacks and theological train of thoughts from a young age too.

    I truly hope that this plan works and you have a normal, healthy pregnancy finally. Hoping and praying for you Mo. *hugs*

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