Catherine Connors is a mother, writer and recovering academic who traded the lecture hall for the playroom and discovered that university students and preschoolers have much the same attention span. She still dips her toes into academic waters by writing the occasional scholarly article about the place of motherhood in Western philosophy, but mostly now she changes diapers and wipes noses and indulges in long reflections on whether Yo Gabba Gabba is a harbinger of the decline of western civilization. Oh, and she blogs: in addition to Bad Mother blogging at BeliefNet, she is, among other things, the author of HerBadMother.com, Managing Editor of MamaPop, moderator of Her Bad Mother’s Basement, co-founder and co-editor of WeCovet, Contributing Editor at BlogHer, and (deep breath) founder of and contributor to Canada Moms Blog. And in her spare time… oh, wait. She doesn’t have spare time. But she’s okay with that.
It’s been years since I’ve attended church regularly – it has, in all honesty, been years since I’ve set foot in a church at all – but I still pray. Not every day, but a lot of days. Usually when I’m struggling with stress or anxiety. It’s a kind of meditation for me. I repeat the prayers of my childhood, or I do Hail Marys. Sometimes I just run through different versions of the Lord’s Prayer, over and over and over again. It relaxes me. Why it relaxes me – and why it relaxes me when everything else about organized religion puts me in a state of anxiety – would take more space than I have here, so I’ll leave that question for another day.
What I don’t do when I pray: petition on my own or another’s behalf. I don’t ask God make something better or to change anything; I don’t ask him to heal my nephew or to provide more work for my husband or to see to it that the Canucks win the Stanley Cup. I don’t ask God to intercede. Or rather, I mostly don’t ask God to intercede. I have, on a few occasions, asked for help. Those occasions were when I was pregnant. There were a few times, over the course of my two pregnancies, when Hail Marys just did not do the trick. I needed something more than just a calm mind. I needed help. And so I asked God for help.
In my first pregnancy, I had multiple miscarriage scares, and I prayed, each time, that God intercede. In my second pregnancy, I had a genetics scare, which led to amniocentesis and risk of miscarriage, and I prayed that God help. And I had a labor scare when my son came too fast, much too fast, and tore me open when we were speeding down the highway to the hospital. I begged God to do something then. I cried a lot when I said those prayers. I cried because I was afraid, but I cried, also, because those petitionary prayers didn’t calm my heart. I knew that I should pray for grace, that I should pray for the strength to accept what might happen, that I should pray for understanding and patience and peace. I knew that I could not be at ease with petitionary prayer, because I don’t believe in petitionary or intercessory prayer. The God that I believe in doesn’t pick and choose which tragedies to forestall – why should he intervene in my miscarriage but let babies starve in Darfur? – so my prayers, I knew, were just wishes lobbed at heaven. They weren’t meditative. They weren’t even conversation, if one understands prayer as a sort of reflective, spiritual conversation. They were just cries in the dark.
I knew that at the time, but I couldn’t help myself. Sometimes, when you’re afraid, all you can do is cry out at the fear and beg the universe to stop. I would probably do the same again, were I to face such fear again. I will do the same again, I know. But I would tell any woman who would turn to prayer during pregnancy or birth to pray for peace and strength, rather than pray for divine intervention. To pray for a calm heart.
And, in the meantime, take vitamins and make sure the epidural’s booked.