Their Bad Mother

Their Bad Mother

A Prayer Before Birthing

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.


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Heather @ Domestic Extraordinaire

posted May 20, 2009 at 9:35 am

I, too, find myself praying to calm myself. Most of the time I pray for wisdom and guidance. Most of the time just taking that step back helps me to put things into perspective and become a bit more rational.
Wonderful post.

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posted May 20, 2009 at 9:57 am

I was absolutely thinking exactly this this morning – and jotted down a note to consider outlining for my own blog. Oddly.
“Counting Blue Cars” was on the radio, and I was thinking of a conversation I had the other day with one of my closest friends who struggles with God, and the notion of religion, all the time. She lost her mother to ALS the week of her wedding years ago – it was brutal and tortured and unfair. Left her shattered. It is lonely to parent alone (motherless) when you were well-parented yourself.
What she said is “I have to believe that God is not capable of truly interceding. Otherwise, none of it makes sense and I am left angry or agnostic.”
I was thinking – what you said. That I have never felt it was my right to ask for true intercession. I pray for strength, I pray for peace. I believe in the serenity prayer, and the prayer of St.Julian of Norwich – a mantra – “All will be well and all will be well and all manner of things will be well.” I have to believe it is all for some other purpose, that learning comes from all horrors – that life is worth living “after,” and only with strength – wherever it comes from – can we survive to look back at “after,” too.
Thank you for this.
But now what will I write about?

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posted May 20, 2009 at 11:36 am

MckMama over at wrote a spectacular post entitled “Why bother praying?” just last month.
I linked it above. I also wanted to paste here most of the comment I made there because it actually links back to something I was saying on your blog [“sufficient unto this day”] around the same time.
There are times when I’ve felt a little guilty about having the Praying for Stellan graphic on my blog, since I am not the most faithful pray-er. As a matter of fact, what prayers do make it out of me for you guys are typically what I call heart-prayers instead of mind-prayers: basically, just a type of longing, a releasing of or directing of my emotions and perception of what’s going on, that I consciously intend to be directed TO God, without actually verbalizing anything. I guess it’s more like those “groans that words cannot express”, although it’s not limited to tragic moans of sad emotion, but can include gratitude, or even simple enjoyment (like when new pictures are posted).
Anyhow, it was nice to read this post and actually be forced to think about why I feel guilty displaying that graphic. I think it’s because I have been subconsciously thinking of prayer as adding my voice to those asking a favor from “Jesus Claus”, and having the attitude that if I’m not voicing those specific requests often enough I’m not pulling my weight, and uh oh if one person doesn’t throw their voice in there it might not convince “Jesus Claus” to do what we said! (All subconscious)
What a release to be conscious of this and be able to laugh at it!
It wasn’t until I read your post that I really made the connection, but I spent almost an hour today writing up a [strikeout]novel[/strikeout]comment to another friend about this same concept of [people who love each other] wanting to share in one another’s griefs and joys, whether or not we can do anything about it. If I, in my limited knowledge of someone, feel that way, how much more so would an omniscient God, who knows me better than I know myself?
If I, imperfect as I am, feel that caring for someone and sharing in their life is its own reward, how much more so would God? And how happy must he be to hear my love for you expressed in these groans? In caring for you, I honor Him by being like Him.
B, “April’s Mommy”, was writing about this topic just 2 weeks ago, too.

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posted May 20, 2009 at 12:48 pm

Wouldn’t you say that the gift of peace, calm and strength are a kind of intercession?
I have no idea how God’s “plan” works, and how prayer fits into the whole thing. But I really appreciate your honest and articulate discussion of where prayer fits into your own life. xo
Also, Della – your description of heart-prayers describes almost perfectly the only kind of prayers I have usually been able to make. I have been “religious” most of my life, but I have always found discursive prayer difficult – my mind goes blank, and I feel silly, like I am just trying to tell God things he already knows, or tell him that I think I know better than he does. There have been times when the words have flooded out of me, but usually I just ache in my heart and assume that God understands.

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posted May 20, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Fantastic post and great comment too. I guess I’m “religious” because we now attend church every week. But I struggle with prayer and have never understood the extent to which God may intervene in our lives. And I’ve cried out for “favors” myself but even then I knew what I was doing was letting Him hear my desperation. I don’t know if He intervenes and I’m not sure I want to know.

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