What not to say to an agnostic in a pickle

I saw two beautiful faces yesterday. Four perfect hands, four little feet I’d kiss any day of the week. They were my twins during a special high-resolution ultrasound at the behest of doctors (oh, doctors) after we discovered something is amiss with the little twin’s health. It’s amazing they look so much like “real” babies already. It felt like I could reach through the screen and poke little binkies in their mouths, despite their 9 centimeter length and the disturbing mass on Baby A’s belly. As you have probably figured, I wasn’t there because I was getting good news.

We’re in a bit of a spot with this pregnancy. Well, if you call 50/50 odds of a “lethal” chromosomal defect in one of the twins that could result in the loss of both babies (and even if we’re on the good side of those odds, we’re still facing surgery on our infant) as a spot. People have generally been cool to me. The doctors are as warm as they can be while delivering unpleasant news and my friends, in-laws and husband have formed a football huddle that cooks me dinner and lets me cry. I think I’m even getting a VIP parking spot at Northwestern Hospital. Err, I’m just going to move into the lobby.

You know what’s not helpful though? Condescending religious bullshit. There. I’m sorry. You probably feel less warm towards me and my struggle, but the truth is, we’re not a family of faith. I wish I was the gentle, matronly, faithful person you might imagine when you see my profile picture in all it’s generic American glory. Surprise!

It’s not that we don’t pray. Praying is a natural human instinct to sooth ourselves, like when a baby sucks his thumb. It provides comfort. But sets of arbitrary and often sexist rules that ignore large swaths of science? It’s just not us. I wish it were, you have no idea. Agnostics have great envy of the faithful – it must be nice to have all the answers. But we don’t. So please, continue sending your prayers and good vibes and positive thoughts to our family, but never say stuff to us like . . .

1. “God has a plan.” Really? So what kind of plan is that? The same plan that killed all those screaming kids with a tornado last week, or the plan that wiped out 100,000 people with a tsunami on Christmas? I don’t mean to offend those who are religious, but don’t dismiss our worry over our child and insinuate that seeking solutions with a medical team is somehow against the wishes of your invisible sky friend. Maybe God has a plan, maybe he just set up a bunch of dominoes and left the room to play xbox. Ask Nietzsche. Telling us God has a plan when our child has a high prognosis of infant mortality feels pretty horrible, like our baby’s suffering “is for the best”. Cold!

2. “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” It’s hard for me to hear things like this because I did grow up in Church and believed like my life depended on it for years. Somewhere in my heart I still believe some of this crap, which is why it’s VERY HARD to hear this particular phrase. What you are saying to me is God, creator of the universe and supreme judge of all, thinks I can’t handle four kids. Fuck that. I’m supermom over here. There is nothing I wouldn’t do or give or endure for my children. I could handle a special needs kid. I could handle it if she split into three babies who screamed day and night for a year. What I cannot handle is people who are supposed to be my friends and family basically telling me, Whoops!, God thought for a second you were mom enough for four kids, but nope! Soww-ee! You can’t handle that! If only you had been on top of the laundry, young lady!

3. “Hope is a last resort.” This is why opening the internet up to my struggles isn’t the best idea in hindsight. The people of my Facebook page can be great sources of comfort and relief from the tedium that is my day, but this comment sat wrong with me. Like I’m out of options. That’ll teach me for soliciting quoteable quotes about hope, which I need, so feel free to tweet me or email me anything actually hopeful.

4. This isn’t religious in nature, but anyone referring to my twins as “the baby” as in “when the baby comes” will be immediately blacklisted to the basement of horrors. I will have hope for my child until the end, which means until further notice, they are still TWO babies. I know I didn’t ask for four kids, but now that is exactly the number I want and so happens to be the number I have at the moment. Kismet!

I’m sorry if this is coming across as angry. I know the people in my life are just trying to comfort me and nobody really knows what to say to a parent whose child is in jeopardy. Truthfully, saying the wrong thing is better than saying nothing. I’m just so upset right now and facing so many decisions (like the rest of humanity, I know, I’m not a special snowflake) that I’m just not in the best place to digest anything critical. I’m choosing to be hopeful and happy, dammit. Just give me a day.

Also, I feel bad about writing such a downer post. Here, enjoy this gif. Pronounced “jiff”.



“Like” this post and read more mildly amusing stuff on my Facebook page!

Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.


Leave a comment