I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about Why questions? Although it’s often difficult for me to get motivated to write, I do find some element of comfort in putting my words into the ether, if only for me. When I put a date stamp on my thoughts in writing, I’m committing to my personal goal of thinking, reasoning, and self help. My why question today is, Why did I become an Asupernatural Atheist? My why answer may take a while to explain so I’ll start with the first domino.
In reality, my transition to this way of thinking spans decades. I’ve tried to put a date and time an exact moment I had my AhhHaa instant and said, well I’ll be damned, I’m an Atheist. Like so many folks, Atheism came upon me over many many years and during many personal trials and tribulations.
Nearly 28 years ago, professionally and personally, I was on a all time high. I’d graduated late from College (I was nearly 30 at the time and had been going to night school for many years while raising a family), transitioned to my dream job, and was making more money than I thought any human should ever make on this earth. I had three healthy happy kids, a wife who loved me, the respect of my family (both mine and my wifes), and a lake home in southern Indiana. I also had the shared faith in a God from my childhood that my wife and I had instilled in our children. The old me would say I was “Blessed”. I was even asked to say “Grace” at most family get togethers. I exemplified the Catholic Father mystique.
When my wife told me one day she wanted to help her sister have a child, I was perplexed. What does this mean and why would she want to do this? My wife is a kind and decent person at her core who aims to please. Her sister had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (Cancer) when in H.S. As such, she didn’t have any eggs with which to bear children. When I look back, this is in reality one of the first times I started questioning my “faith” as it was. How can my wife, who’s super religious go against her faith to help her sister have a child when it’s pretty clear the Catholic Church does not support this? Fast forward many months, my wife has had many many shots to warm up her ovaries for harvesting and I found myself in a position of thinking about my wife’s eggs creating a child with my brother in law…. Kind of a messed up situation isn’t it? I remember at the time thinking, how can I possibly pray for anything here to God when he knows whats going on and doesn’t support it. So, I asked God to let happen what he wanted to happen. In other words, I asked God for “his will to be done”. After multiple attempts at embryo implantation, none took. At the time, I personally saw this as vindication God didn’t want Theresa to have a child. (I also thought he likely didn’t want her to have kids so maybe he gave her cancer in the first place). So my confirmation bias was confirmed. My prayers had been answered. Fast forward a few months, my wife’s sister is now pregnant by a donor egg and ultimately had a little girl. My mind then started wondering if God punished Theresa and my wife because I wasn’t on board with the whole thing and jealousy in my heart toward it all. I talked to folks in my CHRP (Christ Renews His Parish) group about the situation and of course they recommended looking to the bible to find the answers. Let’s just say, I only found more confirmation bias. This incident started my head spinning when it came to religion.
Shortly after trying to help Theresa have a child, my wife and I decided to have a 4th child. Mind you, my wife’s system was loaded up with fertility drugs and raring to go. Shortly after beginning the try stage of getting pregnant, we found out we were in fact expecting “TWINS” This rocked our world in quite a big way. We of course were super excited and scared to death. We were going to have (5) children !! After numerous visits with the gynecologist office, it was confirmed that two little heart beats were in there and all looked to be moving along nicely. So, at 11 weeks gestation, we told our family we were having two more kids. Everyone was excited and our own children were giddy.
During the 15th week of her pregnancy, my wife and I went to the gyno’s office for a ultrasound, which is normal at this stage of pregnancy. We’d had several prior to this visit and had seen and were excited with the two little heartbeats growing inside my wife. During this visit, the nurse was doing the ultrasound and started darting between the paperwork and the ultrasound with an increased look on her face. Then without prompting, she said, “The chart says you are having twins” to which we replied, “Yes, we are”. The nurse then said, “well, I only see one heartbeat here, it appears this one has died (pointing to what used to be my other child)” My wife and I were completely caught off guard. Tears started flowing…. Anger started welling up in us…. we didn’t know what to say, what to do…. we were stunned. I finally asked, “What about the other baby?” She said, “well, this little heartbeat seems strong and health” There was a relief in hearing this but I questioned further, “What will we need to do about the child who’s heartbeat stopped?” The nurse replied, “this happens more than most people are aware, your wife’s body will probably just absorb this one, (said while pointing at the glob that used to have a heartbeat).” After talking to the doctor to get further clarifications, we left the office in our newly purchased Suburban (Because we needed one for a 7 person family…. right). My wife cried and cried the whole way home. My mind went to guilt. Were we being paid back by God for trying to help Theresa. Why were we so foolish?
Around 25 weeks gestation, our (1) baby was developing just fine and we had adjusted to the idea of having one healthy baby. I vividly remember having a running joke with my friends at the time when asked if I wanted a boy or a girl. I’d often say, “one or the other is fine with me, just nothing in between.” On our next visit to the gyno, the nurse doing the ultrasound asked us if we wanted to know if our baby was a boy or girl? We already had two boys and one girl so were excited to know so we said, “yes, please tell us.” The nurse looked around and said, “It’s a girl” So we were gonna have two boys and two girls, isn’t that perfect…. God did have a plan after all. Before our next hospital visit, the baby room had already been painted pink and all kinds of decorations had been hung. We were gonna be ready.
At our next visit to the hospital, the nurse started telling us that things were’t measuring up. Arm & leg bone length to skull circumference wasn’t matching what would be expected for a healthy baby. More fear crept in…. The doctor confirmed these findings and said our pregnancy was now considered “high risk” and we’d be needing to do more frequent visits for even more ultrasounds. It was at this time the doctor suggest we consider doing a amniocentesis test because when things aren’t “measuring up” from a bone perspective, there may be other genetic issues we’ll need to consider. We of course agreed. The results came back inconclusive. Candidly, I’m not sure we’d have done anything if the child came back with all kinds of other issues at that time anyway. More to worry about.
At our next ultrasound visit, we braced ourselves mentally for whatever was coming. We knew God had a plan and we were along for the ride…. The nurse came in and started looking around and around. She was taking more time looking around than normal and then stopped, put the ultrasound wand back in it’s holster and looked at us and asked, “It says here in the chart you’re having a girl, is that correct?” We responded with the answer in almost unison, “Yes” Her face gave a twist and she then said she needed to consult with a college. The second nurse then entered the room and after a brief introduction started looking around with the ultrasound as well. After some private discussions, both nurses excused themselves and said they were going to consult with a doctor about something they were seeing in the ultrasound. This didn’t sound good, more fear crept in…. The doctor came in shortly there after and after another brief introduction started his survey with the ultrasound machine. After a few minutes, he put down the wand and looked at my wife and I caringly and said, “I’m sure you’re concerned as to why the nurses came and got me.” My wife and I both shook our head yes. He then said, “well they saw some things that raise some concerns rightfully. I know you’ve been told you are having a girl” We both nodded yes again. He went on, “well, it appears this child has as severe case of Hypospadias” What !!! Our minds began racing… What the hell is Hypospadias? The doctor went on to explain… “by 35 to 36 weeks male testes have normally completed their decent. The male penis is visible on an ultrasound and the testes are very noticeable to anyone who knows how to navigate an ultrasound machine. It appears this child is very likely a boy who’s testes and penis didn’t descend normally. We won’t know if this child is a boy or girl after birth until we do some blood testing”
To say our world was shattered at this news would be an understatement. What did I do? I took on the role of supporting my wife in her grief as I wracked my brain for meaning and purpose. How could this happen? Why did this happen? Had we contributed in this by trying to help Theresa have a child and now God is punishing us. Had my flippant answer about having a child that’s one or the other but not in between offended God? We were at a loss for words.
Shortly after this incident, my mind started “THINKING” and “REASONING” Once I opened the door to the possibility of why this could have happened, my cognitive biases stated to fall away. More to follow on this as the road continued to get bumpy…..