It is very hard for me to admit to others that I do not believe in God. I probably have told more people my weight than admit to this. Even when I have admitted my lack of a belief it is always preceded with an “I don’t think I…” qualifier to save the recipient of this news the horror of the full truth. My nonexistent belief in God was also an issue 20 years ago when I was converting to Catholicism (a story for another day) but back then I was more accepting of myself and my admittances to the nuns and to the priest that I did not believe in Jesus or God or the combination of both. I did have a connection to angels though and perhaps so I would feel more comfortable with my conversion (or maybe so they would) my mentor told me to think and say that whenever I thought of angels that would “really” mean that I was believing in Jesus and God.
On a morning this month, my 5-year-old daughter had surgery to correct a trigger thumb. The days leading up to the surgery illuminated perhaps the single largest difference between me and my Catholic husband and what we believe (or don’t) and how we pray (or don’t). My husband believes in God and he prays to God in ways that more than once he has told me that I do not understand. In the pre-surgery days he never specifically mentioned his prayers but I knew he was doing so and I couldn’t help feeling both comforted and also somehow wrong that I was not sharing or contributing with my own.
But it wasn’t until quite a bit after the surgery was finally over that I realized that I never prayed even during the surgery itself. Not even once. Instead, I spent the 39 minutes in between kissing her forehead in the O.R. and when the surgeon came and told me everything went perfectly, just trying to breathe in and out. I’m sure that if it had occurred to me in the moment that I would have, at the very least as a “cover the bases” prayer, it just honestly never occurred to me in those waiting moments. Admitting this makes me feel like a bad mother. It reminds me of the recurring fear I had while I was pregnant with her that they took her away because I forgot to feed her. I had done every single thing else to care for a baby but I had forgotten that one little detail.
I planned very hard for this surgery; getting it off from work, making all of the pre-op calls and appointments, picking the hospital, answering all of the hospital’s questions, getting her records, planning what she would do and where I would be and what she would wear and what she would eat, making the advanced plans that I be able to go into the O.R. with her so I could sing her a lullaby as she went under. I just forgot to stop and pray.