Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Saving Lives the Hard Way

May 24, 2010

Today I’m thinking about Catholic hospitals.

Eve was born in one such hospital. For the most part, it was a very positive experience. All of the staff were friendly and the granola from the cafeteria was amazing (except for the raisins, which I picked out). My birth plan was respected without question and the only time that anyone mentioned pain meds during my labor was when I first arrived and they verified with me that they would not offer me any meds. (After she was born was a different story, but it was no big deal at that point.)

In fact, my worst complaint had nothing to do with the birthing ward but with pediatrics, where Eve was transferred at 3 days old for her jaundice; they had a policy of only allowing one parent to stay overnight with their children – even newborns – which meant that Marcus had to go home and I was left to care for the baby by myself at 3 days postpartum and with no energy, food, or rest. It was hell, especially since I still was learning how to deal with latching correctly and soothing my newly engorged breasts. But I couldn’t blame the staff for that.

After Eve was born, I decided that my new form of birth control would be Paragard, a hormone-free IUD. I knew that I could get one placed by my midwives at 3 months postpartum. Unfortunately, by the time I made the call for my appointment, I was told that the hospital that Eve was born in had decided that my midwives’ office – which operates outside of the hospital but is partnered with them – could no longer purchase and offer IUDs per Catholic doctrine. So they were no longer buying the devices. Fortunately for me, they had one more in stock that they had already paid for, which they were willing to give to me.

That worked out for me now, but what about after the next child? I’m going to have to go to Planned Parenthood to get any future IUDs placed. It’s not that I dislike PP – to the contrary, they’ve always been very good to me and I am more than happy to give them the support – but one of the reasons I continue to see my midwife practice after the birth rather than seeing a gynecologist is because I like to receive all of my reproductive health care in one place, by the same people. I want the women who know what my body does while it’s gestating to be the same women who give me my yearly PAP, who help me manage my birth control, who examine my breasts, who advise me on managing my chronic anemia. I hate that I’m going to have to partition my care between two practices and two groups of people.

It was at that point that I realized – or remembered – that even though I am not a Catholic or a Christian or even a theist, I am subject to the whim of Catholic doctrine whenever I seek care from a Catholic establishment. My care can and will be determined partially by the Catholic belief system. I attended Catholic school from kindergarten through the end of high school, so I am pretty familiar with the sect, and I am definitely not one of its biggest fans.

Eve’s birth went wonderfully – but what if what happened to this patient had happened to me? And what if I had no compassionate and realistic woman like Margaret McBride in a place of power to save my life? Would the hospital that I chose for Eve’s birth intervene as I lay dying if it meant violating church doctrine? As this article asks, are Catholic hospitals safe for pregnant women?

I just can’t imagine being 11 weeks pregnant and dying, and being told that I cannot be moved to another hospital or I will die, and that I cannot carry this pregnancy or I will die. And then being told that they will force me to carry this pregnancy and let me die.

Abortion saves lives. Not all of the time, not most of the time, but sometimes. A hospital with a policy that does not recognize that women’s lives are worth saving is not one that I can risk giving birth in. I’ll be calling the hospital soon to talk to them about their policies and what they would do if I needed an abortion to live while in their care, after which I’ll have to do some thinking on whether or not I want to continue birthing my babies there.

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A Bit of Rambling On Faith and Family

May 13, 2010

One of the many differences between my husband’s family and my family is that Marcus’ folks are church people. SERIOUS church people. They attend church every Sunday (and possibly more frequently than that), pray before meals, listen to sermons in the car, have shelves of books in their house all about Jesus and being a good Christian couple, etc.

My parents believe in God, but except for a yearlong stint during my childhood, our family only attended church for Easter, Christmas, and funerals. I remember having to spend one Halloween weekend on a children’s Bible retreat (the timing was not coincidental, as the church we attended was one of the many who consider Halloween a time of evil) and I, being awkward and friendless, tried to do all I could to fit in. Which meant that once during a prayer, while all of the other kids were hollering and sobbing about Jesus, I sat and thought about my beloved dog Coco who had died a couple of years earlier until I was brought to tears as well (of course I pretended that it was about Jesus). It’s not that I didn’t believe in God (back then). I just didn’t believe in him so damn hard, especially not compared to those other kids.

Fast forward to the present. My parents don’t attend church ever, even for holidays, although they are still Christians. I’m an atheist, my brother is an agnostic, and my sister (who was raised in a different household from us) is a Christian but probably the Easter-Christmas type.

On the other hand, there’s my husband’s family. Marcus was raised in an evangelical household in which he was taught that Halloween is for devil worshipers and sadists, that homosexuality is a perversion, and that sex before marriage is an affront to God. You actually wouldn’t know just by speaking to his parents that they believe all these things; in fact, the only reason I know is because Marcus has told me about his childhood and, most recently, about the conversations that his father has with him when I’m not in the room.

While we were visiting the family last weekend, his mother and aunt were talking about a family friend who is apparently not a Christian or just not their kind of Christian (which, for them, there is little difference between the two). They were talking about how best to bring him around, and I couldn’t help but wonder as I sat there if they had ever had this discussion over me. They all know that I’m an atheist because (and this is gonna sound stupid, but it’s true) his mother saw it on my Facebook profile.

Eve is still very young, so the religious pressure has been very low. Right before she was born we received a story book about Abraham that went straight to Goodwill; when she was a few weeks old, the preacher who lives next door to my parents tried to convince us to attend his church, which we politely declined; and one of my coworkers asked me last week when Eve was going to have her Christening, to which I replied, “What’s a Christening?”

As she ages, though, I expect things to get stickier. Someday she’s going to ask why my parents lower their heads before every meal – something that I have no problem explaining to her, but I don’t know how well it’s gonna go over if she repeats my explanation to my folks. Someday she’s going to wonder if what someone told her was true: that we’re all going to hell because we don’t go to church or don’t believe in God. I won’t hesitate to tell her that there is no hell, but I’m afraid that my parents (or, more likely, my in-laws) are going to take her to the side when I’m not in the room and try to scare her into believing otherwise.

Most of the faith that I have ever had throughout my life was really just fear at its core. I was afraid to die, to go to hell, or to be the odd one out amongst a sea of believers. I wanted desperately to believe because there was something that I wanted to gain from believing. I don’t want that for Eve. If she ever chooses to believe some sort of faith system, so be it, but as long as I have anything to say about it, it’s not going to be because someone else frightened her into it.