Posts Tagged ‘catholicism’

Eve’s First Day In Church

November 15, 2010

We attended the baptism of my friend’s son today. None of us were particularly enthusiastic about going, but it seemed to be really important to my friend (which surprised me, considering the fact that he’s an avowed agnostic).

The last time I was attended church was a Midnight Mass some four or five years ago*. My family was never Catholic, but my brother and I both attended Catholic school until college, so that’s the kind of church that I’m most familiar with.

This Catholic church was unlike any other that I had ever attended. Unlike the churches of my youth, which were predominantly white, this one had an entirely black choir and a 99% black congregation. The priest was white, but he was very much in the minority. There was one mural depicting a black Jesus as well as another one depicting a black Mary and Joseph holding a little brown baby. There were two different sets of the stations of the cross on the walls; one that had obviously been a part of the original architecture (white Jesus) and one that looked much newer (black Jesus). The stained glass windows all featured nothing but white saints and Jesuses and children.

It was pretty cool, actually, to be in a church with a fair representation of other-than-white religious figures. The vast majority of churches I have been in, including the ones with predominantly black congregations, only feature white Jesuses. It was a nice change.

Eve was about as well-behaved as a toddler can be in a room full of loud energetic strangers. I nursed her and she did everything she could to expose my entire breast to the whole church. She babbled loudly and asked for more cheerios (too bad we didn’t have any). She accidentally hit a stranger while flailing around in my brother’s arms. She did wonderfully, I think.

It being a baptism, the homily was about the responsibility of parents to raise their children to know God. I only half-listened, and did what I always do in church – marvel at the architecture. I tried not to think about what the people around me would say if they knew that Marcus and I were non-believers, and that were raising our daughter as one too.

All in all, it was an all right way to spend an early Sunday afternoon. The possibility of regularly attending a Unitarian Universalist church crossed my mind again; I do really love the community aspect of church attendance, even if I disagree vehemently with the dogma. I’m very much still building a village for my child, and even as an atheist I haven’t ruled out the possibility of adding the right congregation to that village.

*Edited to add: I just realized that the last time was actually when I was heavily pregnant with Eve; I attended my friend’s wedding, which was fascinating to me as I’d never seen a Catholic wedding service.

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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.